Ease the lunch grind with tasty baked snacks

Vary the fillings and experiment with flavours with these homemade sausage-style rolls

Sausage rolls are a popular childhood snack, but the ultra-processed pre-packaged ones aren’t healthy. Photograph: iStock

Sausage rolls are a popular childhood snack, but the ultra-processed pre-packaged ones aren’t healthy. Photograph: iStock

 

A collective groan will sweep the country this week as the need for packed lunches ramps up again after the summer break. There is so much advice on healthy eating that it can be difficult to find your own angst-free path through it all.

Utopia would be sending our little ones off with a balanced lunchbox of protein, fruit, vegetables and seeds, even just once a week, just to make us regularly refresh our healthy food stores. And to find the lunchboxes empty on their return.

I have to confess, it is my husband who is in charge of the sandwich making (I’m sure he’s not the only one). I have an aversion to the entire process. My tipping point is that Sunday night trip to the shop to buy a loaf of bread, hamster wheeling us towards all those empty calories. Variety is the only way I can keep interested in the daily Tupperware ritual. My contributions include making extra pasta for dinner and serving it in a flask the next day.

Occasionally I love to bake something special. But, that doesn’t always mean it has to be a sugary treat. Leftover roast chicken can be turned into these tasty snack rolls. Chicken with sweet tomatoes and nutty Emmental makes a nice change from the ham and cheese sandwich. After all, sausage rolls are a popular childhood snack, but the ultra-processed pre-packaged ones aren’t healthy.

My kids love making homemade sausage-style rolls. When you bake them yourself you know exactly what goes into them. These are not limited to school packed lunches. They can be stored in the fridge and freshly baked as you need them. They’re perfect for an impromptu after-school or pre-match snack, and adults love them too.

You can vary the fillings. Pork sausage meat mixed with apple sauce; shredded duck with hoisin sauce; chicken and chorizo. For vegetarians, typical veggie burger combinations such as black bean, roasted root vegetable, feta and herbs make wonderful fillings. Experiment with flavours, by frying a little of the mixture in a pan to taste, adjust and season. Sweetness can be added with extra dried fruit such as sultanas (sweet relishes or sweet chilli sauce), or added crunch with chestnuts or walnuts.

For my daughter, who likes spicy food, it’s easy to spread a line of fiery harissa paste onto half of these chicken rolls pre-baking – as long as I don’t forget which half.

CHICKEN, CHEESE AND SUNDRIED TOMATO ROLLS

Ingredients
Makes 10
400g all-butter puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg, lightly whisked
For the chicken filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
½ an onion, diced small
250g cooked chicken
10g fresh basil, leaves torn (or chopped tarragon, parsley)
40g semi-sundried tomatoes (or roasted red peppers)
100g Emmental cheese (or Cheddar), diced
50g cream cheese
Sea salt

Method
1
Preheat an oven to 200 degrees Celsius fan, or equivalent, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2 To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions gently for five minutes until translucent and soft.
3 Blitz the cooked chicken in a food processor to roughly chop it (or else finely chop it by hand). Transfer the chicken to a mixing bowl and add the cooled onions, herbs and chopped tomatoes (drain off any excess oil). Mix all the ingredients together and season well with salt. Lastly, stir in the diced cheese.
4 Roll out a rectangle of puff pastry on a clean work surface placing the long edge in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of cream cheese, to form a 3cm wide strip along the long edge of the pastry. Spoon a 3cm thick strip of filling over the cream cheese. Once filled, roll the pastry over the filling into a tight roll, leaving a 1cm wide border of pastry which is then basted with beaten egg. Cut away the remaining pastry and use it to make the next roll, in the same way.
5 Cut into individual rolls, approximately 8cm in length. Prick each with a fork and baste the top with the whisked egg. Transfer to the lined baking sheet (allow space between rolls) and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and golden.

Variation

For extra flavour, add chorizo, pancetta, dried herbs, chilli or spices when frying the onions.

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