A recent article in the food pages of the New York Times on how to make the perfect Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi) reminded me how boring our offerings are over here – I can't think of many things worse than one of those tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches made with white bread which tastes like cardboard.
The Americans really know how to pull out the stops when it comes to creating really fresh, delicious, imaginative sarnies, though, and the thought of sandwiches containing ingredients such as Duroc pork, hoisin veal meatballs and ground pork curry with pickled daikon makes me want to jump straight on a flight to New York. As I write this, I'm sitting on a Virgin train eating a rather sad, fridge-cold BLT.
British Sandwich Week begins tomorrow, so I thought I would join in the celebrations and create some inspiring combinations that will banish all memory of our high-street sandwiches.
Szechuan peppered beef flank and green onions
This is a kind of Asian steak au poivre sandwich using fragrant szechuan peppercorns instead of normal ones. I'm using beef skirt or hanger steak (onglet) here, as it has much more flavour than any other cut of beef. I've made a wasabi mayonnaise here, or you could use freshly grated horseradish instead.
4 pieces of beef flank (bavette) or hanger (onglet), weighing about 140-150g each
Vegetable or corn oil for brushing
1tbsp of szechuan peppercorns, lightly crushed with the bottom of a saucepan
2-3tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
Wasabi, to taste
16 or so spring onions
1 large baguette
Bash the steaks a little with a steak hammer, then season them with sea salt and the crushed peppercorns. Heat a ribbed griddle pan or heavy frying pan until almost smoking and rub with a little oil. Cook the steaks for about 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness, keeping them nice and rare. Leave to rest for 3-4 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the mayonnaise with enough wasabi to taste. Cook the spring onions on the griddle for a couple of minutes, turning them a few times. To serve, cut the baguette into equal pieces and cut in half lengthways.
Spread the bread with the mayonnaise, slice the steak as thinly as possible and arrange on the bread with the onions on top.
Polish sausage and mustard
There are some great artisan Polish sausages around these days, many of which knock the socks off some of the sausages we produce over here.
I got the idea for these sausage sandwiches years ago in France when I observed a street vendor boring a hole through the middle of a baguette with this special contraption and then shoving the sausage in the middle. There are also special Polish mustards and sauces such as horseradish and beetroot that would go really well with, say, a smokey sausage.
You can buy Polish sausages from specialist shops or Polish delicatessens.
4 large Polish cooking sausages
Polish mustard, or a sauce of your choice
1 large baguette
Score the top of the sausages a few times and then cook them under the grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked.
Cut the baguette into even-sized pieces the length of the sausage, then put a knife through the centre and twist to make a hole. Alternatively, you could simply slice the baguette in two.
Push the sausage into the baguette and serve with the mustard.
There is a great sandwich shop on the Cobb in Lyme Regis called The Whole Hog and they serve one of the best breakfast baps I have ever tasted. What really brings this sandwich to life is the addition of a crispy hash brown along with the fried egg and bacon. The hash brown is more like a rosti potato but it really does add a touch of class.
2 large potatoes, boiled in their skins, cooled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable, corn oil or butter for frying
8-12 rashers of streaky bacon
4 large soft baps
Softened butter, for spreading
Peel the potatoes and coarsely grate them into a bowl and season to taste. Heat a heavy frying pan, preferably non-stick, with about a tablespoon of oil. Pack the potatoes into the pan about half a cm thick and covering the whole pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the potato is crisp and golden then invert the potato on to a plate and slide the uncooked side into the pan and continue cooking until crisp, then keep warm. You can use individual blinis or egg pans to cook the potato if you wish. Cook the bacon on a ribbed griddle pan or heavy frying pan and lightly fry the eggs. Cut the potato in quarters and load into the bap with the egg and bacon.
Lacquered pork belly with pickled daikon and carrot
You will have to be patient when you're making this delicious sandwich, as it's not particularly quick to knock up.
A piece of pork belly weighing about 600g
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2tbsp finely grated root ginger
4tbsp hoisin sauce
2tbsps clear honey
1tbsp soy sauce
4 slices of bloomer-style bread about ¾cm thick
A few sprigs of coriander
For the pickled daikon and carrot
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchstick-sized pieces
250g daikon (mooli or white radish), peeled and cut into thick matchstick-sized pieces
300ml rice wine vinegar Put the carrot and daikon in a bowl and mix in the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Mix up the carrot and daikon with your hands for a couple of minutes until they lose a few tablespoons of their liquid. Drain in a colander and rinse under the cold tap then dry on some kitchen paper.
In a bowl, mix the sugar with 150ml warm water and stir until dissolved, then add the vinegar and mix with the carrots and daikon. Leave to marinate for at least an hour or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
Pre-heat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Remove the rind from the pork and cook in lightly salted water for 10 minutes, then drain. Cut into strips, place on a tray and scatter with sea salt. Bake in the oven for about 1 hours or until crisp and keep for a tasty snack later.
Meanwhile, mix the garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce, honey and soy together and rub it in all over the pork belly.
Place in a casserole with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven for an hour, basting every so often. Remove the lid and continue cooking for another hour, basting every so often. Leave to cool in the liquid for about 30 minutes, turning it every so often.
To serve, toast the bread on both sides, cut the pork into cm-thick slices and wide enough to fit on the bread.
Spoon some of the cooking juices on the bread and lay the sliced pork on top.
Scatter the sandwich with the pickled daikon and carrot and lay a few sprigs of coriander on top.Reuse content