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Sunday, 31 January 2016

Ted and the great roll off


…no sadly that’s not a euphemism for me having lost weight … rather that this week I had the pleasure of attending the Great Sausage Roll Off 2016. A woman (who was not the Doll) and who shall remain anonymous (Bernadette) accompanied me on the long and arduous overland journey by train and foot to the Red Lion Pub in the quaint and rather chichi London riverside suburb of Barnes for the competition.

The brain child of the pubs co-manager Angus McKean, the great Sausage Roll Off is in now in its 4th year, and this year it was raising money for the Shooting Star Chase – a children’s hospice charity. The evening was compered by the incomparable Melissa Cole SommALEier and the offerings were judged by a panel of four comprising of two professional chefs and two professional eaters (my dream job).

Naturally I did a bit of research on the origins of the sausage roll before I went and discovered something quite amazing.  Sausage rolls are so ubiquitous to the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth that nobody can really say where and when they arrived – they just always seem to have been around, and no party table or picnic basket is complete without them. However, it wasn't until late 2015 that the New York Times decided to introduce them to the USA apparently (can this be true America??)!!

Pretty much everyone agrees that they are ground seasoned meat (usually pork) wrapped in puff pastry and baked to a lovely golden colour, to be eaten hot or cold. Armed with that vast background knowledge we made up a scoring regime of texture, taste and look, and settled in for the offerings that were to come our way over the evening. A sausage roll in the hands of chefs and their imagination becomes a multi-splendid thing that can range from wild duck and rhubarb, smoked pork belly with rum syrup bacon, rabbit leg with braised salsify and walnut, and Japanese beef tartare in brioche, all the way to haggis supper with curry sauce.

Of course I wasn't an official judge but nevertheless I took my task seriously and looked and sniffed and tasted and made “it’s delicious but is it really and truly holding to the essence of sausage roll tradition” or “this one’s got a soggy bottom” pronouncements.  We got to the end of heat 3 and I was delighted with how I had paced myself and was looking forward to the final judging and the results, when Bernadette duly informed me that there was indeed another heat to go and the reason I didn’t realise that was because my heat 4 sheet of paper had become stuck to the back of the heat 3 sheet with sauce, bits of filling, and flakes of pastry, and the rest was on my face and my jumper.

I've put the photos in first, second and third place order.  The winner was Phil Harrison with his pheasant and black pudding offering.  Hotly pursued by sage, garlic and onions with Jack Daniels, followed by a venison, wild mushroom and pickled blackberry delight. Right ... must roll on ...

9 comments:

Come Away With Me said...

I'm sure it's quite true (your question to America) . . . I've yet to see a sausage roll in Southern California and I've lived here 65 years. Maybe they have not made their way west from New York yet. Or maybe I'm not looking in the right places. But your post has made me very hungry.

Sharon Anck said...

I don't think I've seen a sausage roll here in AZ either. Pigs in a blanket might show up at cocktail parties but, I don't think that counts. I think my favorite might have been the sage, garlic and onion with Jack Daniels. Everything about that one sounds yummy to me.

William Kendall said...

It all looks delicious. Yes, we've had sausage rolls here as long as I can remember, but we're in the Commonwealth.

Geoff Wilkinson said...

Oh it sounds like a perfect day, I think I would have to have voted for the sage, garlic and onion...

Michelle said...

You had me at, "smoked pork belly with rum syrup bacon." Sounds divine.

Angie said...

The first mention of sausage rolls in the English papers was in September 1809 when 'T Ling aged 75 (an industrious vender of saloop, buns and sausgae rolls) was married to the Widow Bumpstead'.

Bill Nicholls said...

The humble Sausage roll gains new heights

Nathalie H.D. said...

A wonderful and fun account of a great event, from what I can judge. I think I would have enjoyed it too.

While Australia is part of the Commonwealth I don't remember seeing sausage rolls there as a regular part of the locals' diet. The meat pie or anything on the barbecue are far more popular.

Jack said...

Nope. No sausage rolls here. Ted, you have such a good job.

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