Mock Sausage Rolls

Sausage roll, for the non-British readers, is a typical British savoury dish/snack, made out of sausage meat wrapped in puff pastry.

I am a big fan of puff pastry (although I have it seldom and in moderation due to its high fat content), and I love something soft or tender wrapped in crispy, flaky pastry – a Wellington or a Pithivier are prime examples of this.

Once I was taught by a chef how to make a sausage roll by wrapping spiced pork meat in puff pastry; I loved that technique and the appearance of the dish, but not so much the flavour, so I started to think how I could make a version that would suit my taste.

This is how I came up with the idea of Mock Sausage Rolls, which is simply something that looks exactly like a sausage roll but with a different filling; no need to say that the possibilities are endless and you can use any ingredient or combination of ingredients you like; here I use mushrooms and aubergines, which is one of my favs, with the addition of Parmesan and Parma ham.
INGREDIENTS (make 8-10 rolls)

500 g ready-made puff pastry
200 g Parma Ham
1 kg Aubergine
300 g closed cup mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
Sun-dried tomatoes in oil (optional)
50 g Parmesan cheese
30 g Breadcrumbs
2 eggs

  1. First, make the filling:
    For the aubergines (see: Grilled Aubergines ):
    Slice and purge the aubergines
    Pat them dry, brush with oil and grill
    For the mushrooms (see: Sauteed Mushrooms ):
    Slice the mushrooms; Sautee them in olive oil with minced garlic and salt
  2. When the mushrooms and the aubergines have cooled down, mince them with a knife, or pulse them in a food processor until coarsely chopped (along with the sundried tomato, if using it). IMPORTANT:  you don’t want to make them too liquid, otherwise the filling will not hold its shape
  3. In a bowl, mix this paste with the Parmesan, breadcrumbs and 1 egg plus 1 egg white – you will need to keep the other yolk for your egg wash (see points 11-12-13)
  4. Roll out the puff pastry. You can buy the ready-rolled one but I find it too thick and difficult to work with, so I normally buy a block and roll out the quantity I need to the thickness of a 1 Pound coin (about 3 mm)
  5. Trim the edges of the pastry sheet to give it a regular shape and line the middle with the Parma ham slices, making them overlap slightly
  6. Arrange the mix on top of the ham, giving it the shape of a sausage
  7. Wrap the mix with the Parma ham, it will make it easier to roll the pastry
  8. Brush the edges of the pastry sheet with water
  9. Roll the pastry around the filling, pressing lightly to seal it
  10. Keeping the seam side down, score the upper side of the roll to give it a proper sausage roll appearance
  11. Using a sharp knife, cut the individual rolls, making sure they are all of the same size
  12. Make the egg wash by beating the spare yolk with 1 tbsp. of water
  13. Brush the pastry with egg wash and refrigerate until ready to bake or at least for 15 minutes NOTE: refrigerating the puff pastry will help it rise
  14. When ready to bake brush for the second time with egg wash. NOTE: it is the egg wash that gives puff pastry the nice brown colour you normally see, it’s not the pastry itself, which otherwise will stay pale and whitish, and not very attractive
  15. Bake at 180 C for 20 minutes or until golden brown and risen

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Aubergine bake)

055 Crop

Melanzane alla Parmigiana is an aubergine bake very popular in Italy.Its main ingredients are aubergines, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan.
The standard recipe requires deep fried aubergines – in some parts of Italy aubergines are even coated in beaten egg before being deep fried, resulting in a very tasty dish but also a calory bomb.
I will show here a lighter version of it that uses grilled aubergines instead; furthermore, you can reduce the quantity of mozzarella or even make it without (even if I do not recommend it); you should not eliminate the parmesan though since, like the name suggests, it is what really gives character to this dish.
NOTE: I am describing the process like we are doing it from beginning to the end at once. If you have enough time or can plan in advance, you can also prepare the grilled aubergines and the tomato sauce beforehand and put everything together and bake later.

For the Sauce (see also Tomato Sauce  in Basics):

2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
4 cloves Garlic
Peeled Tomatoes
Basil (about 20 lieaves, or to taste)
Salt & Sugar

For the grilled aubergines (see also Grilled Aubergines in Basics):
1 kg Aubergines
Olive oil, to brish

250 g Mozzarella, grated
200g Parmesan or Grana cheese, grated
Breadcrumbs (optional), to sprinkle

First, slice the aubergines, rub them with salt and put them in a colander to purge (see Grilled Aubergines)
Then, make the Tomato Sauce, as in Basic but adding the shredded basil leaves at the end:
Sweat the onion in 2 tbsp olive oil
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
Add the blended tomatoes, using a fine sieve
Add water
Simmer for 60 minutes
Towards the end, add the basil
Add Salt & sugar

While the sauce is simmering, grill the aubergines:

Pat them dry
Brush with oil on one side
Place in a very hot pan, oiled side down
Brush the upped side with more oil
When the first side is nicely coloured, turn them to cook the other one

When both the sauce and the grilled aubergines are ready, put the ingredients together in the baking tray:
Spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of the tray
Make a layer of grilled aubergines, making sure they slightly overlap each other
Cover with more tomato sauce
Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Repeat the operation, making more layers until you use all the ingredients
If you like, sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the top
Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until the top is nice and crispy.

Rest for at least 30 minutes before serving – this dish is actually better if you let it cool down completely and then reheat it