Food & Drink

Ro Howe’s Recipes: Classic Pub Sausage Rolls

14908881505_947afc0c91_zPhoto by Flickr user Eric Huybrechts. (Creative Commons License)

British pub culture is unique. Bars, bistros, beer gardens or restaurants are not the same as pubs – a shortened term of “public house.” It is a place where people gather to meet friends, family, and acquaintances to share a drink or two before going home or to spend an evening playing darts, Trivia or Backgammon in a comfy chair around a small wooden table while buying “rounds” of drinks for the assembled group, each in turn.

Each pub has its own customers who frequent that particular “local” and enjoy seeing the same familiar faces, establishing, developing, maintaining casual but frequent friendships and relationships that don’t require the formality or social commitment of being invited to someone’s home.

The hidden mystique of British pub culture is embedded in reserve—whether from the upper or lower classes. (Some in the middle class have adopted a more fast-paced, open but inconsequential relationship attitude, similar to the U.S.’s relaxed approach to socializing.) The reserve, with its embedded politeness, allows people of varying, different, and disparate classes to mix on equal ground, with all due equal respect given and received. Bert may be the butcher and Ladbroke the Lord of the Manor, but they are and behave as equals in their mutually accessible ground at their local pub.

This mutual social agreement allows for the sharing of information—as inconsequential as it may seem—and the democratization of the small neighborhood that the pub “serves.” Matters that are discussed casually may soon reach the ears of the local town council to have “situations” resolved. The pub has always been, and still is, the hub of small local life, whether in tony Hampstead, London or Lyndhurst, Hampshire.

If pubs have a garden, as many do— they are, after all, still houses where the “publican” and his/her family live—children supervised by adults are welcomed. And, of course, well-behaved pets are a staple of real local pubs, inside or outside.

Food is an important part of pub life. Some of the more adventurous pub kitchens are now run by striving chefs who raise the level of cuisine to gastronomy, dubbed “gastropubs.”

But most of them serve small nearby walk-to communities where eliding the effect of the second glass of fino sherry or pint of “bitter” is time to order food to keep the meetup going along in familial comfort.

Pubs are not about party or jolly or drunkenness, which is frowned upon.  They’re about feeling “at home,” so the food offered is typically what can be eaten in comfort without the fuss n’ bother of preparing it yourself. I remember that French baguette being offered in the early ‘80s caused quite a stir, and now that curry is considered one of the “national” foods, it is featured frequently.

One of the English pub classics is sausage rolls— traditionally, pork sausage rolled in puff pastry originating during the Napoleonic Wars from 1799 to 1815. They also appear in 18th- century French and Hungarian cuisine, and all are clearly the inspiration for America’s pigs-in-blankets.

Sausage rolls can be made mini size to eat as nibbles at a cocktail party or bigger to satisfy a larger appetite for a light luncheon or supper. And they can be made from whatever animal protein you prefer. The other benefit is that they are equally delicious served hot or cold, so are perfect for a summer picnic lunch in the garden.

Here is a recipe for our Spanish lamb sausage rolls accompanied by a light tomato sofrito sauce, delicious with a light salad.

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