THE ART OF THE sandwich
Once dubbed as ‘Britain’s greatest contribution to gastronomy’ - the Sandwich as we have come to know it credits both its name and supposed invention to John Montagu - The Earl of Sandwhich. An avid gambler, rather than leaving the card table for such frivolous niceties as dining, Montagu would simply ask for a slice of meat between two pieces of bread - a practise quickly adopted by his fellow card-sharps and thus the Sandwich was born.
Whether this was in fact the first time a piece of meat had been wrapped between bread is certainly debatable, however, it does provide a singular name for such food stuffs. What cannot be argued is the sandwich's subsequent success as a universally adored food staple.
There is of course a real tragedy that inevitably follows any real degree of popularity. Saturation - an affliction the great sandwich sadly labours under. Supermarket shelves lined with substandard, soggy-crusted triangles have become worryingly commonplace. Cafe counters, piled with slowly-staling sangers are everywhere, as disingenuous ‘artisans’ pile fillings toward the centre of their sarnies to give the illusion of generosity. Appalling.
And so the once mighty Sandwich so often finds itself a lack-luster last resort, quickly inhaled, due to lack of time to have anything ‘proper’. Truly tragic.
Fortunately, all is not lost. There is still time to rescue the sandwich and reignite your passion for these wonderful creations.
We have decided to examine the sandwich in its many, many varieties with the aim to offer a selection of stellar sandwiches that will lend a new lease of life to your stale classics.
To start, it seems appropriate to look at the sandwich in its most classic form; the Lunch Time Sarnie - two slices of bread with one or more fillings.
For consistency, we have chosen to keep a few things the same. For the bread, we have opted for a thick-sliced seeded bloomer and for the butter we’ve used salted.
As a general rule, Granary or wholewheat gets the nod from me for it’s nuttiness and added bite. I am not a fan of the cotton-wooly white sliced-loaf often deployed in the classic sandwich triangle, although there is something strangely nostalgic in the softness of those slices.
The seeded bloomer offers a perfect midway point - soft and pillowy with the added nuttines and bite of the seeds and grains.
As with all our recipes however, these are very much open to deviation which we actively encourage - if you want to use a crusty whole wheat sourdough or classic white-sliced then by all means go ahead.
But not the butter. It has to be salted. This is non-negotiable.
So without any further ado, here are our three top sandwiches, in all their glory.
Smoked Cooked Ham
Possibly the most universally popular sandwich? We’ve tried to stay true to the classic here, avoiding adding too many additional elements and focussing on using great quality ingredients, that really exemplify this classic combination.
For the ham, we have opted for a smoked English cooked ham. I have a real love for Prosciutto Cotto and it was a really close call, but the added smokiness you get from the smoked ham really lifts this sandwich to new levels.
For the cheese, we’ve opted for a Comte which is strong enough to stand up to the smoked ham whilst bringing an added nuttiness and bounce you simply don’t get from a classic cheddar.
Traditionally, condiments tend to be where a bit more fun is afforded with this classic sandwich - do you go for mustard or mayonnaise or both? Pickle or relish? Gherkins? Ultimately, we decided that you cannot have a ham and cheese sandwich without mustard in some variety - we opted for wholegrain for texture and strength.
Finally, for some fun, we’ve added a spoonful of onion marmalade for a sweet and salty kick which, we think, rounds off this superb classic and takes it on to new heights.
Rare Roast Beef
For me, the Roast Beef Sandwich feels decidedly brittish. As a combination of the aforementioned great Brittish invention, The Sandwich, and the infamously associated Roast Beef, for which the Brittish are often credited with exclusively consuming, it’s easy to see why. Frankly, It’s a cross I’m sure most Brits would be willing to bare, as the Roast Beef Sandwich is a timeless thing of beauty - likely unchanged in it’s integrity for centuries.
Unquestionably, the Roast Beef holds centre-stage in this sandwich and should be of the highest quality. The cooking of Beef is an intensely personal thing and you should opt for your preferred level of ‘doneness’ - we’ve opted for rare, sliced as wafer-thin as you can manage.
Next comes a key question - mustard or horseradish? Both work exceptionally well with beef and, ideally, offer a nose-clearing heat that cuts through the richness of the beef beautifully. Hot english mustard proves a more than capable partner, to a sumptuous slice of beef, however, we have opted for horseradish in our sandwich. Ideally hot enough to nearly bring a tear to your eye, Horseradish just feels a bit more special than the more versatile mustard, and feels perhaps better tailored to the roast beef.
For our primary twist to this classic, we have opted to add some caramelized onions. The sweetness of the onions prove a perfect foil to the heat from the horseradish whilst pairing perfectly with the beef. We’ve completed our sandwich with a generous handful of rocket, for some peppery texture and a bit of green!
And there you have it - the Roast Beef Sandwich done definitively!
Chicken, Bacon & Avocado
Grilled Chicken Breast
Crispy Streaky Bacon
Contrary to its name, this sandwich is well-worth the effort. Though it feels very much of-the-moment, where Smashed Avocado seems to find its way onto and into everything, we are confident this particular application will stand the test of time.
Chicken and Bacon is something of a classic sandwich pairing, and one of my personal favourites, whilst avocado and chicken, and indeed avocado and bacon make equally fine bedfellows. So all three together? Dynamite.
We grilled our chicken breast simply with salt, pepper and a little thyme before slicing thinly into 5mm slices. The bacon really needs to be crispy and it really needs to be smoked - it brings added texture and frankly, who’s buying unsmoked bacon?
These two ingredients alone yield a superb sandwich but the Avocado really brings it together to become something memorable. Smashed with a squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika, any thoughts of mayonnaise will be quickly brushed aside.
We added some chopped little gem lettuce for freshness, texture and self-assurance that it could almost be a salad.
As an accumulation of some of our absolute favourite ingredients, it will come as no surprise that this is certainly in contention to be our favourite sandwich. Believe us, you Can-Be-Arsed.
Do you have a favourite combo you think we're missing out on? Leave your suggestion in the comments below!