Eating hot, salty things while drinking cold bubbles is something I enjoy. It is at this time of year, though, when I start expecting it as often as possible. After all, who knows when will take a dark turn? Last Sunday afternoon, for example, as the light was snatched away and the house shrank, and I needed to make this recipe again and take pictures, we went from a claustrophobic family slump to a small party of three in the space of an hour.
The Chinese tradition maintains that for food to be perfect, all of the senses must be stimulated. Now, while I am cautious about using the word, today’s recipe with bubbles is proof of this theory, with all five senses at work in the best possible way: the smell and sizzle sound coming from the oven (not to mention the pop of the cork and fizz in the glass); the sight of the golden carapace with sausagemeat inside; touch as you grab a roll with your fingers and burn your tongue; and the taste of oil-slicked focaccia and sausage and sage stuffing. Sausage rolls, but not as I knew them, until now.
These are rolls of the bun variety, made from an olive oil-rich focaccia dough wrapped around a sausage, onion and sage filling. They are not intended as a rival to the classic, puff pastry sausage roll, but an ally. The dough recipe is my standard focaccia dough, and the nearest I come to making bread. The beauty of this recipe, taught to me by the Italian cook and teacher Carla Tomasi, is in the kneading, or rather the pulling and folding. You do this on an oiled surface with oiled hands, lifting the sides of the dough up and over as if you were gathering a drawstring purse.
There are two Roman words I like a lot. The first is sfizio, which literally translates as “whim”, or meaning something you don’t really need. But it has come to mean a delicious thing, usually fried in oil, that you absolutely must eat. The second is sgargarozzare, which my wine-selling friend Antonio defines as: “To consume or throw back with joy, and with no intention of stopping.” These words feel entirely appropriate here, for stand-up dinners of hot cheese straws and anchovy puffs, lumps of cheese and fat-studded slices of salami, battered and fried things, your largest bowl filled with crisps and, of course, sausage rolls. Plus, lots of bubbles all consumed on a whim, and with no intention of stopping.
Prep 30 min
Rest 1 hr 45 min
Cook 30 min
200g ‘00’ all-purpose flour
200g strong bread flour
8g dried yeast or 20g fresh
250g sausage meat
1 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 handful sage leaves
White wine or marsala
In a bowl, mix the flours, yeast, salt, two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and 300ml tepid water into a soft, slightly sticky and shaggy ball of dough. Cover and leave to rest in a warm spot for 15 minutes.
Turn the dough on to an oiled worktop, then lift and fold the sides of the dough up and over (the oiled surface helps this), before returning to a clean, oiled bowl. Cover and leave in a warm, draught-free place for an hour and a half. By the end of resting, the dough should be triple the size.
While the dough is resting, make the filling. Fry the onion in a little olive oil with the sausage meat, squeezed from the casing and crumbled into the pan, some ripped sage leaves and lots of black pepper. Add a little white wine or marsala and leave to bubble for 10 minutes, until the sausage is cooked and the wine has evaporated.
Working with oily hands, pull off walnut-sized lumps of dough, flatten slightly and put a teaspoon of filling in the middle, then wrap the dough around it, sealing carefully.
Put the rolls on an oven tray lined with baking paper, then brush with more oil. Bake at 190C (170C fan)/gas 5 for 15 minutes, or until puffed up, firm and golden.