I love pastrami. I’d never really had it until I was about 20, and I curse the fact that the first two decades of my life languished in its beefy absence. It’s one of the all-time great sandwich fillings, with its place in butty-lore cemented by wafer-thin mountains produced by The Carnegie and Katz’s in New York, and of course, Langer’s Deli in Los Angeles (LangersDeli.com). While I’ll call into question a lot of things the US does, I’ll stand and applaud when it comes to what they do with beef brisket.
Thing is, in much of the UK, pastrami isn’t spoken about in the same hushed tones, and although you can get it in your local supermarket, it’s a case of the same old, same old, with way too little costing far too much. Even in a deli, you can pay £4.50 for 100g of the stuff, which by weight, is about five times as expensive as a topside roasting joint. Nuts to that. So, to give today’s butty a bit of life and soul, the majority of a packet of the nicest-looking pastrami I could find on my way home has been added to with some slivers of chorizo and a healthy dose of mustard to boost the beef’s peppery flavour. A good wad of Italian-style salad graces the top, with a sliced tomato tucked in for extra juiciness.
A handsome, tasty sandwich, maybe, but I’ve deliberately not gone for a classic brisket-basked butty – after some serious chin-stroking, I’ve decided that there’s only one real option to do pastrami properly, and it isn’t paying $44 to get Langer’s to FedEx me a fully-fledged brisket from California. Nope, following my decision to do from-scratch roast beef, I’m going to go all-out and do the same with another lump of cow carcass. Keep your eyes peeled for The Butty’s very own salt beef and pastrami – coming soon, sandwich fans…
Roast topside of beef
The more I write, the more you’ll become aware of the range of things about sandwiches in the UK that get my goat – few figure higher in this illustrious list than the clammy, tasteless sheets of woe that come packaged as supermarket roast beef slices. A fond favourite of the cold finger buffet, pre-cut roast beef is amongst the most disappointing sandwich fillings out there, in stark contrast to the beefy heaven of its namesake, the Sunday roast. So, is this post about me taking my nemesis by the throat, and wrestling it into something mind bending? Not a bloody chance. No, this is about making a roast beef sandwich worth of its title, and to do that, I’m going back to square one.
First things first – the meat. Given this whole idea came from a moment of impotent fury in front of the cold meat aisle in my local supermarket, it was there I bought the cut of meat for my roast. Boo, hiss, I know, but I would say that having done a little searching, I’ve found a local butcher with a good reputation (Godfrey’s of Highbury), so I won’t be buying my meat in a plastic tub again, if it can be avoided. That said, this was a cracking little cut of beef with just enough fat, and really nice marbling throughout the 500g of flesh. Keeping things simple, I added a good pinch of salt, a hearty grind of black pepper, and about a tablespoon’s worth of dried oregano on the top, and stuck it in the oven for about 40 minutes.
What comes out the other side is proper roast beef – rare in the middle, moist as hell and damn tasty (as confirmed by my flatmate, who shared in the bounty of a freshly cooked roast). There’s enough in this half kilo to make two days’ worth of sandwiches if you have a sharp knife, and a good appetite. In this case, I’ve cut the beef a little thicker than I would normally, and served it on freshly toasted slices of wholemeal, seeded bread. On top, there’s a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, as well as some thick red onion rings and British lettuce (round, not iceberg). Lastly, I’ve put a thin layer of chilli and ginger relish under the top slice, just to give things a little sweet/spicy kick.
Spiced tuna mayo
Decided to tackle a stalwart of my school days – tuna mayo. People so often make an absolute hash of this sandwich – white bread, too much mayo – it turns into a soggy hell at the drop of a hat.
To avoid this, I’ve gone for pre-toasted wholemeal, which should hold up better against the moist tuna mayo. I’ve also been a little more sparing with the mayo in the mix, and added a little mustard and pepper to give it a bit more kick. The baker insists on pre-slicing their brown loaf into wafer thin sheets, so I’ve gone double decker too – tuna, red onion and mixed salad downstairs, cucumber and tomato up top.
Oh, and one more thing – I HATE the little specks of red onion you often get in a tuna sandwich, so it’s big, wide onion rings in this chap.