Sometimes you find yourself on a most unexpected journey. Have you ever been on a church bell ringing excursion? A day of hopping from village to village, calling in for a spell in each church bell tower to ring the bells? Well, this was new for me. But it turned out to be a wonderful [...]
Sometimes you find yourself on a most unexpected journey. Have you ever been on a church bell ringing excursion? A day of hopping from village to village, calling in for a spell in each church bell tower to ring the bells? Well, this was new for me. But it turned out to be a wonderful day – old fashioned and gentle – and uplifting too.
One day, a few months ago, I found myself facing a babysitting crisis and so a friend in the village offered to mind our young son. Only it happened to be the evening she practiced with the church bell ringers so he went along and sat up in the bell tower with them. And had a little go. Ever since, he’s been going along to ring the bells. Last weekend, the bell ringers arranged an outing to some beautiful little villages in Northamptonshire. Not far from us, but a new patch to me. So I went along as the driver, and while they rang bells I explored and photographed in the churchyards. And provided the picnic, of course!
It’s been raining for weeks now. The landscape is vibrantly green and the churchyards are adorned with jewel like wildflowers. Even the stone work, the carved angels, are wearing cloaks of golden green moss.
A portable feast is just the thing for an occasion like this. Most of the bell ringers cycled from village to village. There were lots of lovely pubs and some farm shops along the way. But it’s always nice to bring something from home, hand made for the occasion.
So, the picnic. I don’t know about you, but since I was little I have adored sausage rolls. Is anything more perfect for an outdoor snack than a thoroughly satisfying savoury sausage roll? But I am quite fussy about them these days. I like them to be filled with plenty of top quality sausage meat – meaty, and not too fatty – and just the right pastry. I love home made ones. But I have come across some amazing ones in a couple of great food shops recently, ones I aspire to make at home. If you are in London, try the sausage rolls from a shop just off Marylebone High Street, called the Ginger Pig. Or in the Cotswolds, pop into Daylesford Organic for a most superb sausage roll. Take a look – here.
I’ll tell you how I made these sausage rolls. But it’s worth knowing – if you are in a hurry or just would like to make it less complicated – you can make great sausage rolls using a good shop bought pastry (either puff or shortcrust, as you like best) and best quality sausages. Simply remove the casings to use the sausage meat.
The pastry. I only make shortcrust pastry at home, so that’s what I used here.
In a food processor, whizz together 150 grams of plain flour, a good pinch of salt, and 80g of cold unsalted butter. When it resembles fine crumbs, drop in an egg yolk. Allow it to whiz around until it just forms together in a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for half an hour. Meanwhile, prepare your sausage meat.
For the sausage meat. In a large bowl, mix together 500 grams of good quality minced pork (about 20%fat), along with 50g of fresh breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, and two tablespoons of fresh minced herbs. I used lots of sage, and oregano and a bit of thyme. You can also use dried herbs if you like. You can do this a day or so in advance – in fact it is better as it gives the meat a chance for the flavours to really develop.
Roll out the pastry to a large rectangle, about 25cm by 15cm. Place the sausage meat, shaped into a long roll, along the centre of the pastry – the long side. Be generous with the sausage meat because really fat sausage rolls are the most delicious. Then roll the pasty over to make a long roll. Use some beaten egg to seal and crimp the edges. Then cut into individual rolls – about four to six, depending on how big you want them. Brush them with beaten egg to give a lovely glaze.
Bake in the centre of the oven, preheated to 180 degrees centigrade, for 40 -45 minutes, and until they are all golden brown.
Cool a little before wrapping in wax paper and packing into the picnic basket.
There you have it – a bit of the divine and a bit of the earthly. All in all, a beautiful day.
More soon. Px