I frequently find myself buying interesting jars of this or that when I come across them in the supermarket, corner shop or while on holiday: ajvar, violet extract, chilli relish, halva spread and balsamic pearls have all made their way into my cupboards on such random expeditions. It’s very rare that I have something in mind for them – they just interest me. (I’m equally catholic in taste vis-a-vis cookbooks). I also enjoy kitchen puttering above almost anything: the consequence is that jars and packets of purchased items are easily joined by row upon row of homemade produce: jams, chutneys, and liqueurs weigh down the shelves in my kitchen which, despite being sizeable by London standards, always feels too small for my needs.
The main consequence, apart from the groaning shelf, is that once you open said jars, your fridge also becomes a graveyard of half-used condiments which never quite get used up. It always seems such a shame to chuck them out, especially if homemade or expensive, even though you run the risk of them becoming furry and spoiled even when chilled if you wait too long. In the spirit of clearing through some of my condiment collection, I devised this recipe for a lamb sausage roll – or perhaps you could call it a lamb slice – which, in addition to the minced lamb, zesty-fresh with lemon, mint and spices, contains a sweet-acid slick of damson tkemali.
Tkemali is a Georgian sour plum sauce made from cherry plums which is typically served with meat. Many recipes geared towards a UK audience use prune plums, but I made a batch using a bag of damsons which, like the cherry plums they are traditionally made with, have a distinctly sour note. The vivid-purple jar was happily spooned out with crisp-roast poussin, but a few tablespoons remained at the bottom, unused, for some time. With space in my fridge at a premium, it was time to make an effort to use it.
Obviously the problem of excess tkemali may be unique, but I wager you could use any plum chutney or sauce with this recipe, as long as it has a good mix of sweet and sour flavour – you may need to tweak your spices a bit depending on the flavours inherent within your condiment. Also, if you like heat and have a jar of harissa knocking around, add a dollop of that – although I enjoyed the lamb rolls as they were, I did want a bit of extra heat. The mixture of paprika, mint, lemon and sumac gave the lamb a flavour profile that hinted at the Middle East; the tkemali teased out the links between Georgian and Middle Eastern culinary tradition by complementing those flavours perfectly.
I served these hot for supper with a tomato-balsamic salad, but the leftover rolls were delicious wrapped up and eaten cold the next day for lunch.
Ideas for variations
- I didn’t have any fresh tarragon at home but substituting tarragon for the parsley in the recipe below would have given the lamb rolls a more recognisably Georgian touch
- If using a British-style plum chutney, which often contain dried fruit and flavourings such as mustard seeds, you might want to leave out the mint and maybe the sumac and add a dollop of mustard to the lamb. It could also go well with lamb sprinkled with South Asian spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala
- If using a Chinese plum sauce you could flavour it with ginger, extra garlic and cumin and five-spice powder instead
Recipe below the break as always!
Lamb sausage rolls with tkemali (or any plum sauce)
Although true of any recipe, it’s especially true of this: use what you have available, add in and take out what you like and experiment, especially if this is the result of a fridge forage for you as well.
- 500g lean lamb mince
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1-3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 50g breadcrumbs
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 TBS mint, finely chopped
- 2 TBS parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1-2 TBS pine nuts (optional)
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper – this is always to taste but make sure to season the mixture well as it needs to be fully flavoured
- 500g puff pastry (I used the all-butter stuff)
- 4-8 TBS tkemali, plum chutney or plum condiment of your choice
- 1 egg yolk
- Sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Combine the minced lamb, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, chilli, mint and parsley, spices and pine nuts thoroughly so that everything is evenly distributed
- Beat the whole egg and add it to the lamb mixture. Season with salt and black pepper.
- On a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out the block of puff pastry to 40x35cm (you don’t have to be exact). Cut down the middle vertical to give two largish rectangles.
- Spread one or two tablespoons of tkemali (or your condiment of choice) vertically down the centre of each rectangle. Divide the lamb mince mixture into two and place down the centre of the puff pastry rectangles. Spread one or two tablespoons of tkemali down the centre of the lamb.
- Fold one side of the puff pastry over the lamb mince mixture and pinch to seal with the pastry overhang on the other side. Slice each long rectangle horizontally to give four still respectably-sized rolls.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper and transfer the four rolls to the sheet. Beat the egg yolk loosely with a fork and brush the top of each roll with the yolk. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, if wished. Slash each roll a few times with a knife to allow steam to escape during baking.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden, puffed up and crisp and the lamb is cooked through. Serve hot or cold as you like.