A slice of heaven: Mark Hix reinvents the open sandwich

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No need to settle for the bland, high-street variety – huge and hearty open sandwiches from Scandinavia are the inspiration for our resident chef this week.

When I was in Stockholm earlier in the year I came across some huge and very impressive open sandwiches – they often seem to appear on restaurant menus among the starters.

I've always been interested in ideas for new creations and I often have a little nose around sandwich bars just to see if there is anything new I've missed, though sadly I just seem to see all the usual suspects: wraps, BLTs and bland, pre-prepared sarnies. I'm surprised that the idea of the open sandwich hasn't kicked off over here as I think many people would be attracted by the fact that you're reducing your bread content by half! I guess you could think of these as a cross between a Scandi sarnie and a bruschetta.

Steak, onion and watercress sandwich

Serves 4

This is a good way to stretch a couple of sirloin or rump steaks out into four snacks or light lunches, or you could even serve them as starters.

I use a ribbed griddle pan at home for the steak, then cook the bread in the same pan while the steak is resting, so you get a deliciously-flavoured bread, rather than just toasting it. If you can find mustard made with grape must (try specialist food shops and delis), it works brilliantly on the bread once it has been grilled. Otherwise, use Dijon or grain mustard.

4 medium or 2 large red onions
2 sirloin or rump steaks, weighing about 200-250g each
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for brushing
4 slices of bread cut about 1½cm thick
2tbsp grape must mustard or Dijon or grain mustard
A handful of watercress with the woody ends removed
2tbsp olive oil
½tbsp red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Wrap the onions in foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until soft. Remove the foil, leave to cool, then remove the skin and cut into quarters and separate the natural layers.

Preheat a ribbed griddle or barbecue. Season the steak, lightly brush with oil and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, then transfer to a plate and leave to rest for a couple of minutes.

Griddle the bread on both sides until crisp; spread with the mustard.

Slice up the steak, arrange on the bread with the onions and watercress leaves, then mix the olive oil with the red wine vinegar and any juices from the steak and spoon over the sandwiches.

Chorizo and padron peppers on toast

Serves 4

Spanish padron peppers are readily available in good supermarkets and specialist delis these days, as are cocktail cooking chorizos.

2tbsp olive oil
8-10 mini cooking chorizo or 2-3 large ones
200g padron peppers, washed
4 slices of focaccia or sourdough

Halve the mini chorizo lengthways or slice the larger ones. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the chorizo on a low heat for 4-5 minutes, turning them as they are cooking. Add the peppers to the pan with the chorizo and continue cooking for a few minutes, turning as they are cooking until they soften a little. Meanwhile, toast the bread and serve the chorizo and peppers spooned on top.

Creamed oyster mushrooms on toast

Serves 4

I've used oyster mushrooms for this recipe as they are so readily available, but if you can get your hands on any other wild mushrooms then feel free to use them on their own, or mixed in with the oyster mushrooms.

50g butter
250g oyster mushrooms, halved if large
2 large shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp chopped parsley
150-200ml double cream
4 slices of sourdough or bloomer-type bread

Heat the butter in a large frying pan, add the shallots and mushrooms, season and cook them on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes f until they soften; then add the parsley and cream and simmer until the cream reduces and just coats the mushrooms. Meanwhile, toast the bread, place on serving plates and spoon the mushrooms on top.

Cherry tomato, mozzarella and Greek basil sandwich

Serves 4

I never used to be a great fan of cherry tomatoes – but over the years I've found myself popping them in my basket, as often they are so much sweeter than some of their bland, larger cousins.

I've also been buying up those little pots of Greek or bush basil from my supermarket, as their tiny, pungent leaves are great for dishes such as this, as well as soups and salads. I always have a few pots on the go in the garden in Dorset and London and they just continue growing into lovely bushes throughout the summer.

30 or so cherry tomatoes
2-3tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g good-quality mozzarella, at room temperature
A handful of bush or Greek basil
4 slices of focaccia

Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the tomatoes, season; cook on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, rolling them around in the pan as they are cooking; transfer to a plate. Toast the focaccia or cook on a griddle pan brushed with olive oil. Arrange the tomatoes on the bread, tear the mozzarella on top, season, spoon a little oil on; scatter over the sprigs of basil.

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