Country Baking: Beef, Fennel & Fig Sausage Rolls

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On our way to Greece - our aunty seeing us off - mum is on the far left, dad is on the far right and kids in between!

Growing up eating a Mediterranean diet, I always loved pouring olive oil on my bread and eating it by the buckets load. I suppose for those growing up eating an Aussie diet, butter was the equivalent to our olive oil.

Butter has, in the years gone by, given a bad wrap and anyone that was health aware, quickly dropped it from their daily intake of fats. But as you may have recently heard, butter is back; it’s not a bad fat but still needs to be consumed in low volumes.

So I decided it was time for me to make some homemade sausage rolls using puff pastry. If you know anything about puff pastry, there’s a lot of butter in it! So much so, up to now, I have avoided making it and I don’t ever buy the ready rolled stuff (although after making it I can see why people opt for the ready made!!). Deciding to make Beef, Fennel and Fig Sausage rolls with real puff pastry was going to be a challenge and mainly because I have a slight food intolerance to butter.

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Talking about butter - did you know that many people who live in the mountainous area of Greece tend to use butter more than their southern patriots who mainly use olive oil?

Well, I stumbled across this fact while growing up in the family kitchen. My dad, Panayioti grew up in the picturesque region of Karpenisi, Central Greece and my mum, Vasiliki grew up in the coastal region of Messinia, Kalamata. You know, Kalamata olives? Yes that’s where she comes from!

Well, the battle in the kitchen was butter verses olive oil. Each morning my father would rise early and cook up his daily offerings of bacon and eggs, with big blobs of butter! My mum, would be in the other corner frying fresh bread she made up in the early hours of the morning…using olive oil of course. There wasn’t much said, but just like the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding you were dished up lots of food and expected to eat it.

But soon enough I realised when I ate my dad’s fried eggs smothered in butter I would be back in bed with pain in my tummy trying to digest what I had just consumed.

So olive oil was my choice of fat, and so good for you too, not to mention that yummy fruity taste found in good olive oils!

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As a result of my slight discomfort I get when eating butter, I have avoided recipes with a large quantity of butter being added, such as Puff Pastry. But today, I thought, ‘why not?’

Making puff pastry is easy but time consuming. What I learnt from this experience was that it’s best to prepare the pastry a day ahead – so you don’t feel like you are waiting around all day. Also, have a second recipe going at the same time so that while you are waiting in between the layers, you are doing something constructive and not wasting time.

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The end result was amazing - soft, flaky and buttery pastry was enjoyed by the family – even I had 2 or 6 little morsels of tasty sausage rolls but unfortunately my digestive system suffered overnight! Well, I shouldn’t have eaten six…one or two would have been sufficient but the flavour of the fennel seeds, the subtle sweetness that came through from the figs and the fresh smell of that pastry...well it was just too much and I lost all self-control!

Possibly a warning sign would be good – beware, these sausage rolls taste amazing and you will be tempted to eat way too many!!

Anyway, I had fun creating them and making my first ever batch of puff pastry and I hope you have just as much fun and your family and friends appreciate the work of your hands!

Beef, Fennel & Fig Sausage Rolls

Ingredients

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, dry-fried for 2 – 3 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, diced

500g lean beef

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried herbs

½ cup breadcrumbs

4 dried figs, chopped finely

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped finely

1 egg, lightly beaten for glaze

¼ cup sesame seeds

Puff Pastry

4 cups plain flour

350g cold unsalted butter, divided into 4 equal portions

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 cup cold water

Method

Place flour in bowl with first portion of butter and rub into flour or using your food processor mix until resembling breadcrumbs.

Add juice and water to bring ingredients together. Place on a floured surface and press dough into a ball, kneading for a few minutes until smooth. Wrap in plastic and place in fridge for ½ hour.

Roll dough out to about ½ cm and using second portion of butter, dollop on top spreading around evenly. Fold dough into thirds and seal edges with rolling pin. Cover, and place in fridge for another ½ hour.

Repeat this procedure until all portions of butter used up finishing with ½ hour in the fridge.

Cut pastry in half and set one aside for freezing and use another day. Roll out on a floured surface making a rectangular shape with a thickness of 5mm. Place half of the meat mixture along one side of pastry creating one long sausage. Brush egg on edges of pastry and fold over to seal meat. Cut into small sizes, brush with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Repeat with second lot of meat with remaining rolled out dough.

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Place rolls on a lined baking tray. Bake in hot oven, 220*C for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through and pastry golden.

Filling

In a pestle and mortar, lightly crush fennel seeds.

Heat oil in a small saucepan and sauté onions until transparent. Season with pepper. Cool.

In a large bowl add mince, fennel seeds, cumin, herbs, breadcrumbs, figs, egg, parsley and onion. Knead for a few minutes until well combined. Place in fridge covered for 30 minutes before using.

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