When you’re searching for the perfect combo of comfort food and blatant innuendo, there really isn’t much out there that can compete with a meatball sub. Moist, succulent balls and sauce capable of driving an atheist to confession make this the sandwich equivalent of 50 Shades of Grey, albeit with a lot more guilt and a higher chance of inappropriately soiled trousers. Ooft.
Smut aside, this sandwich effort was for a special event. You don’t make meatballs in small numbers, and with about 1.3kg of casually seasoned pork and beef mince going into one batch, the 70 or so little hand-rolled nuggets were perfect party fuel for their destination on the nibbles table at a birthday in South-West London.
With the freshly-crafted balls sliding in to roast in the oven, the devil’s own marinara went on the hob. Triple-tomato at its heart, with a potent blend of passata, diced sun-blushed tomatoes and sun-dried tomato paste, the absurdly rich sauce then had a decent-sized block of parmesan grated in to thicken things up. With the coronary risk sitting squarely around a 9.0, a good slosh of red wine and all the meaty cooking juices from the oven-roasted balls helped to push it up towards a perfect, near-lethal ten.
After a good simmer in the marinara, the balls were moist, succulent and ready to plop straight into play. Foregoing the classic sub for a cheeky part-baked baguette roll (possibly the greatest guilty pleasure in the bread world), a trio of balls went in each, with nothing more than a generous smear of Lurpak beneath, and a little leftover parmesan on the top. Save the chives in the meat itself and some fresh basil in the sauce, greenery really has no place here.
Sure, shirts were destroyed and arteries took a bit of a kicking, but with thunder, lightning and driving rain hammering down on the capital, it’s exactly the type of food you need to take a good house party on into the wee hours. Next time we get tricked by the apparent end of winter, slap a big pot on the hob and abandon any concept of healthy eating - it’s messy, hearty shit like this that’ll get you through.
Pan-seared sesame tuna and fiery sweetcorn relish
There are a few notable butties that really drag the good name of the sandwich through the mud. Generally, they’re the rank, cheap ones that cost about a quid in the supermarket, or pop up from time to time on a tray when someone’s getting married, older or being laid to rest. Nobody in their right mind would point to them as their favourite, and frankly, It’s a shame - a damn shame, in fact.
The Butty has a seldom-discussed policy - No sandwich left behind - and it’s time to give it another airing. Previously, it’s been used to give the depressingly ubiquitous salmon and cucumber sarnie a new lease of life (Take a look), and today, it’s time to drag tuna and sweetcorn into the modern age.
First off - the tuna and sweetcorn combo is rank. The lack of texture from the soft tuna sludge contrasts horribly with the firm kernels of corn, giving little back than a slightly sweet tang, and the sensation of having just bitten through a ripe zit.
To counter this, the tuna itself has to come in a different form, with more bite, and more flavour. In this case, it’s rolled in sesame seeds and pan fried to seal the outside, leaving the centre pink and rare. Sliced thinly, the fish is served up with a little homemade sweetcorn relish - made with finely diced Habanero chilli, the flecks of pepper give the traditionally sweet relish a throaty kick. The whole thing’s finished with some wasabi leaves, and served up on thin, toasted sourdough.
About as far from the original as you can get, and certainly not within the £1 budget of its cold, clammy namesake. That said - If you want to do tuna differently, then you need to spend a little cash, make a little relish, and think outside the tin.
Manchego, parmesan, bacon and red pesto toastie
It’s cold out. Actually, scratch that - it’s bloody freezing. It’s snowing up North and it’s not far from it in old London Town. It’s a day for staying in, not venturing out - for cozying up and plunging into a good book or a new season of your favourite TV show. Of course, you’ve got to eat, and what’s on your plate needs to marry up with your attempt at mild hibernation. Best bet? Lots and lots of bubbly, molten cheese.
Ok, so cheese on toast isn’t really a sandwich - no top slice, and your filling sits open to the skies above. Still, it’s in the ballpark, and it’s perfect for a brisk day like today, so shift your mind from fillings to toppings, and go with it. This cheesy beast features molten Manchego and parmesan, layered over smoked back bacon, all finished off with a rich red pesto and Tabasco on top.
Quick, hot, and as comforting as a duvet infront of a warm fire. Break out that boxed set, and fire up the grill - it’s time for a cheese dream or two.
Five-spice aromatic duck with pickled cucumber
Duck must be one of the worst-used sandwich fillings out there. 99% of the time, when you pick up a duck sandwich, it’s going to be the painfully ubiquitous ‘duck and hoi-sin wrap’, or some derivation distinguished by slightly different marketing waffle. The sauce is overly sweet and cloying, the wrap like something you’d apply to a wound, and the salad completely devoid of purpose, other than being complicit in masking the pitiful amount of bird that’s actually in the thing.
This supermarket sandwich stalwart is a finger-paint forgery of an old master. Everyone in the known world loves crispy aromatic duck, served with pancakes, spring onion and plum sauce (well, vegetarians excepted). The meat is rich, the skin deliciously crisp, and the pancakes just thick enough to hold it all together, without getting in the way of the flavour. It’s perfect. You don’t meddle with things this good.
Cold duck in a clammy tortilla is no way to pay homage to this epic piece of Anglo-Chinese cuisine, so today’s butty treads a slightly different path in an effort to treat our feathered friend with a little more respect.
The duck itself is a bargain deal from the local supermarket - with the gluey sauce and pancakes given the heave ho, a little extra five-spice seasoning on the surface gives even more flavour to the crispy skin. A big handful of shredded meat goes in a freshly-baked ciabatta roll to kick things off, followed by some thinly sliced spring onions - one part of the aromatic experience that really does work in a sarnie. Under the top slice, a thin spread of mustard and some thinly sliced cucumber (pickled with coriander seeds and dill) give some sweetness and a fiery kick to the whole thing, and keep the meat moist.
What you end up with is a big, tasty roll, honouring the duck’s gamey, hearty meat and spiced, crispy skin. It works because it doesn’t try to create a knock-off of the aromatic classic, but rather takes the best bits, and does something different. Forget the wrap, and leave the sauce alone. Basically - don’t fuck with the duck.
Manchego with Iberico De Bellota chorizo and Belazu chilli jelly
Moaning about sandwiches is never a good thing to do (well, unless you write a blog. Then it’s fine). It’s an even worse idea when the proprietor of what’s a very pro-sandwich site happens to be hovering nearby, waiting for his chicken and houmous wrap to be flicked out of the toasting press in his local. The issue? “The posh sandwiches”. Errr…
After listening to the curmudgeon in question attempt to remedy the situation by prising a cheese salad sandwich out of the proprietor, today’s experiment was born. Cheese salad is usually dull as mud, but this effort - a strong, two-fingered salute to the status quo of dairy-based butties - addresses the problem by doing two things differently. One, it uses good cheese, and two, it adds a sprinkling of meat.
The cheese in question is Manchego, a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, with a texture that’s halfway between parmesan and cheddar, and a surprisingly creamy, nutty flavour. On top, a scattering of leftover Iberico Bellota chorizo, pan-fried with a little extra smoked paprika and ground pepper to add a bit of spice, as well as some thinly sliced spring onions. There’s no thick sauce or relish on this, just a smear of Belazu smoked chilli jelly on top of the cheese. Light as you like, with a little added heat.
As ever, use good ingredients, and the most boring butty will kick the doors off when it comes to opening your lunchbox. When it comes to a good sandwich, there’s nothing wrong with doing something that’s a little bit 1%, now and again. Just take a look around before you tell anyone what you’ve made… some people might not approve.
Lazy jerk chicken and sweet red peppers
Spicy food’s as much about the challenge as it is the taste. That might seem a little sado-masochistic, but it’s true. There’s nothing more disappointing than laying into something you’ve grabbed at the shop, marked up with a terrifying number of chillies and warnings of its potentially face-melting properties, only to discover it barely tickles the tongue, rather than delivering a perfect, fiery dropkick to the face. Jerk chicken can easily suffer this fate.
Truth be told, this sandwich isn’t jerk chicken in the truest sense, but it’s a bastardisation of the finest quality. Firstly, there’s no charcoal cooking involved. Why? It’s November. It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s usually raining, so outdoor grilling is off the agenda.
Secondly, Jerk chicken traditionally uses Scotch Bonnet chillies, which sit between 100k and 350k on the Scoville scale - a regular green chilli will top out about 8k. It’s a spicy sauce. Due to an irritating lack of Boab’s Bonnets, as they’re also known, this sanger actually uses Bird’s Eye chillies, which have a slightly less explosive rating of between 100-150k. Don’t be fooled, they’re still entirely capable of causing some serious damage - hence the gloves.
Everything else is on the money. Along with the chillies (there were at least a couple more in the sauce by the end, due to continual tasting and fettling), the jerk blend is basically a mix of a few key spices, ground together - allspice; cinnamon; nutmeg and corriander seeds, along with thyme; garlic; some lime; ginger and some decent salt/pepper action. It’s worth trying out your own measures of each, but just make sure you put in a bit more allspice and cinnamon than the other spices. Your blend can either be rubbed into the skin dry, or wet - in this case, dark honey, Worcestershire sauce and a good glug of oil went in the mix, before the thighs were smothered and bunged in the oven.
The end result - once the chicken’s shredded off the bone, and mopped around in the jerk sauce - is absurdly moist and fragrant, with a spicy fire that really meddles with your sinuses and singes your lips. You’ll need a strong bread, like a dense bagel or a good, crusty baguette to handle the saucy meat, and a handful of sliced Peppadews to give a sweet twinge to the whole butty.
It’s not summer, and the weather sure as hell isn’t anything like the Caribbean, as you’re all too aware. Thing is, that just makes the roaring heat of a good, spicy lunch, and the slightly sweaty brow that accompanies it all the more satisfying. Just remember the chilli gloves - your girlfriend will thank you for it later.
Ham and mustard
“How can you be bothered doing all that after work?”
It’s a question that’s been leveled at this blog repeatedly since its inception. At times, it’s a legitimate point - some sandwiches on this blog require a bit of commitment; a bit of enthusiasm towards the idea of showing up your colleagues’ lunches the next day.
That said, there’s always room for a lazy evening, and it doesn’t need to mean you’ll be heading to the local Greggs for a pasty on your lunch hour.
Ham and mustard is a combo you’ll be used to seeing in the supermarket chiller, but don’t roll your eyes, as it’s a classic, and moreover, it’s regarded as such for good reason. Good ingredients are fundamental here - cheap ham and boring mustard will do you no favours in a simple sandwich like this.
The meat in today’s butty is Wiltshire Ham, cut fresh from a joint, and done so thinly as to throughly worry the lass on the deli counter (“It’s not coming out in single pieces!”, she cried). The mustard is Maille, dijon, and with a little honey through it for sweetness - whether it’s a wholegrain, English or dark French, take your pick, but make sure it’s from good stock. A little grind of black pepper and a tiny, tiny pinch of salt are all the seasoning that’s needed.
With a handful of leaves for a bit of colour and freshness, it’s about 5 minutes from slicing the bread to wrapping it up. Whatever the hell you’re doing tonight, be it gym, cinema or even a naughty Tuesday session down the pub - this is doable. No excuses.
The breakfast belter
Unlike the boozy events that lead to them, hangovers are not renowned for their abilities to inspire their owners. Courtesy of the good people at Brewdog, and their craft beer-fueled hospitality at the epic new Shoreditch bar last night, this morning’s dose of the boozy haze can be roughly compared to a foggy day on a Dundee beach. Miserable, grey, and reeking of drink.
Today’s inspiration came more from necessity than anything else, with a quick, meaty shop and a raid of the cupboards teeing up a staggeringly satisfying (and unspeakably unhealthy) breakfast butty. The rich, fruity hangover had met its match.
First up, fire up the oven, and put your snaggers in - make sure they’re decent, with 80% or more pork. Cheap sausages are one of the most offensive food products on the planet, and will ruin any meal they’re involved in. While they’re cooking, get to work on your hash browns.
Carbs are a hangover’s natural nemesis (well, that and a cold floor. Seriously, next time you’re hanging out your arse after a big night, lie on a cold, laminate floor and see how good it feels. You’re welcome.). This is where the hash brown comes in - just grate some onion and potato together and use paper towel to get as much moisture out as possible, before seasoning to taste. Pan fry these, alongside the sliced black pudding, and pop in the bottom of the oven to keep warm for a few minutes.
Last of all - ham and eggs. Fry the bacon in the dirty pan, and then last of all, do the eggs. They’ll look grubby because of everything that’s been cooked in there, but they’ll taste much better. Leave ‘em runny for maximum satisfaction.
Putting the butty together is simply a case of building the meaty monument from a solid foundation upwards. Get your egg in at the base, with the sausage resting on top (butterfly them, or you’ll constantly be picking up stray snaggers that have rolled out onto your lap). Next, pop in the hash browns, and add the bacon and black pud. Sauce is a bit of a contentious one, but being raised on the virtues of brown, it’s the obvious choice - rock out the Wilkin and Sons if you’re feeling flash.
That’s it. Nothing complex, no complicated seasoning or cooking - let’s face it, hangover food is about feel-good fodder, not pushing the culinary envelope. Next time you’re planning a big one, plan a big shop. With a full fridge and a fry up, you’ll get through it. Just remember that cold floor.
Etruscan pepperoni and Ardennes pâté
There are any number of regular, by-the-book sandwiches on this blog. Classics, whose names you’ll recognise amongst those that stare out at you from the assembled ranks in a supermarket cabinet. Then, there are sandwiches like this one.
This has no heritage, no raison d’être other than a late-night trip round the supermarket and an enthusiasm for a good, meaty sandwich. The pepperoni is cut fresh at the deli counter, coming off a cracking big sausage - as ever, you’re best off avoiding deli meat in flat-packs, it just doesn’t cut the mustard, flavour-wise. Don’t use that strange, orange-coloured stuff either, it’s meant for pizzas, and doesn’t have the texture or the size needed for a good sandwich meat.
In this sanger, the sausage is paired with a coarse Ardennes pâté, giving a nice contrast to the bite of the pepperoni. It’s spread as a healthy layer on the bottom of the sandwich, while a good drizzle of French’s mustard and some lamb’s leaf lettuce completes things on top.
A bit of an odd combo, but it works a treat, both in terms of flavour and texture. Don’t be afraid to try seemingly odd mixtures - while you’ll have some misfires, there’ll be times where you stumble on something fantastic.
Gravad lax with Philadelphia, dill mustard and mustard leaves
Without wanting to sound like too much of a communist, smoked salmon is a sandwich filling surrounded in the decadence of the last century. Luckily, it’s now not just the reserve of an ostentatious amuse bouche, and is a ubiquitous part of sandwich culture, thanks to the classic Philly collaboration known to every bagel shop in the world.
Although there’s a lot of meddling in this blog, some things just need to be done well to make them taste superb. Here, it’s simply a case of good fish, good bread and a little, carefully chosen garnish. The bottom slice of bread is spread with good ol’ Philly cheese, before the gravad lax (made with salmon from Skye) is layered up on top. Don’t slap it on flat, as the texture will be rubbish - fold it over itself to give the sandwich a bit of body. Finally, there’s a drizzle of dill mustard, a few sprigs of fresh dill, and some mustard leaves to give it a bit of a peppery quality.
A slight change from the straight up salmon and cream cheese that you get everywhere, but the little additions make all the difference to the flavour, especially that dill and the mustard.