Donald Russell’s Artisan Sausage Rolls: Are these the best sausage rolls in the world?

I have to say that Hetty (wife) — barometer in all things quality — did raise her eyebrows briefly when I explained that I was planning on examining sausage rolls for The Pursuit of Quality.

I’ve always liked sausage rolls. I particularly like the home cooked ones that arrive frozen. You typically buy a pack of 50 at Tesco and then stick them in the oven. They used to be deployed at parties all the time when I was 10.

As a teenager and student I would occasionally pop to Tesco and buy a bag of 50 mini frozen sausage rolls.

Now and again if you’re lucky, you’ll find a high street vendor with decent sausage rolls. Greggs, for example, seems to do a decent line.

Most of the high street shops carry ready-to-eat sausage rolls, but they are all shit. I haven’t ever come across a ready made sausage roll from a high street brand. They’re all unequivocally shit. Poor pastry, poor sizing and highly disappointing sausage meat. Indeed I’m sure the leading brands we all know seem to use the same supplier who delights in over-spicing the already limited sausage meat.

Yet I have a soft spot for sausage rolls. Most people I know have a small place in their heart reserved for the humble, decent, sausage roll. You have to be quite a cold hearted soul (or a vegetarian) to not subscribe to this sausage roll policy.

I’ve always been on the look out for a decent sausage roll.

It’s for this reason that my attention was captured a few weeks ago by the team at Donald Russell butchers. They were unknown to me. My wife, however, received their catalogue. I haven’t quite managed to find out where she got their name, but they’re known. My mother, for instance, knows lots of people who use Donald Russell. They’re quite a big direct-sales butcher.

They’ve got a website, but I suspect the majority of their business is probably still catalogue-based.

The current edition of the Donald Russell catalogue introduces Mini Artisan Sausage Rolls.

“You what?” I thought, when I saw that. I stopped everything and turned to page 36.

The visual feast that greeted me was palpable. Finally, a sausage roll worth looking at. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I was ridiculously impressed by the bullet point that explains these rolls have…

The highest possible ratio of sausage stuffing to pastry – over 60%

The fact that someone at Donald Russell has bothered to even measure the stuffing to pastry ratio and then comment upon it spoke volumes for me.

“I have to try these,” I remarked to myself as I examined the catalogue entry. Have a read:

We’ve taken a traditional British favourite, the sausage roll, and given it the Donald Russell ‘Wow’ treatment.

Their rustic appearance easily lets you pass them off as your own and the filling is as generous and natural as you would expect from something homemade – it’s just lightly seasoned pork shoulder sausage-meat flecked with onion. We make it ourselves so we know there is nothing in it to stop the butter enriched puff pastry being crispy throughout.

Yes please. I ordered a load of them same day. I ordered a pack of 32 for a special introductory price of £15 (normally you’ll get 32 for £18).

My delivery from Donald Russell arrived yesterday. We deployed the first 8-pack last night and goodness me the results were fantastic.

Hetty did the honours whilst I put the wee man (Archie) to sleep. She stuck them all on a baking tray, turned the oven on and brushed each roll with a bit of beaten egg yolk.

They took 25 minutes to cook — coincidentally about the same amount of time it took me to put Archie to sleep. So when I came down into the kitchen I was astonished to see just how good the finished article looked.

Firstly, I should point out that if you’re having any parties where sausage rolls (artisan, no less) would be appropriate, you should definitely think about using these ones from Donald Russell. They looked absolutely amazing. Each was perfectly formed, beautifully browned (thanks to the egg yolk) and crucially, each looked unique. The pastry thickness was amazingly uniform on every roll.

I grabbed the camera. Are you ready? Here are the rolls waiting to cook:

Right, and now are you ready for the gorgeous results? Here we go:

Don’t they look amazing?

Eating them was even better.

We let them cool for about 15 minutes so that they were warm, but not crazy hot. I think this is a good strategy for these kind of quality sausage rolls.

Eating them was divine. The pastry was perfectly balanced between crumbly and solid. You don’t want the stuff to fall apart in your hand. The sausage meat — by fat the largest ‘stuffing’ I’ve ever seen in a sasuage roll — was absolutely fantastic. This is what makes the experience, I think. The stuffing was juicy and flavoursome. I could detect the ‘light seasoning’ described in the blurb above along with the hint of onion. Each roll took about 3-4 bites to complete making it an absolutely ideal size for parties. They’ll go in a flash though so consider buying a few more packs to have in reserve.

Hetty was thoroughly impressed. So much so that we actually cooked a few more tonight.

I’m delighted at the simple cooking experience. Literally all you need to do is:

  • Remove sausage rolls from packing and put on baking tray
  • Pre-heat oven for 5 minutes
  • Dust each roll with a bit of beaten egg so they brown nicely
  • Stick sausage rolls in for 25 minutes
  • Let’em cool down for at least 5 minutes before commencing munching

And for £4.50 for 8? Fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.

I am now ready to declare that Donald Russell’s Mini Artisan Sausage Rolls as the best I’ve ever tasted. I took quite a few pictures to illustrate the experience as best I could. The gallery is below.

If you know of some other sausage rolls I should check out, please let me know in the comments below or by email (ewan@thepursuitofquality.co.uk).

A quick word on fulfilment: I placed the order last week and asked for the rolls to arrive on Friday. They did. They were perfectly packed along with some dry ice to keep them frozen/cold in transit.

I submitted a brief 5-star review of them on the Donald Russell site and used this description:

I saw these advertised in the catalogue and was immediately taken with them. I ordered some right-away and goodness me I’m delighted: They were gorgeous. Super-easy to prepare, perfectly formed, an utter delight to eat. Thank you Donald Russell.

Great for parties, by the way, as they seriously look like you spent the whole afternoon making them!

 

Update: Thanks to the team at Donald Russell for picking up my post and tweeting/Facebooking and blogging it!

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23 Responses to Donald Russell’s Artisan Sausage Rolls: Are these the best sausage rolls in the world?

  1. Sarhancock December 4, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Afraid you can’t cook them yourself but next time you are taking a morning walk in Windsor Great Park, head for the restaurant/ café in Savill Gardens. Beautiful sausage roll. Mornings only!! I’m not a huge fan of them, as you are, but would happily go for these.

    • Ewan December 4, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      Oh super! What a brilliant recommendation. I shall endeavour to check their sausage roll out as soon as I can!

  2. Patrick Smith December 4, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I think the cafe at Central Working would stake a claim to this title – http://www.centralworking.com/the-central-story/the-central-cafe/

    • Ewan December 4, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      Can you vouch for them?

  3. Ben Smith December 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    That is a *lot* of sausage roll pictures… Now I’m hungry.

    Now… can we just agree that Greggs really should *not* be cited in a blog about ‘quality’. 🙂

    • Matt Jones December 6, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      Nothing wrong with the Greggs sausage roll Ben. Generous in size, flaky pastry and extremely cheap.

      • Ben Smith December 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

        No, nothing wrong… but not *quality*. Not exceptional ingredients, master baking or top-class service.

        • Ewan December 6, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

          Disqus generic email template I have enjoyed a Greggs sausage roll in the past…

  4. Anonymous December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    First, Ewan, great site, I’ve just read through every post so far and I’ve signed up for the email already.

    Given that you *really* seem to be all about “perfection now and I don’t mind waiting to pay for it either” I can understand maybe why you don’t seem to consider cooking your own as a viable alternative, but really, seriously, take a moment to stop and think about what you really like and then try to make it. You will almost never make it the that perfect point the first time around, but from then on you will see how much more rewarding it is. Fundamentally the taste or consistency may not hit the mark every single time, but the fact you’ve had your hands really in it will more than out way any perceived “failings” of the final product. And then of course you get the chance to adjust the basic premise to suit your mood and really experiment.

    For example the humble sausage roll is to all intents and purposes non-existent here in Finland but have you ever tried a moose and reindeer “sausage” roll? No? I’m not surprised! 🙂

    Seriously, give it try! Get Archie involved in chopping the herbs and helping weigh the ingredients too and really make it a family job!

    • Ewan December 8, 2011 at 11:31 am #

      Gareth, you’re absolutely right. I really do need to make time to try cooking with Archie. Right now though it’s a 5 minute affair given his attention span. I really would like to try cooking some sausage rolls!

      • Ben Smith December 8, 2011 at 11:33 am #

        I want to see some reviews of cookery schools up here! I did a session in Tuscany which was amazing – for the setting as much as the lesson – and it was an amazing experience.

        • Ewan December 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

          Could we trouble you for a post on that one Ben? ——————————

          • Ben Smith December 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

            I’ll see what I can do.

          • Ewan December 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

            Woo! Now have you got any photos of the experience? 😉

          • Ben Smith December 8, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

            There might be one that does’t have me in it looking like an idiot.

          • Ewan December 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

            As long as you are wearing quality stuff that’s fine!

      • Anonymous December 8, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

        I would wager that pastry would hold his attention though! 🙂 Get him a little rolling ping and some good quality shape cutters and let him go wild! Then see if he would like to “sandwich” two of them around some of the meat. He’ll be amazed when something his hands have made can be taken from the oven and eaten. For this sort of thing start off with Lakeland, some of their products really are absolutely top class, (my wife thinks I love my Bamix food mixer more than I love her! 😉 ) and really they stock everything you’ll ever need! Although I warn you, the quest for the “perfect” knife/knives can get a little on the expensive side!

        As far as the meat goes, well, that’s entirely up to you but in my opinion you should not be tempted to start off with the most expensive as you’ll be overly focused on not abusing it too badly and not concentrated enough on getting the seasoning right.

        • Ewan December 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

          Gareth — at 18 months do you reckon he’s ready for this sort of thing?
          And as for knifes… any recommendations?

          • Anonymous December 8, 2011 at 4:52 pm #

            Yes. Both of my two really started to get stuck in around that age. Of course, every child is different. See if he likes the idea and feel of just using a wheel cutter on the pastry or as I said before cutting out some shapes with a shape cutter. Of course he’ll be eager to move on, they all are at that age I think! But what ever you try with him will be worth it, especially as telling him afterwards that he helped make them will help in engage with it more. You’ve written before about how much he can engage with you via face time, so maybe have an iPad/iPhone set up, out of reach, where you show him your reading the recipe/instructions from as then he can see something related to interacting with you that Dad himself is using! I’m always amazed at how the young mind can make the most incredible leaps of logic, with my eldest she learnt to associate one of my huge cookbooks with “fun in the kitchen with Dad” very quickly.

            Knife sets! Started with Martiini of Finland and they are still going strong (http://www.marttiini.fi/in_english/Marttiini_Shop/Verkkokauppa.iw3?shopUrl=/Kitchen_knives-list.aspx?CultureID=1) and now I have a Henckel set as well (http://www.lakeland.co.uk/13738/Henckels-Four-Star-5-Piece-Knife-Block-Set). The wife prefers a Zysliss (Swiss and Japanese) set I got as well as the handles are colour coded (she is a vegetarian) and that the smallest knife still retains a nearly full size handle, and I will say that the handles are supremely comfortable with hardly any slip at all. I’m on the look out for a top quality set of knives with what is called a “Damascus” blade as I have experienced one of these before and they can be sharpened to a much finer edge than just about any other material. As far as keeping my knives sharp, well, I’ve never been great with a standard steel so I use the Ozitech knife sharpener everywhere (http://www.lakeland.co.uk/11304/OZITECH-Knife-Sharpener). It is compact enough that I keep one in my fishing bag and another in the hiking ruck sack so that I can sharpen what ever knife I need to!

  5. DanLane December 7, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Mmm I buy fillet steaks from Donald Russell… must add some sausage rolls to my next order!

    • Ewan December 7, 2011 at 11:24 am #

      Oh your a DR fan? Good man. Have you tried anything else from them?

      • DanLane December 7, 2011 at 11:27 am #

        Lamb chops, pork chops, beefburgers, sausages…. it’s all good!

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