Tomorrow is the start 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.
The first key to a good sandwich is the bread. This doesn’t need to be artisanal and fancy necessarily. Sometimes you can’t beat an Irwin’s Nutty Krust with cheese and pickle. Cheap and nasty loaves are never acceptable though. Buy good bread and you’re half way there. Season your filling and add mayonnaise to dry things like tuna and chicken. I like a bit of crunch too – some finely chopped celery, scallions and even nuts add texture.
When I first went to America I was awestruck at the size of sandwiches. Layers of meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, gherkins all squeezed between two slices of thick bread.
You’d have needed a very big mouth or knife and fork to eat them. While at college in Rhode Island in the states there was a deli near where I lived and we would treat ourselves now and then to a grinder. A grinder was the Rhode Island version of a sub sandwich and my favourite was the meatball version. Small meatballs were cooked in tomato sauce, spooned into a split long roll and baked with cheese on top. That combination of soft meat, zingy tomato sauce and grilled cheese in a roll is still one of my best food memories. My first recipe is for this sandwich using a method for meatballs I picked up in Italy a few years ago. Soaking bread in milk and adding to the meat mix gives you lovely soft meatballs and worth giving a go even if you don’t make them into a grinder.
My other recipe is for a sweet sandwich – homemade strawberry ice-cream encased in a crisp lemon shortcake. Some Irish strawberries are coming through and would be ideal in this recipe. The ice-cream recipe involves whisking egg yolks with sugar over a bain marie and then folding into whipped cream and cooked strawberries – no churning required in a snazzy ice-cream maker, it all goes straight into the freezer.
Neither of these sandwiches are little delicacies that would sit easily on a delicate afternoon tea menu. They’re tasty and wholesome and you’ll definitely need some napkins to enjoy them.