Saturday 18 December 2010

Parks and dogs and sausage rolls


I’ve been to grander parties, it’s true. This is a long way from silver trays of canapés in elegant hotels, premier cru in posh houses fragrant with pine Diptyque candles and money, or carefully constructed cocktails in private members’ clubs.
But this is the party I look forward to as soon as I flip the calendar over to December. Every Christmas, those of us who walk our dogs in Clissold Park assemble in the breath-misting morning chill to swap stories, drink, eat.

Rachel put together her camping stove for the mulled wine and the graffiti’d picnic table quickly disappeared beneath foil-wrapped and plastic-boxed Christmas treats, thermoses of coffee, paper napkins and plastic cups.

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It’s a very Stoke Newington affair. Mince pies and Christmas cake sit alongside Phil’s home-smoked cheese, Riccardo and Alastaire Spanish cinnamon cookies and Cat’s spanakopita.
It was -2ºC, so I perked up a cup of Lee’s hot chocolate with a nip of rum from Alastaire’s hip flask. Dogs barked, sniffed, made covert and not-so-covert attempts to raid the table. Toddlers nibbled chocolate brownies as a few feet above their heads, adults discussed favoured routes to Devon and Denmark, snow warnings and the misery of Oxford Street. People swapped cards and invitations, exchanged hugs, kissed.

By 11am I was at my desk, trying to nudge my rum-warmed brain to focus on my last feature of the year. But what I was really thinking was that it would be a good thing for the happiness of the nation if there were more parties where it was entirely acceptable to wear your gardening shoes.

Polly looks hopeful.

Chorizo sausage rolls


There are so many sweet offerings at the dog walkers’ Christmas party, I always try to make something savoury to balance the early morning sugar rush. Sausage rolls filled with River Cottage’s  Tupperware chorizo have a fiery kick, appropriate for a morning when ducks skid across thick ice on the pond and walkers swaddled in Gore-tex and wool tread gingerly on frosty pavements.

The chorizo is easy to make – you just squish it all together – but you need to refrigerate it for at least a day for the flavours to develop.

Makes about 30 small sausage rolls

For the chorizo:
750g pork shoulder, coarsely minced
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
2 tsp hot smoked paprika
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp fine sea salt
1½ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
50ml red wine
Freshly ground black pepper

A little oil for frying

3 sheets of ready-roll all-butter puff pastry, about 35cm x 22cm
An egg beaten with a little water

Put all the chorizo ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands, squishing the mix through your fingers to distribute the seasonings evenly. Heat a little oil in a frying pan, break off a walnut-sized piece of the mixture, shape into a tiny patty and fry for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through. Taste to check the seasoning, remembering that the flavours will develop further as the mixture matures.
Cover the mixture and store in the fridge for at least 24 hours before using; this will allow the flavours time to develop. It will keep for about 2 weeks.

When you’re ready to make the sausage rolls, unroll the pastry and give it a gentle going over with a rolling pin to increase its size slightly. Cut it in half lengthways, make the chorizo into a long snakes about 2cm thick and lay them down the middle of the pastry rectangles. Brush one long edge of the pastry lightly with the egg wash, roll the other edge over the top to join and press the edges together firmly. Trim with a sharp knife so you have an even edge (if you like - wonky sausage rolls are also incredibly delicious). Cut them into 4cm pieces and place them on baking sheets lined with baking parchment, keeping them about 2cm apart as they will expand a bit. Chill for about 30 minutes.

Brush the sausage rolls with the egg wash. I also ground some black pepper and sprinkled a bit more sweet paprika over the top but that’s not essential. Place them in a hot oven, 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6, for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and the pork cooked through. If you can, eat them warm.


  1. OMG, just had lunch and now hungry again

  2. Now THIS is my idea of a Holiday party...dogs, kids, alcohol, warm comfortable clothes, outdoors and lovely food! XOXO Marty

  3. Fab recipe, now I can make my own chorizo. Thanks.

  4. Lovely, lovely post - always sounds like such a fun bash! x

  5. Wag more, bark less--that's a bumper sticker I just saw this week. Perfect, eh? Makes me almost wish I had a dog. And a house next door to you (although, it would probably mean that both Sparky and I would be begging for treats, hopeful like Polly).
    A dog named Polly. Why I Love England 101.

    Hearts and waggy tails,

  6. Loved the post, especially as my very best friend in the whole wide world appears in one of the photos (as you know)! I think that the Labrador and I should arrange a visit to London this time next year, just so that we can tag along . . . happy to contribute festive treats, for humans and canines.

  7. Lovely post! I felt (wished) I was there with you. I hope Polly got a bite of something too.

  8. Happy New Year Debora! I wish you much happiness and success in 2011. I hope you are coping with the extreme cold in your neck of the woods. As for us, we are keeping our heads above water. Just. Mariana x.

    PS: I am going to make these sausage rolls in our winter. They look scrumptious, they sound so warming and I like the interesting tweaks.

  9. Happy New Year, Debora. All the best in 2011. I look forward to many more wonderful posts.

  10. This looks like such a wonderful way to begin the day although my four four-legged heatherns need a bit more manners training before being taken off the farm -smile-.
    The receipt looks good and all the food sounds delicious; really enjoyed my outing here today. It was a gift, thank you.

  11. Now that is a "pig in a blanket" that I could go for! Of course my dog, Truffle, would love to eat it too! Lovely fun photos.

  12. Wonderful stuff! It seems I have more than one reason to get a dog and get down to Clissold Park now ;-) I do miss Stokey....sigh!

  13. delicious!

    I'm loving your blog, I'm following!

    Would love you to enter my amazing GIVEAWAY- to win a pasta making course and meal with wine for two:


  14. Hello dear. I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. I was thinking of you this week. It's been two years since we began our blogs. Just three days apart. Happy Bloganniversay. I do miss your beautiful writing, your witty humour and of course your fabulous recipes. Thinking of you. Mariana xx


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