It is generally believed that it was Delia Smith who popularised pigs-
in-blankets. Smith, the godmother of home cooking in Britain, included
them in a Christmas cookbook in the 1990s, and not long after that supermarkets started selling them pre-made.
The first recipe for sausages wrapped in bacon is thought to have appeared much earlier – as far back as the 1950s, possibly even before. Today, the pig-in-blanket is a truly ubiquitous accompaniment to a traditional Christmas dinner, and a prerequisite to any seasonal buffet. I would up sticks and depart any festive gathering that fell short in this department.
Mostly, the pig-in-blanket comprises a chipolata wrapped in streaky bacon: a fine morsel and one that benefits from mustard or gravy. It is also worth noting that these miniature versions fall into the impossible-to-become-full-up arena. They are like going for a curry and ordering poppadoms in that the body seems to be able to consume them endlessly.
In the buffet setting, chipolatas are good, but on my plate I prefer something more substantial. We are talking about Christmas and excess is the order of the day: give me a juicy Cumberland and wrap it in thick bacon. Such sizable and considered indulgence is what Christmas is all about.
I once met somebody who informed me that their Christmas dinner did not feature pigs-in- blankets. I was aghast and upset. Imagine? It is foolish to think them erroneous and the chef Si Toft, from the Dining Room in Abersoch, on the Llŷn Peninsula in west Wales, agrees. In fact, he goes further, and believes pigs-in-blankets should be afforded a central role in proceedings.
Here, he has created an enormous one. It might be workable as a replacement to a tray of stuffing but I would advise doing both because,
as I mentioned earlier, Christmas should be about indulgence.
1 x 450g pack of good-quality pork sausages
200g fresh breadcrumbs or packet stuffing mix
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 glass of sherry
Handful sage leaves, finely sliced
Leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme
100g dried cranberries
100g dried apricots, chopped
100g dried dates, chopped
Zest of an orange
200g good-quality streaky bacon
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Before you start it’s worth getting everything ready and to hand as the
mixing is pretty messy.
Gently soften the onion and garlic in a little oil, add the sherry and simmer for a few minutes until most has been absorbed, add the herbs, orange zest,
dried fruit and a pinch of nutmeg. Set aside to cool.
Squeeze the sausages from their skins into a large bowl, add the breadcrumbs and the cooled fruit mixture. Oil your hands and combine well, form into a large sausage and chill to firm up a little.
Lay out a sheet of cling film and overlap the bacon on top to about the
length of your sausage, lay your pig on top of its blanket and roll up as tight as possible, firm up in the fridge, ideally overnight.
To cook, preheat oven to 180c, remove from the cling film and place in a roasting tray with the bacon joints on the bottom. Cover loosely with foil and
bake for around 30 minutes, remove the foil and brush with the maple syrup
and mustard and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until firm and browned. Rest.
Serve thick slices with turkey gravy, roast potatoes and probably some token-gesture vegetables.