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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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!