During the summer, at a birthday picnic for my friend Liz, I was given a small but ingenious snack which I’ve been meaning to recreate ever since. I’ve always been a big fan of the Great British Sausage Roll and considered them unimproveable, until I tried these little beauties, invented by Liz’s elegant pal Stella. They are simple, but gloriously effective. Be warned, however: six is too many, especially when followed by mince pies and cheese. I spent at least an hour and a half lying in bed on Christmas eve thinking I was going to either be sick or melt into the sheets leaving nothing but a smear of grease.

Stella’s Sausage Swirls

Take one 500g block of ready-made puff pastry (life’s too short for making puff pastry at home, in my humble opinion). Roll it out into a square about 4mm thick. Take about 450g of good quality sausagemeat (we bought it from the brilliant butcher local to my work, Hussey’s of Wapping Lane, which makes its own sausages), give it a good squidge with your hands to mush it up a bit and then, using your fingers, spread it all over the pastry square until it’s broadly evenly covered, leaving a border of raw pastry of about 1cm on one side and about an inch on the other. Then, taking the shorter border as your starting edge, roll the square into a spiral tube, as if making a swiss roll. Brush the wide border with milk and press to seal, then brush the whole thing with milk. Using a very sharp knife, slowly slice into swirls of about 1cm thick and place them flat on a baking tray, leaving a bit of space between them so they can puff up. Stick in a medium oven and cook for a while, I think I did mine for about 40 mins in the end, on about 180ish, but just keep an eye on them after about 20 mins and see how you go. It’s a good idea to err on the medium side and leave them in for longer, as the sausage meat will stay moist, and the pastry is less likely to burn. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for ten minutes or so (no more, you want them warm) then pass round with glasses of dry sherry.


A Little of What You Fancy, 464 Kingsland Road, E8 4AE

In the six and a half years I’ve lived in Dalston, it has gone from what one west-dwelling colleague once described to me as ‘your pungent suburb’, to officially the most fashionable spot on the face of the planet. Almost every Friday and Saturday night I come home to find my doorstep, which is flanked by a trendy club and an increasingly busy bar, littered with slender, gazelle-like young people, heavy of eye makeup and musical of laugh, fagging away (that’s ‘smoking’, Americans) like mad, having a simply lovely time. It’s very sweet, but it’s also a bit wearisome, sometimes, so when a little restaurant calling itself A Little of What You Fancy opened up a few doors away, I feared a fashion flashpoint rather than what I sorely wished for, which is a lovely local restaurant with friendly staff which is serious about food. Astonishingly, I got the latter.

It was a late lunch (at 2.50pm, the kitchen closing at 3), so I thought I’d make it easy on them and myself with a simple goat’s cheese salad and a glass of red. What I got, to steal a turn of phrase from commenter Al Watt, was a sort of meta-goat’s cheese salad.

Fabulous tomatoes, saturated with flavour; the goat’s cheese just warm enough, a generous dollop of home-made pesto on the top (perfect foil) and a simple salad of baby leaves and rocket – not too much, not all stalky and difficult to eat. Delicious Rioja, one of their ‘Christmas specials’. They were hugely friendly, and not remotely grumpy about me arriving about 4 minutes before the kitchen closed. Giddy with happiness after my salad, I asked to see the desserts, and spotted the warm mince pie, which I requested with a wedge of stilton (not a combination on the menu). Not an eyelid was batted. If I’m going to pick holes, the mince pie could have been both a bit warmer and significantly less sweet, but other than that it was delightful.

The room, simple white and a bit of brick, is warm and welcoming, the staff are absolutely charming, the table decorations are really sweet (currently a little stout glass full of soil with a tiny festive spruce planted in it) and though it’s hard to tell whether the vaguely countrified chaos of fruit crates and farm sacks by the counter is artful or not, it’s not annoying. It’s just lovely. And it’s all about 4 minutes walk from my flat. So if you don’t mind, I’d rather you didn’t come here and clutter it up. It’s mine.