Last weekend was my vegetarian friends’ annual barbeque. Although they are happy to tolerate carnivores and even rig up a separate grill for us to drip our saturated fats all over, I thought I would make an effort and take something veggie-friendly (as well as a pack of sausages and some halloumi…and some beer, obviously). I’d heard of Glamorgan Sausages about a year ago (or Selsig Morgannwg to give them their proper name) and so thought I’d turn them into the ultimate summer picnic food for my herbivorous chums.
Glamorgan Sausages, as you may have picked up on by now, don’t have any meat in them and are instead made from Caerphilly cheese, leeks, breadcrumbs, eggs and herbs (originally they would have been made with Glamorgan cheese but this cheese has long since passed into extinction; Caerphilly is a close relation). They are first mentioned in writing in 1862 by traveller George Borrow in his tome ‘Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery’ where he enthuses about them as part of his breakfast in the Brecon Beacons: ‘I put on my things, which were still not half dry, and went down into the little parlour, where I found an excellent fire awaiting me, and a table spread for breakfast. The breakfast was delicious, consisting of excellent tea, buttered toast, and Glamorgan sausages, which I really think are not a whit inferior to those of Epping.’
I plumped for Gorwydd Caerphilly, which I’ve written about before; it was one of the first British cheeses that I wrote about and which made me realise the renaissance that had happened in British cheese-making in the last couple of decades. If you still imagine Caerphilly cheese to be white, crumbly and acidic, then this is the cheese that will change your mind. Drool:
Interestingly the dairy which makes this cheese has recently relocated from Wales to Somerset. Whilst this might sound like an act of cheese treachery (Caerphilly is a Welsh cheese surely!), in fact there is a long tradition of Caerphilly crossing the border. Originally produced in the nineteenth century as a way for farmers to use up excess milk, it became popular with Welsh miners; a salty cheese, it replaced the sweat they lost and, with its thick rind, could be easily held. But when cheese-making became mechanised and the advent of the railways meant that excess milk could be transported cross-country, production of the cheese declined before finally grinding to a halt during World War Two when the government ordered all milk to be diverted into Cheddar production. Post-war, the Cheddar-makers in Somerset continued to produce Caerphilly because it can be sold younger than Cheddar and so helped them with their cashflow. It’s only in recent years that farmhouse Caerphilly production has returned to Wales.
500g pack of ready-rolled puff pastry
100g Caerphilly cheese, grated
1 medium leek, finely chopped
1 tsp English mustard
3 egg yolks (one is to glaze the pastry)
A handful of tarragon leaves (you could also use parsley or thyme)
Salt and pepper to season
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas Mark 6. Put all the ingredients except the egg yolk for glazing into a food processor and whizz them up until they combine into a slightly sticky mixture.
Roll out the pastry into a large rectangle and cut it in two lengthways. Spoon the mixture into the centre of each strip in a long sausage shape and brush one side of the pastry with the egg yolk.
Fold over the pastry to engage the sausage mixture, seal the edges and cut into 3cm rolls.
Place on a baking sheet, brush with egg yolk and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Serve warm or cold. I returned from the barbeque with an empty tin and murmurs of appreciation that I hadn’t just used ready-made vegetarian sausages so it’s fair to say they were a hit.