Tomorrow is the end of National Sandwich Week.
When the Earl of Sandwich asked for some cold meat in between two pieces of bread, to sustain him during a card game, I’m sure he would never have anticipated the impact this single act would have on all our eating habits.
In the UK last year we consumed 3.5 billion sandwiches costing £7.8 billion – that’s a staggering amount of snacks. That doesn’t include the sandwiches we make at home to bring with us. I’m on the road a lot and unfortunately often have to succumb to limp bread with a soggy filling just for sustenance. I have a fantasy where there’s a deli on the road with great bread, homemade pickles, salami being sliced on a shiny red charcuterie cutter. The reality is rather more mundane.
Some of the best sandwiches are simple affairs. Who doesn’t like Nutty Krust with cheese and pickle? One of the best I ever had was a smoked eel sandwich in Jeremy Lee’s Quo Vadis restaurant in London. Toasted bread, soft smoky sweet eel, grated hot horseradish and pickled red onions. It’s all about the ingredients. In Italian markets they always have a porchetta van. Porchetta is a whole boneless pig stuffed with liver, fennel, garlic and rosemary, that’s then spit roasted, preferably over wood. It’s sliced and served in a warm ciabatta bun with roasted peppers, artichokes, fried onions and mayonnaise. I’m drooling at the thought of it. I’ve included a recipe for porchetta that thankfully uses pork shoulder and not a whole pig. Ask your butcher to bone it and then rub it all over with a garlic and herb lard rub. It’s roasted with onions and white wine. This would make a great lunch roast but it’s just as good in a bap and even better the next day.
One of the latest trends is for Korean food and in particular Korean fried chicken. Boneless skinless thighs are seasoned with salt, pepper and ginger, tossed in cornflour and fried twice to make them extra crispy. The chicken is served in a bun with Kimchee, which is a fermented vegetable dish, and a sauce made with sugar, soy, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and gochujang. Gochujang is a Korean chilli paste that I’m totally addicted to now. It has an extraordinary fragrance with a pleasant, non confrontational heat. You can get it in Asian supermarkets or on line. I whisk it into mayonnaise to have with everything bar the morning cornflakes.
Fermenting vegetables, like in the classic Kimchee, is very popular at the moment. It’s simple and is a great way to use up excess vegetables either from the fridge or if you’re lucky enough to grow your own. I’ve included a recipe if you want to have a go. As well as tasting good, fermented vegetables are good for your gut. Most of us are deficient of good bacteria and this method of preservation is a delicious way of replacing it.
With our continued love affair with afternoon tea and the rise of street food, it looks like the Earl of Sandwich’s invention is here for the longterm – pity he hadn’t patented it.