If you're a follower of my Twitter or Instagram account you may have noticed my recent infatuation with puff pastry (it's not all just waffles u'know!). It all started before Christmas when I was tagged in one of those recipe videos on Facebook, if you haven't seen them yet they consist of a timelapsed cooking process which demonstrate how to make seemingly simple dishes with no written recipe accompanying it. The video I was tagged in was a puff pastry Christmas tree with a twist.
I followed the video recipe and additionally added some Parmesan, I was going to add some sort of cured meat but a memory blank in the shop meant this was not to be. The result turned out really well but if you're new to cooking then you may have struggled with some of the steps as there are additional points to consider which are not so evident in the video. One tip I would suggest should you try this for yourself is to place your pastry on a non-stick baking sheet or baking paper. Kitchen foil is not recommended (by me) for puff pastry.
My second dally with puff pastry came in the form of a steak and ale pie. For all those pie snobs out there, no this is not a casserole with a lid it has both a bottom and sides.
Pie inspiration came from my Christmas presents as I was gifted not one but two beautiful enamel pie dishes! Clearly the masses were speaking, I needed to make a pie. I did my pie research and found that the best cut of beef to place in a pie is beef shin. It was a great choice as it didn't have that stewed beef taste (I'm personally not a fan) but instead left good chunks of meaty beef that broke away under the fork as we devoured this pie. I even have another helping in the freezer in my second gifted pie dish.
Puff pastry clearly wasn't out of my system when I decided to embark on the sausage plait. I've always thought these look neat and appetising when I've ordered them at cafes, when I came to make my own the simplicity of them surprised me. I hope to make more plaits in the summer time as they will make a fantastic addition to a picnic.
If you fancy making your own here's what I did:
6 pork sausages (at least 85%, higher if you can I used 95%)
Fennel seeds - 1 tbsp
Apple chopped in to 1 cm cubes - 1 (Cox or other eating apple with suffice)
Onion diced - 1 small (or half if large)
Egg - whisked
Salt and Pepper - to taste
Sesame seeds (optional)
Rapeseed oil - 1 tsp (or your oil of choice)
Puff Pastry (1 pack of ready made or if you're looking for a challenge here's a recipe)
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (180 degrees if fan or gas mark 6). Place baking paper on top of a flat baking tray, to secure this in place I use a dab of butter on each corner to stick it to the tray.
2. Fry the chopped onion on a medium heat in the oil until it starts to brown. Remove from the heat and set to side to cool.
2. Split the sausage skins by running a knife down their length and empty the contents in to a large bowl. Then add the fennel, chopped apple, cooled onion and a dash of salt and pepper. Mix to combine, I used my hands as this is the quickest and most effective way but you could use a wooden spoon.
3. Prepare your pastry (using this recipe or by unravelling it from the box) by rolling it out into a long rectangle roughly 30cm by 40cm, if you're using the ready rolled ready prepared stuff this should already be about the right size. Lay the pastry on to the baking paper which by now should be on top of your baking tray.
4. Down the centre of the pastry spoon on your sausage mixture, keeping about a hands width (or a third) either side of the sausage mix clean from filling. Leave about 4 cm free of mixture at the top and bottom of your pastry as you will need to fold this in to secure the ends of your plait.
5. Score down the sides of your pasty with a knife keeping about 0.5-1cm away from the sausage mixture and in to strips of about 1 - 1.5cm in thickness. You can score this diagonally or vertically, the pastry is pretty flexible so either will do.
6. Fold in the top and bottom of the pastry and then plait your pastry, simply pulling one strip from the right and then from the left lining them up as you go down the sausage, basically flat plaiting the pastry (see YouTube if you're confused as there are plenty of videos showing you how to do this!)
7. Brush your whisked egg all over the pastry making sure not to miss a single part. (You can use milk for this also but I feel egg gives it a little extra gloss).
8. Sprinkle sesame seeds on the top, this adds a little bit more texture to the pastry but is not essential, it's mainly foe aesthetics.
9. Place your plait in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes, if you have a rubbish oven like me be sure to turn it half way through to get an even bake.
10. Eat! I ate mine with salad and coleslaw but you can also refrigerate and eat cold on picnics, lunch, snacks or whenever you like!