One of the UK’s most popular savoury snacks, sausage rolls are a Christmas essential, ideal for festive gatherings or New Year’s Eve parties. But they’re also perfect for any time of year.
Also hugely popular in Australia and Canada, sausage rolls are considered a British classic but their exact origin is questionable. While Ancient Greeks and Romans wrapped meats in pastry, the modern version – as it is known today – is believed to have originated in 19th century France, where puff pastry was a baking staple. Renowned as a cheap street food, sausage rolls quickly became popular in London, typically made with shortcrust pastry, which remained common until fairly recently.
Today, however, puff pastry is arguably the most popular option, but it’s the dish’s versatility that makes sausage rolls so loveable. Available in all shapes and sizes, with varying fillings and casings, we’ve become accustomed to a wide range of both gourmet and budget sausage rolls – all of which have their place. Yet few can beat homemade sausage rolls, fresh from the oven, with well-seasoned sausage meat snuggled by a layer of flaky, buttery pastry. All sorts of embellishments can also be added to the sausage meat, from herbs and spices, to fruits, through to chilli peppers, cheese, and so much more.
These homemade sausage rolls use sweet Italian sausages, although any sausage meat will work well (see notes in the recipe card for alternatives). The sausage meat is also enlivened with ribbons of thinly sliced fennel quickly softened in a frying pan, joined by bread crumbs to absorb some of that unnecessary moisture, ultimately helping to pastry to obtain 360-degree flakiness. They’re then egg-washed and topped with a pinch of both fennel and black sesame seeds. Best eaten warm from the oven, but also delicious at room temperature with a generous drizzle of hot sauce.
- 400 g sweet Italian sausages (approx. 6) (see notes for alternative)
- 1 bulb fennel trimmed and finely sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp bread crumbs
- 1 sheet puff pastry approx. 300g
- 1 egg beaten, for egg wash
- Fennel seeds to taste
- Black sesame seeds to taste
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5.
- In a heavy-based pan, heat a splash of olive oil until shimmering then add the fennel. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft but not coloured. Season with salt and pepper, then add the garlic to the pan. Increase the heat and continue to cook for 30 seconds or a minute until fragrant, being careful to avoid burning the garlic. Remove from the pan, strain off any excess moisture, and allow to cool.
- While the fennel is cooling, remove the sausage skins and add all to a large mixing bowl. Add the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. Once cooled, also add the fennel, then mix with your hands until everything is well combined.
- Cut the pastry into three equal rectangles, and in the centre of each piece, add a dollop of the sausage mixture to form a long sausage running lengthwise through the middle of the pastry rectangle.
- Beat the egg and lightly brush one long edge of each pastry rectangle with the egg wash, then beginning with the dry side, roll the pastry over the meat filling to form long sausage rolls.
- Seal firmly, but without allowing any filling to escape, and repeat with the other pastry pieces.
- Cut each long sausage roll into four smaller sausage rolls (or more, dependent on size preference) and place seam-side-down on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, leaving some space between each. Cook in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the baking sheet.
- Brush the top of each sausage roll with the egg wash and sprinkle over a pinch of both fennel seeds and black sesame seeds.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
- Allow to cool slightly before eating.