Sausage Rolls

You miss the strangest things when you live overseas. Often it’s stuff that you never gave a second thought to, in this case it’s sausage rolls. The Dutch make great sausage rolls – the bakers use a very rich, flaky and most importantly, buttery filo pastry, wrapped around nicely spiced sausage meat.

We’ve made quite a few sausage rolls over the years, they make great finger food at parties and serve as great snacks too. Here’s a recipe that we like, oddly enough it’s for Australian sausage rolls. It really is best to find a brand of frozen puff pastry that you like – it’s one of those things that actually making yourself requires so much effort that you’ll do it only once, and frozen puff pastries are usually pretty good.

Ingredients
* 1-1/4 pounds bulk pork sausage
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 2 teaspoons minced chives
* 2 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon paprika, divided
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed

Instructions
* In a large bowl, combine the sausage, onion, chives, basil, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, salt and pepper. Unfold pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Roll each pastry sheet into an 11-in. x 10-1/2-in. rectangle. Cut widthwise into 3-1/2-in. strips.

* Spread 1/2 cup of sausage mixture down the center of each strip. Fold pastry over and press edges together to seal. Cut each roll into six pieces.

* Place seam side down on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining paprika. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 3 dozen.

Fix me a sammich

I do enjoy a good sandwich. It has to be made with excellent bread and fresh ingredients mind you, which is why most pre-packaged triangular “sandwiches” so rarely come up to snuff. Making your own is more satisfying on many levels – you make it yourself, and you make it exactly the way you want it;  can’t be bad.

While adding condiments can be the way to go, think mustard on ham, or horseradish on roast-beef, there is one sandwich that requires no condiments at all, just great ingredients and a bit of seasoning. As a kid, growing up in Holland, I used to regularly head to De Bruine Boon in Leiden, and order a koffie-verkeerd (Basically a coffee made “wrongly”, lots of milk) and a broodje-brie. The Bruine-Boon is still there today, but seems to have been renovated, so to me, has lost some of its charm. Of course, it may be exactly the same, and I have become jaded, who knows? If you are in Leiden, I recommend it for a spot of lunch (or brunch with a hangover – I seem to remember doing a lot of those at the Boon).

So for a broodje-brie, or Brie sandwich, take a fresh, crusty, French Baguette ( I believe they’re called Freedom Baguettes over here), some Brie (the most delicious is invariably a triple-cream, but for the sake of your weight or your heart, any will do), and a fresh, ripe tomato.

Slice about 6 inches diagonally from the baguette, and split it down it’s length. Cut slices, about 5 mm thick of the Brie and cover the bottom slice of bread with it. Then thinly (or however you want) slice the tomatoes and lay them on the Brie. Season with salt and freshly ground black-pepper. That’s it!

This sandwich really hits the spot at lunchtime, and goes well with a crisp, dry white-wine like a Sancerre, or a New-Zealand Cabernet-Sauvignon. Or a nice dry cider, or a beer, or a glass of water, or a koffie-verkeerd. You get the picture.

Cider-cured Ham Revisited – or, we don’t need any space in the fridge do we?

So Christmas looms ever closer. We thought we would have another go at cider-curing a ham. This time, despite the fact that the first time we did it, it tasted great with the glaze, we have just decided to boil it and then serve. It was so good last time, that it really didn’t need any more tweaking, and Christmas is a busy enough time without adding to the workload.

We purchased a ham from Pete’s Fine Meats. I say ham, it’s really more of a HAM!, 25 lbs of piggy goodness. Given that the brining should take about 3 days for every 2 lbs of meat, we are once again in danger of the brining going long, and the ham not being ready in time for Christmas. Doh! We are going for it anyway, I’m sure it will work, he said somewhat nervously.

The Brine
4 lbs salt
4 qts apple juice (not from concentrate)
4 cups strong cider (we used Crispin. I wouldn’t recommend one of the sweeter brands such as Strongbow – go for an organic cider if you can get it – or better yet, some scrumpy!
2 qts water
2 lbs demerara suger
2 lbs dark brown sugar, or dark molasses
20 – 30 Juniper berries
1/4 cup black peppercorns, crushed
10 bay leaves, crushed
10 whole cloves

Add all the ingredients for the brine in a large pot (or two as we had to) and bring to the boil. Cider-brineAllow to cool – for us this happened over night. Then submerge the ham in the brine, weigh it down – we used an empty food container which pushes the ham down when the lid of the brining container is closed.Don’t use anything made of metal!

 

Our ham is now sitting in the fridge, taking up a huge amount of space, while the brine does it’s work. I’ll post a follow up when the brining is finished, just before Christmas (we hope)!

Container, bath, vessel, you name it.
Eek! Is it enough?
it really is that big.
Huge in fact.
HAM!
Before making the ultimate sacrifice, this pig wore a Stetson
HAM! in brine

Dal, Dahl, Daal – Lentil Soup

However you write it, you can’t go wrong with a good dal. It’s one of those things that lovers of Indian vegetarian food keep going back to, not just because it is very easy and quick to make, but because it’s delicious, and it’s one of those dishes that by adding your own touches, you can easily make your own version.

I came across this article in the Guardian last week, different variations on the dal theme, followed by a recipe chosen with all the best features from the other recipes.

My recommendation would be to give it a read and gave a go with the final recipe in the article to give you an idea what a dal is actually like before you start to experiment. The caramelised shallots and/or garlic at the end really make it pop.

One excellent tip, from Hervé This’ Molecular Gastronomy– if you have hard water (and ours is so hard it wears a leather jacket and carries a knife), add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda – this helps soften the lentils and makes the dal more creamy.

Dal makes for a great first-course or side dish. Like all soups or stews, it seems to improve with an overnight stay in the fridge. We served our left-over dal in rolled up pancakes (crepes, not American pancakes). There is something special about how the sweetness of the crepe works with the savoury, spiciness of the dal. Left over curry in pancakes is always good mind you!