A lot of cooks will, in a bid to be folksy and relaxed, express horror at the thought of making your own pastry - particularly puff pastry. "There's a lot of wonderful pre-made pastry you can get from shops," they always say. "Just make sure it all-butter and you're quids in."
Well, no. I say NO. If you are going to make something that requires puff pastry (sausage rolls, a savoury pie) you might as well make it yourself if you're not going to just go to Greggs and buy some sausage rolls or a savoury pie.
What these cooks are thinking is that you're going to make puff pastry in that fiddlesome crazy way, where you individually sort of layer very thin bits of pastry together, half-glued here and there with an egg wash. It takes about six years to do and goes wrong all the time. So yeah - don't do that.
But DO do Delia Smith's, now very famous, Quick Flaky Pastry, which is not, I admit, the dictionary definition of puff pastry, but it does the job extremely well. You have probably seen Delia do this on telly, or read about it in one of her cookbooks. But I am here to tell you that it's just brilliant and that you ought to give it a crack one day.
So here is the recipe - although Delia is so evangelical about it that if you wait long enough she'll probably come and shout it through your letterbox.
225g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 The way this recipe works is that you grate frozen butter into flour. I don't know why it works but it does. So how you do this is really up to you. I always have frozen butter in my freezer because I am an insane hoarder and hate running out of things. But if you are normal, get any old pack of butter and measure out 175g, then wrap it in foil and put it in the freezer for at least an hour.
2 Sieve out the flour and sprinkle over your pinch of salt. Then retrieve the frozen butter from the freezer. Unwrap it so that there is a bit of foil left on the end for you to clutch onto while you grate the other end into the flour. Grating frozen butter into flour is not nice at all, it really isn't. It's like your fingers are going to fall off and it's very hard work. And from time to time you worry that your fingers are so numb that you might accidentally grate them and not feel it. But keep at it, like the trooper you are, because it's worth it. The grating gets easier as the butter melts towards the end. But do not be tempted to do this with warmer butter to make it easier - the butter must be frozen little curls of fat, not long strips like you're grating cheddar cheese.
3 So once that's all gone and you're looking at your hand like "Speak to me....!" distribute the butter round the flour with a knife until it's all coated. Now add water, small sloosh by small sloosh, until you get a dough. If you want to be really smart about this, used iced water.
4 Bring the dough together, but don't mess it around too much with your hands because, as well all know, dough doesn't like getting warm, then chuck it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
And there's your dough! I used this last New Year to make a really fantastic chicken and ham pie and yesterday made a lot of sausage rolls to take on a picnic.
So, here is the dough just before it goes in the fridge. Note the bits of butter distributed around the flour - it's supposed to look like that, not all smooth and even and glossy like bread dough.
This is how I made my sausage rolls. You just get a lot of high-quality sausages and slice open the skins to retrieve the sausage meat. You may find a better way to construct your sausage roll than this but this way worked fine.
Just remember that you MUST seal your sides of pastry with egg wash. Milk or water won't do. Also brush a bit of your egg wash onto the top of the rolls before they go in the oven (220 for 25 minutes).
I would also recommend either greasing or flouring your baking sheet before you lay the rolls out, otherwise they will probably stick to the sheet and you'll have to yank them off and that will put you in an incredibly bad mood.