No Need to Kneed – A Self Isolation Recipe

Tom Cruise may have felt the need, the need for speed. However, you’re likely stuck at home self-isolating. You definitely do not feel the need for speed. Time is in plentiful supply. Unlike toilet tissue. What the heck is that about?

It’s been a while since I’ve had, well, the time, to add another recipe in our series highlighting simple home recipes that you can make in your vacation rental kitchen. For all those stuck at home, here’s a recipe that you can adapt to use up some of that time on your hands while self-isolating in your home kitchen.

Introducing Andy’s Asparagus Rolls!

I was inspired for this recipe by yet another trip to the fridge to check if the contents had miraculously changed since my last check between Zoom conference calls. I had on hand:

  • A bunch of asparagus.
  • One elderly fennel bulb.
  • One sad looking pack of cremini (button) mushrooms that passed the sniff test.
  • Loads of butter.
  • Plain flour.
  • An 8oz pack of strong cheddar cheese.
  • Half a disc of Cypress Grove Purple Haze goat cheese.
  • A rosemary bush in a safe part of the yard where the dogs can’t pee on it.
  • 2% milk.
  • A pack of large eggs.
  • Salt and pepper.

What to make with this random stuff? I came up with asparagus ‘sausage’ rolls! If you’re not familiar with that British picnic staple, a Sausage Roll, then you have not lived. It’s basically ground pork sausage meat (or veggie ‘meat’ crumbles) rolled into a sausage shape and baked in wrapped layer of rich, buttery short crust pastry. Simple, British ‘street food.’ How my Grandmother would laugh at that term, “Street Food!” In her day one never ate on the street. It was decidedly, “Common!”

That yummy British picnic and party staple, the, “Sausage Roll!”

I take some lightly steamed asparagus, put it on a rectangle of rolled out herbed cheesy shortcrust pastry, and add a schmear of a mushroom, fennel, cheese sauce. I roll it all up. Brush the top with beaten egg and bake in a 400F oven for 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the sauce bubbling out the ends of the rolls.

Pastry? Are you mad? Relax, this is not Top Chef. No one is going to be sent home. You’re already home. You’re self-isolating. No one’s going to judge you. The worst you’ll get are eye rolls from your teenage kids. You’re likely already getting those, since for most teenagers parents alternate between ruining their lives, a gross embarrassment, or the best thing since nose piercing. Dive on in!

My dear Mother – an amazing, calm cook, and all round lovely person, once spent an entire afternoon with me patiently showing me how to make pastry. It’s really easy once you realize not to over think, or over work it. I follow the rule of twos for my shortcrust pastry. It goes like this…

Andy’s (Mother’s) Easy Basic Shortcrust Pastry Recipe

  • Two cups of plain flour.
  • Two sticks of butter (I use the Plugra European extra creamy unsalted). It’s great for pastry and it’s always on sale! Hence my butter vault in our fridge even in non-isolation times.
  • Not too much ice cold water. Two/too. Get it?
  • Not too much salt. A pinch or 1/4 teaspoon.

I’ve rolled out this recipe (pun intended) so many times now I can gauge it without measuring the water. I can also play around with it somewhat. I’ve added egg yolk, orange juice, cream, fresh herbs, curry spices, crumbled cheese, you name it. You just need to adjust the butter and water content to ensure you still end up with the right consistency of pastry dough. One’s dough should be moist enough to hold together, but not sticky to the touch. If you’re adding cheese, go a little lighter on the butter. Fat is fat. You don’t want your pastry too rich and overwhelming the filling of the end dish.

Andy’s Asparagus Sausage Rolls Recipe

  • 1 Bunch of asparagus.
  • 1 medium fennel bulb.
  • 1 pack cremini (button) mushrooms.
  • 3 sticks butter.
  • Andy’s (Mother’s) Easy Basic Shortcrust Pastry recipe.
  • An 8oz pack of strong cheddar cheese.
  • Half a disc of Cypress Grove Purple Haze goat cheese.
  • 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary that chops down to 1 tablespoon equivalent.
  • 2 cups 2% milk.
  • 2 large eggs.
  • Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste.

How to Make Andy’s Cheesy Herbed Version of Andy’s (Mother’s) Easy Basic Shortcrust Pastry Recipe

  1. Much to my Mother’s horror I use my food processor for everything. True cooks will hand mix and hand chop.
  2. Take the 8oz pack of cheddar cheese, cut into large chunks and chop into crumbles in your food processor. Set aside.
  3. Toss 2 large sprigs fresh, clean rosemary into your food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.
  4. Add 2 cups plain flour to your (empty) food processor.
  5. Add the chopped rosemary to the flour.
  6. Add a pinch salt (1/4 teaspoon) to the flour and rosemary.
  7. Dice 2 sticks unsalted butter and add to flour.
  8. Pulse herby salted flour mix quickly just to combine.
  9. Add half the crumbled cheese to the herby salted flour mix and pulse quickly to combine.
  10. Cut 2 cold sticks butter into chunks. Add to the herby, cheesy, salted flour mix. Lightly pulse until the butter and crumbled cheese has mixed into the flour. Do not overmix. This is not bread. There is no need to kneed! The key to successful pastry is not to over mix. The texture should be a rough, rustic mix with large crumbles of butter and cheese.
  11. Dump the dry, crumbly, herby, cheesy, salty flour mix into a glass or ceramic bowl
  12. Slowly add iced cold water to the bowl of dry, crumbly, herby, cheesy, salty flour mix. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix in the water. Get your hands into this partly moist, clumpy flour mix. Start combining it (lightly – no need to kneed). If the mix will not form a moist, doughy ball, continue to slowly add iced cold water. Best do this a tablespoon at a time until you get the hang of gauging the liquid content. Your aim is a moist, cohesive ball of pastry dough. It should not be sticky, or watery. If you added too much liquid, then you can always mix in a little plain flour to dry it out. You can’t go too far with adding extra flour else the flavor of the pastry will be doughy ad the texture too heavy. You’re aiming for a light flaky texture that is heavier than flaky pastry. You’re aiming for a rich, buttery flavor. Adding that cheese and rosemary gives a deeper flavor. The cheese also leaks out of the pastry dough in the oven and caramelizes nicely on the base of the cooked roll.
  13. Wrap your ball of pastry dough tightly in seran wrap (a plastic grocery bag or freezer bag will also work).
  14. Transfer the bagged ball of pastry dough to the refrigerator to sit for one hour.

How to Make the Filling – Asparagus with Mushroom Fennel Cheese Sauce

  1. Wash and roughly chop the pack of cremini mushrooms. Add to an empty food processor.
  2. Remove the stems off a fennel bulb. Discard. Slice off the root end of the fennel bulb. Cut out the hard fibrous part of the root (a V shaped cut works well). Roughly chop the fennel bulb into chunks, wash, and add to the mushrooms in the food processor.
  3. Mince (very finely chop) the mushroom and fennel mix in the food processor.
  4. In a shallow large saucepan, melt 1/4 stick butter. Gently braise the mushroom and fennel mix for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Set aside.
  5. In a clean saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, add 2 tablespoons plain flour. Stir into a paste.
  6. Add to the butter paste 2 cups 2% milk. Stir with a whisk until the milk has boiled. Turn down the heat.
  7. Add the remaining half pack crumbled cheese and the half disc of goat cheese to your hot milk. Stir until melted.
  8. Add the minced, braised mushroom and fennel to your cheesy hot milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir into a combined sauce. Set aside.
  9. Wash and trim the bunch of asparagus stalks.
  10. Lightly steam the asparagus stalks. Do not overcook. In fact, barely cook. They should still be crunchy. Set aside to cool.

How to Assemble and Cook the Asparagus Rolls

Rolled pastry dough cut into rectangles with one Asparagus Sausage Roll already made
Filling
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F.
  2. Take out a large baking sheet.
  3. Remove the pastry dough from the refrigerator and its bag. Cut the ball in half. Lightly dust a flat surface with flour and roll the pastry dough out so that it is about 1/4″ thick.
  4. Place an asparagus stalk on the rolled pastry to gauge the length of your ‘roll.’ Cut your rolled pastry into rectangles about 2″ wide and the length of an asparagus stalk.
  5. Beat two eggs in a bowl and set aside.
  6. Re-heat the cheesy mushroom fennel sauce.
  7. On each pastry dough rectangle, place two asparagus stalks and smear a little cheesy mushroom fennel sauce over and around the asparagus.
  8. Lightly brush the long edges of the pastry rectangle around the asparagus filling with beaten egg.
  9. Roll the pastry dough rectangle over the asparagus filling.
  10. Place the completed, closed asparagus roll onto your baking sheet.
  11. Lightly brush the surface of the completed, closed asparagus roll with beaten egg.
  12. Continue to assemble and place completed, closed asparagus rolls on your baking sheet until you run out of asparagus, or patience.
  13. Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the cheesy filling is bubbling out the tops and bottoms of the roll.
Asparagus ‘Sausage’ Rolls waiting for the oven
Asparagus ‘Sausage’ Rolls fresh out of the oven

Substitutes!

Life In Grade A.

Don’t have, don’t like asparagus, fennel etc? Don’t worry. Make ’em happy! Once you master the easy shortcrust pastry recipe, you can make whatever filling you like. You can even use canned soup for a quick sauce. Thicken it with some melted butter and flour paste, or corn starch.

Let me know how it goes in the comments below…

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Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971, USA
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