Never eat anything bigger than your head
We should all be eating less meat and better meat
Whenever you see crossed chives you are in trouble
Cookery Quote

Sausage Rollery

So far this has been the decade of bar food – burgers may be peaking but there are still serried ranks of them; the Scotch egg elbowed its way into the spotlight and quickly became ubiquitous; then the foodie triumvirate of Matthew Fort, Tom Parker Bowles and Rupert Ponsonby booted the pork scratching upmarket. Earlier this week Claire Morgan and Angus Mckean, who run the Red Lion at Barnes, set about rehabilitating the sausage roll. Following in the footsteps of the great Scotch Egg Challenge (held last autumn at the Ship in Wandsworth) Mckean arranged “The Great Sausage Roll Off”, there were 19 entries and I got to judge.
On the 30th of January the sausage roll judging panel comprised Kate Spicer, myself and Johnny Mountain – head chef of the Barbican restaurant The English Pig straggled in to the Red Lion. Thirty years ago I had the honour to be Chairman of a loose association of drunken folk called London French RFC and we used the Red Lion as our home pub. It’s still a good pub with lots of original features including a Victorian function room (or sausage roll arena) and a good line up of well kept Fuller’s beers, the Chiswick was particularly fine.
This was a very jolly night not least because each of the 19 entries was accompanied by a team of chefs determined to have a good time. Melissa Cole had the difficult job of compering the revels and anyone with a lesser presence would have been shouted down. The brief was a simple one – to make the best sausage roll and it was fascinating to see how the chefs responded. At the extreme end of the spectrum we were faced with a “sausage roll” that was made by encasing a lobster tail in delicate pastry; there was another where the meat struggled to overcome a heavy-handed dose of five spice powder; or how about a sausage roll made of mackerel? In the middle ground there was a decent venison sausage roll from the Lamb at Angmering, and to the fore some classic sausage rolls.
When all is said and done making a superlative sausage roll is a difficult ask without also trying to achieve something spooky. As we slink into Gregg’s for a sausage roll we don’t want lobster, we do want crisp, fatty pastry and tender, well seasoned, fatty meat. If the sausage roll gets too classy it loses some of its charm. Most of the sausage rolls we sampled were good, but some were great and in the end the top of the leader board read as follows.
1st The Mason Arms 2nd The Gun 3rd The Hand & Flower
Note to self: is this to be the year of the sausage roll? Resolve to eat more of them, strictly in the interest of research.

The Red Lion, 2 Castelnau, Barnes, London, SW13 9RU (020 8748 2984) www.fullers.co.uk

The Mason’s Arms, 169 Battersea Park Rd, London, Battersea SW8 4BT (020 7622 2007) www.masons-arms-battersea.co.uk

The Gun, 27 Coldharbour, London E14 9NS. (020 7515 5222) www.thegundocklands.com

The Hand & Flower, 1 Hammersmith Road, Hammersmith, London W14 8XJ (020 7371 4105) www.handandflower.co.uk

Charles Campion - Friday 1st February 2013

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