My Auntie Nicky is a Super-woman. My Granny used to tell me that she was Super-gran and could fly up the stairs and although my Auntie Nicky has never made similar fantastical claims, I’ll bet she can do this too. She has more energy than is normal for a mere human. She gets more jobs done in a day than I get done in a month…perhaps even months. She remembers birthdays and anniversaries and juggles a family, two dogs, a cat a farm. Like I said, she’s a Super-woman. When my brother and I were at boarding school together we often went to stay at the farm in the holidays….we went with equal amounts of excitement and dread. Along with having more energy than a costco-sized packet of AA batteries, Nicky doesn’t appear to sleep and she sure as hell doesn’t take rests. As teenagers come my brother and I were pretty typical- moody, hungry and sleepy. Visiting Auntie Nicky meant that slinking off for a leisurely afternoon kip was no easy feat. A schedule like the following was not unusual: 6 am swim, followed by walking the dogs, breakfast, a game of tennis, a quick bite for lunch, a game of backgammon, a game of water polo, the crossword…..some might call this summer camp….we called it sleep deprivation. We were poor tortured pimply teenagers.
The exciting part was Nicky’s naughty streak….at an age younger than I shall admit I remember her pulling out a bottle of coke and another of rum in the movie theater so we could have a little tipple as we watched the show. My mother was appalled….I was in awe. Auntie Nicky was so cool. Going to the farm also had (and still has) a feeling of going home….the familiarity was something that as a family who moved every couple of years, we really treasured. I have more memories from the farm than from anywhere else and Nicky has always been like my second mother (the one who didn’t send me to my room or tell me to make my bed).
And the food. Oh, the food. Auntie Nicky is a fabulous cook. She could cook a roast dinner for sixteen blindfolded with her legs tied together and she would still be smiling at the end of it. S-U-P-E-R W-O-M-A-N. She would also probably be a little tipsy doing it. Margaret. That’s what we call her when she’s had a little too much to drink. Margaret who is married to Warren (aka farmer Chris). They had a little too much the night before my wedding and came up with this little diddy for me….” Poets we are not, but SPUDS (potatoes) we have lots! Love, the Mayhews” I love that family.
Nicky has but one fault. Which, I have to say is pretty good going as numbers of faults go, even for a Super-woman. Nicky is a sausage roll Nazi. I have never told this to her before but I have found it to true. She makes amazing sausage rolls with local ground pork and buttery puff pastry rolled in poppy seeds. She will tell you that you can only have one because she needs to keep them for some party. Well, that’s just simply unacceptable. For starters, it’s impossible to only eat one so you may as well not eat any at all. Last time Don and I went to stay we found ourselves having to sneak out rolls from the bottom of the pile when she wasn’t looking- hoping that she wouldn’t notice. Only, she did because she had counted them. She knows what they do to people. Then she put them in the freezer. Like I said- unacceptable. These are not the kind of things that qualify for the out of sight, out of mind theory. Once you have one they will be on your mind for days, if not weeks. Out of sight just makes them more desirable.
Pine nut & thyme sausage rolls with mango-mustard dipping sauce
These really need to be eaten fresh out of the oven but you can make the rolls up in advance and freeze them. They are also wonderful stuffed with small chunks of feta or blue cheese.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced
leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme
500g good quality sausage meat
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
300g puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp poppy seeds (or sesame)
for the mustard & mango chutney dipping sauce
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup shredded mango chutney (must be syrupy)
• Heat the oil over a medium heat in a medium-sized pan. Add the diced onion and cook gently for 10 minutes. Turn the heat up (adding a splash of water if the onions are sticking) and allow the softened onions to get some color.
• After the onions are lightly golden (about 5 minutes) add the garlic and thyme leaves and stir for 30 seconds then remove from the heat
• Allow to cook, then mix together with the toasted pine nuts and sausage meat. Season with 2 generous pinches of salt and a good grinding of black pepper.
• Roll your pastry out into a long rectangle (my pastry came in 6 inch squares which I rolled to 9 inches long. All that really matters is that it’s not too wide.
• Now shape the sausage into logs about 1 inch thick and place along one side of the long end of the pastry, allowing a 1/2 inch boarder on the side that you place it. Brush the boarder with your beaten egg. Fold the large side of the pastry over the sausage meat so that it meets the leftover boarder on the other side. Press the pastry together then turn the roll over and brush the underside of the pinched pastry and fold it back under itself so that the sausage roll looks like one big log.
• Brush the log(s) with beaten egg and scatter with the poppy seeds. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or freeze.
• Heat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6. Cut the logs into 1 inch pieces and place on 2 baking trays, allowing for space in between. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the racks half way through cooking.
• For the sauce, mix together the ingredients (if you don’t find it sweet enough, add a drizzle of honey.)