…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.