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Archive for the ‘Nibbles’ Category

This probably isn’t the right time of year to be sharing my favourite dip recipe with you. It is after all January and dips are not January detox food. Even if this was a low-fat dip recipe (and it isn’t) something is needed to dip into the dip. Something like a breadstick maybe or, oh dear, perhaps some CRISPS and then before you know it you have failed yet again to lose half your body weight and become a beautiful, vivacious woman.

But you can totally serve this dip with crudités and I think it looks quite stylish served next to a platter of chicory leaves, sliced fennel and celery. Well, as stylish as dip can really look but there is something lovely about all that pale green. Always peel the celery to remove the strings otherwise your guests will hate you.

Parsley and Tarragon Ranch Dip

Mix equal quantities of sour cream, mayonnaise and plain yoghurt (200ml each in this case but you can adapt). This is the base to a ranch dip and it is the USA’s delicious gift to us. Stir in 1 ½ teaspoons of wholegrain mustard, 1 ½ tablespoons of white wine vinegar and a crushed garlic clove. Season then add a couple of good handfuls of chopped parsley and a one or two handfuls of chopped tarragon. I like to add a lot of herbs. Leave the dip in the fridge for at least four hours so the flavours can develop. It tastes the best if you prepare it a day in advance.

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Sausage rolls

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As a child the only sausage rolls I can remember eating were those made by my Grandma. Her pastry was, and still is, beautifully light and crumbly. The sausage rolls she served us were a thousand miles away from the flaccid lumps served in bakeries up and down the country.

 

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I’m not quite sure why these manufactured sausage rolls taste so awful. It’s surely a combination of the industrial pastry and the fatty sausage meat which sweats within leaving the pastry drenched.  These sausage rolls deposit a thin film of grease onto any surface with which they come into contact. Eating them is a sordid act carried out in private.

 

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No good can come from something which is so utterly unattractive. Kept lukewarm by a couple of halogen bulbs and served by a girl whose eyes are filled with despair, the small paper bag quickly turns translucent as the fat leaks out.

 

I’d like to say that this type of sausage roll typifies everything that is wrong with British food but that sort of Jamie Oliver hand-wringing drives me mad. I’ve had plenty of terrible croque monsieurs in France. Our sausage roll-failures are not a uniquely British problem but we do lack the confidence of the French in our national cuisine. Rather than accept that these mass-produced sausage rolls are a bad version of a beautiful thing, as the French man recognises the odd dud croque monsieur as an anomaly, as a nation we have come to regard all sausage rolls as junk food or, at best, an unsophisticated party snack for children.

 

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The sausage roll has been debased by mass-production and the fallacy that there isn’t a dish on earth which can’t be made in a factory, vacuum-packed and reheated in the microwave. Our taste-buds are the clearest indicator that this is a nonsense. Making a sausage roll at home is easy, inexpensive and the results are a reminder that the English make excellent, homely food. It may sometimes lack the refinement of French cuisine but it is just as inventive and it stems from the same historical traditions.

 

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To make sausage rolls all you need is some pastry and sausage meat. I have added sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary. In the past I have incorporated apple, raisins, all manner of herbs and sometimes nothing at all.

 

I may have completely undermined my above criticisms by using a ready-made puff pastry. In my defence puff pastry is tricky to make and if you are pushed for time there is nothing ostensibly wrong with using the ready made stuff. I always make my own short crust pastry because I don’t find the ready-made stuff as good but I can’t produce a decent puff pastry in a short space of time.

 

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Ingredients

 

500 g puff or short crust pastry

450g sausage meat

4-5 sun-dried tomatoes

1 small onion

Sprig of rosemary

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp brown sugar or honey

1 egg yolk

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

 

Fry the onion in the oil until it turns translucent. Season and add the sugar or honey to caramelise the onions. Finely chop the rosemary, dice the sun-dried tomatoes and add this to the onions. Fry for another minute then leave to cool.

 

Once cool add this mixture to the raw sausage meat, mix thoroughly.

 

Roll out the pastry into a large rectangle shape. The pastry should be about ½ cm thick. Cut the pastry down the middle so that you are left with two rectangles (see picture). Divide the sausage meat between the two rectangles of pastry and form the meat into a long sausage shape down the middle of each pastry rectangle. The pastry can then be rolled up, the ends sealed and the whole thing brushed with the egg yolk.

 

Use a serrated knife to cut the sausage rolls to the size you want and place on a tray lined with greased parchment paper. I was making quite small rolls in the pictures for nibbles but there is nothing to stop you making larger ones. Before putting the rolls in the oven I sprinkled a little grated parmesan on top. The rolls take about 15 minutes to cook but it depends on your oven so just keep an eye on them, they are ready when the pastry is golden brown and the sausage meat is cooked.

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