pork & fennel sausage rolls

Truth No. 7.  I had never made a sausage roll before opening at Le Petite. I’d seen far too many frozen tuck-shop and bakery chain versions. Put off to say the least. But I was missing the point (and niche) entirely. Our Gold Coast patrons sausage roll fetish quickly put me straight. They could not be silenced by citrus cakes, a french sounding name and homely fit-out.  They craved a great sausage roll - a freshly baked one made with love and quality ingredients.

After I reluctantly rose to the challenge, our customers went on to buy more sausage rolls than any other product. Coffee excluded of course. The whiff and waft down the street of a fresh batch always had instant effect. I’d love to see the Bourke Street Bakery Sydney frenzy when theirs come out. Anyone been lately? Share your sausage roll experiences in comments below. My recipe is quite similar to Bourke St, minus the celery and plus a few added extras.  

Pork & Fennel Sausage Rolls

Ingredients - A good splash Extra Virgin Olive Oil to coat frying pan ❤ 5 large garlic cloves, smashed & finely chopped ❤ 3 tablespoons fennel seeds, pumelled in mortar & pestle ❤ 4 sprigs fresh thyme ❤ 1 large brown onion, finely chopped ❤ 1 large celery, finely chopped ❤ 1 grated carrot ❤ 1.2 kg (2lb 10 oz) lean minced (ground) pork ❤ 2 slices of day old grain bread crumbed in processor (I use my Kitchenaid blender) ❤ 3 teaspoons sea salt ❤ generous amount freshly cracked pepper (how much depends on if kids are having some) ❤ good dash worcestershire sauce ❤ ⅓ cup good quality tomato relish or tomato sauce ❤ 4-5 sheets Puff Pastry ❤ egg wash (100ml milk, pinch of salt, 1 egg - whisked together) ❤ fennel seeds for sprinkling, or poppy seeds, or sesame seeds if you prefer

Method + Tips 

Preheat oven to moderately hot 200°C (400°F). Line a flat, large baking tray with baking paper. Smash and chop the garlic finely. Chop onion finely too or whiz in a processor/chopper. Peel carrot and grate coarsely. Pummel fennel and thyme in mortar and pestle.

Add a good splash of olive oil to your frying pan.  Fry off onion and garlic for less than 2 minutes - just until coated and a little translucent. Add thyme and fennel seeds - fry together until aromatic - another minute or two.

In your largest mixing bowl, combine mince and cooled ingredients from the frying pan. Also add grated carrot, breadcrumbs, sea salt, cracked pepper and sauces.  I always combine this by getting into it and using my hands, mixing for 2-3 minutes - working the protein in the meat and evenly distributing the flavours. 

Ensure your whole bench is clean and clear of any clutter. Make your egg wash and have pastry brush and seeds for topping ready. Lay out your puff pastry into a rectangle. Divide your mince into 3 or 6 evenly sized portions, depending on how wide your pastry is and if you are going to roll it vertical or horizontal. Either is fine. I buy long wide puff pastry in a roll so I normally roll mine horizontally.  Supermarket bought puff pastry sheets can be laid out along side each other in a neat row and work well.

Distribute mince along the length of the puff pastry, smoothing out with your hands an even amount of mince all along the roll. Don’t overfill them, especially if you prefer longer, thinner ones rather than shorter plump ones. Little cocktail size are nice too.

Brush the egg wash along one long edge. Pull the other edge firmly over the meat and roll to close neatly with the egg washed side down - the seam will be down too. 

Top Tip:  cut even portions of rolls, use a ruler as a guide if you want exact size, always use a serrated knife to cut as a chefs knife sticks to the pastry. Keep the blade clean for neat, consistent cuts. 

Place rolls on baking paper lined tray. Brush egg wash on top & sprinkle with fennel seeds.   I think fennel and pork is a match made in heaven but if you aren’t a fennel fan, top them with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.

Recipes and methods aside, the best tip I can give you for great sausage rolls is ‘get to know your local butcher’. Be sure he/she is selling and specialising in hormone and chemical free meat.  My second generation butcher in Palm Beach has been in business since 1971. For almost all that time they have cooked their naturally smoked hams & bacon on the premise.  If you buy freshly ground lean pork on the day it has been minced, before being put into its sausage bung (the skin made of animal intestine) you are already streets ahead.  Add Australian garlic, a little good relish or sauce, fresh herbs and season well - it’s a guaranteed winner. Bill Granger likes 50/50 pork & veal mince with chopped pistachio, cumin & coriander. Chicken mince with bacon or beef mince with kidney beans & chill are both yum too. Experiment, follow your heart & have fun rollin.