ArchiveNovember 2019

Celebrating Homemade Bread

I wish everyone could discover the magic of making a loaf of bread – it’s so easy, soda breads particularly are made in minutes and there are endless variations on the theme. Mix nutty, wholemeal, brown flour with white to make a crunchy brown loaf, scatter the top with whatever seeds you fancy. Fresh herbs, nuts, oatflakes, wholegrains, spices, seaweed, dried fruit all add extra excitement to the white soda.

The dough can be baked in a tin or in a traditional free form anointed with a cross on a baking tray. Very important to prick the dough to let the fairies out of the bread!

 For scones, flatten the dough a little more and cut into round, square or rectangular scones, bake as they are or for extra excitement brush the tops with a little buttermilk or egg wash, then dip in grated cheese or kibbled wheat for a melty or crunchy top. I sprinkled a batch recently with dukkah and Aleppo pepper – and delicious they were too!

Scones will be out of the oven in 10 – 12 minutes while a loaf will take 30 – 35 minutes but either way you wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time the bread is out of the oven. There’s nothing to beat the smell of crusty bread wafting out of the oven and even though I’ve been baking all of my adult life and lot of my childhood I still get a buzz out of it.

The Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread is another delicious staple, even though it’s made with yeast, there’s no kneading involved and only one rising. This bread is known and loved by all the guests at Ballymaloe House since the restaurant opened in 1964 and by the family for decades before that. I particularly love the crusts, the best bit of every loaf. Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread takes longer than Soda Bread to make – allow 1 ½ hours from start to finish. It takes time but not your time, it’s mixed in a matter of minutes and the rest is rising and baking time.

Soda bread is best eaten on the day it’s made but brown yeast bread is delicious for days and makes heavenly toast for up to a week later.

If neither of these breads appeal, well how about some of the flat breads? The variety is endless – all were developed in countries where many homes didn’t have ovens. The breads were cooked on griddles or as is the case in Mexico, on a comal, or sometimes it was a combination of griddle and open fire as in chappatis.

These breads too are superfast to make and children love making them but I’ve become even more interested in experimenting with fermented batter made with teff for Ethiopian Injera or Indian dosa or String hoppers from Sri Lanka.

They are also nutrient dense, and really flavourful and fun.

But for an easy everyday loaf it’s difficult to beat, brown or white soda and who can forget the wake-up call we had in February 2018, there was mass panic when the country was snowed in. In supermarkets customers were pulling loaves of bread from each other, having totally forgotten how easy it is to make a loaf of soda bread.

 Go on, have a go and post your very first loaf of bread on Instagram using the hashtags #realbread #hugthecook

Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread 

Even though this is a modern rather than traditional version of soda bread, I’ve decided to put it first because it couldn’t be simpler. Just mix all the ingredients together and pour into a well-greased tin. It’s important to put all the milk in – the dough may seem too wet but it’s meant to be that way for this particular bread. It will keep well for several days and is also great when toasted. Most modern Irish soda bread recipes include far too much bicarbonate of soda, which makes the bread very dark and taste strongly of soda. Makes 1 large or 3 small loaves

400g (14oz) stone-ground wholemeal flour

75g (3oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon dairy salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda/baking soda), sieved

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 teaspoon honey, treacle or soft brown sugar

425ml (3⁄4 pint) buttermilk or sour milk  

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional) 

one loaf tin 23 x 12.5 x 5cm (9 x 5 x 2in) OR three loaf tins 14.5 x 7.5 x 5cm (51⁄2 x 3 x 2in)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Brush the inside of the loaf tin or tins with vegetable oil.  

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix well. Whisk the egg, adding to it the oil, honey and the buttermilk or sour milk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid. Mix well, adding more buttermilk if necessary (the mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy). Pour into the oiled tin or tins. If desired, sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on top.

Bake for about 1 hour or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

White Soda Bread

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses.  It’s also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.

1lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 12-14fl oz (350-400ml) approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.  Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow.

  Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise. Heat of over 50˚C will kill yeast. Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. White or brown sugar, honey golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle. The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1oz) yeast than with 25g (3/4oz) yeast.

We use a stone ground wholemeal. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead – in fact it does not require kneading. The main ingredients – wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker’s yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.

Makes 1 loaf

400g (14oz) strong (stone-ground) wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) strong white flour

OR

You may also use 400g (14oz) strong stone-ground wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) rye flour

425ml (15floz) water at blood heat

1 teaspoon black treacle or molasses

1 teaspoon salt

20g – 30g (3/4oz – 1oz) fresh non-GM yeast

sesame seeds – optional

1 loaf tin 13x20cm approx.

sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8.

Mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle with some of the water, 150ml (5floz) and crumble in the yeast – do not stir once the yeast has gone in.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4 or 5 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top.

When ready, stir and pour it, with all the remaining water (9fl oz/275ml), into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead.   Allow to sit in the bowl for 7-10 minutes (time varies depending on room temperature).   Meanwhile, brush the base and sides of the bread tin with a good sunflower oil.  Scoop the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tin with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming. After about 10-15 minutes just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop into the oven 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for another 40-50 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises over the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges.

We usually remove the loaf from the tin about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put it back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there’s no need to do this.

Chapatis

An Indian flat bread, delicious with curry or sambals and such fun to make. The dough should be quite moist so the Chapatis puff up as the steam evaporates.

9 ozs (250g) sieved wholewheat flour plus a little extra for dusting

6 fl ozs (175ml) water

Makes about 15

Put the sieved flour into a bowl.  Add the water, and mix to form a soft dough.  Knead for 5-6 minutes or until it is smooth and springy.  Put the dough onto a plate, cover and allow to rest for 20 – 30 minutes.

Heat an Indian tava or a cast iron frying pan over a medium-low flame for 5-6 minutes.  When it is very hot, turn the heat to low.

Knead the dough again for a few seconds, form into a roll, divide into 16 parts.  It will be slightly sticky, so sprinkle your hands with a little flour when handling. Cover with a cloth.

Form each piece of dough into a ball.  Flour the work surface generously (or dip in a bowl of sieved wholemeal flour). Roll the ball in it.  Press down to make a round roll, dusting frequently with flour, until it is about 5½ inches (14 cm) in diameter.  Pick up the chapati and pat it between your hands to shake off the excess flour, then slap it onto the hot tava or frying pan.  Allow it to cook on low heat for about a minute.  The underside will develop white spots.  Turn over (with your hands to do this or use a pair of tongs). Cook for about half to one minute on the other side.  Remove the pan from the stove, put the chapati directly on top of the low flame.  It should puff up in seconds.

Flip the chapati over and let the second side sit on the flame for a few seconds.  Put the chapati in a deep plate or basket lined with a cloth napkin, fold over the chapati.  Make all chapatis this way and eat immediately.

Chapatis are best eaten as soon as they are made but they can be reheated later. Wrap a  stack in foil, keep in the fridge for a day or freeze.  Reheat the wrapped chapatis at 220°C/425°F oven for 10 – 15 minutes.

Yufka – Turkish Flatbread

Bread is a staple in Turkey as in so many cultures.  According to the Koran, bread was sent to earth by God’s command, hence it is revered and not a crumb should be wasted.  There are many delicious ways to use up stale bread but I rarely have any over to experiment with.

Makes 8

110g (4oz) strong white flour

110g (4oz) plain white flour

50g (2oz) wholemeal flour

1 scant teaspoon salt

200-225ml (7-8 fl oz) warm water

Mix all the flours and the salt together in a bowl, add the warm water, mix to a dough and knead well for just a few minutes.  Shape into a roll, divide in 8 pieces, cover and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes – 45 would be better (however I sometimes cook it straight away).

Roll each piece of dough into a thin round, no more than 8mm (1/3 inch) in thickness.

Heat a griddle or large iron or non-stick frying pan.   Cook the Yufka quickly on both sides until just spotted.  Eat immediately or alternatively the Yufka can be stacked for several days, even weeks, in a dry place.

To reheat.

Before eating, sprinkle a Yufka with warm water, fold it in half, wrap it in a cloth and allow to soften for about 30 minutes.  Eat with cheese or butter and honey or fill with a chosen filling of roasted vegetables, cured meat, and salads.  They are then called dűrűm meaning ‘roll’.

Penny’s Ethiopian Injera

1 cup Teff Flour (available from health food shops)

1 cup water (use an 8floz / 225ml measuring cup)

¼ to ½ teasp salt

Put the teff into a bowl. Gradually whisk in the water, cover the bowl with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 36 to 48 hours or until it starts to ferment. It will be covered with bubbles and have a thin watery layer on top, whisk in salt to taste.

 Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Oil very lightly with ghee or clarified butter. The batter should be the texture of crépe batter. Pour a small ladel full onto the pan or griddle, to cover the base to a thickness of a scant 1/8 inch.

 Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes or until the edges start to come away from the pan.

The surface will be covered with bubbles, you’ll find the injera will be cooked when the bubbles burst.

Eat with sambals vegetable curry or relishes or for breakfast with with bacon and maple syrup.

The batter will keep covered for several days but it gradually gets sourer, you could put it in the fridge if you wish to keep it for longer than a day or two.

Cook Book Reviews….

It’s that time of the year again, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks, pre-Christmas publications, all shiny and glossy and very tempting.

First out of the traps in early September was Jamie Oliver’s Veg. I’m a big fan of Jamie’s and felt a deep sympathy as he faced a whole slew of challenges earlier in the year. He has bounced back in a variety of ways – look out for his YouTube cooking slots and this new book is another must have.

Another of my food heroes, is the indomitable Fergus Henderson. The Book of St John written with his long time business partner Trevor Gulliver celebrates 25 years of the iconic ‘meaty‘ restaurant that pioneered ‘nose to tail’ eating and happily coincides with the Year of the Pig. Pitty, witty, and structured to mirror the practises and rythyms of St John Kitchen, from butchery to stocks, braise and brine, but St John’s on St John’s Street in London is not just about meat, there’s also an extensive repertoire of fruit and vegetable recipes, all new and a whole chapter on puddings. Lick your lips – steamed syrup pudding, sherry trifle and lots of treats for the eleven o clock biscuit tin, as well as a seed cake and a glass of madeira (Fergus’s favourite tipple), and finally a whole chapter dedicated to feasting….An irresistible publication with gold edged pages – a very special present.

In the midst of the pile, are two shiny hardbacks written by two Ballymaloe Cookery School Alumni. James Ramsden, food writer, podcaster, chef, owner of three restaurants including Michelin starred Pidgin in Hackney. James’ 4th book, Lets Do Dinner is jam packed with tasty tried and tested recipes. Nothing chefy here, just lots of yummy dishes to enjoy that can  be prepared ahead for family and friends, so you don’t find yourself racing against the clock at the last moment – lots of really tempting super cool recipes to enjoy with pals around the kitchen table.  

The second book, a first for Rachel Goenka from India who did the 12 Week Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2011 before returning to her native Mumbai where she opened her restaurant The Sassy Spoon. This debut book, Adventures with Mithai is already a best seller in India and reflects her love of baking. Here again, there are many stunning photos of creations you’ll really want to bake.

Finally for this column, the Cordon Bleu Chocolate Bible – a culinary guide to all things chocolate. With 180 recipes, so difficult to pick a favourite recipe….This may we’ll become the quintessential chocolate book…

A Cookbook makes a brilliant present that keeps on giving – so lots to choose from.

Braised Lamb, Peas, Crème Fraîche and Mint

To serve 6 happily

Sea salt and black pepper

1 lamb shoulder on the bone

A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil

20 shallots, peeled and left whole

20 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

A bouquet garni (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay etc)

½ bottle of white wine

A ready supply of chicken stock

2 healthy tablespoons of Dijon mustard

4 healthy tablespoons of crème fraîche

A few handfuls of fresh or frozen peas

2 bundles of mint, leaves picked and

stalks retained for the bundle of joy

It is important to stress the wonder of slippery pea: olive oil, crème fraîche and chicken stock, the three lubrications combine to create that glorious slipperiness.

Don’t be afraid of a frozen pea. A chef who shall remain unnamed

once told Fergus, ‘Wait until peas are in season, then use frozen.’ A

comfort for the home cook.

Season the shoulder well, then heat a large frying pan over a

medium heat with a splash of olive oil and brown the lamb all over.

Place it in an ovenproof dish or roasting tray large and deep

enough to accommodate the joint with a little space. Gently sweat

the shallots and garlic in the lamby frying pan for 3 or 4 minutes,

without colouring them, and nestle these around the shoulder with

the bundle of joy.

Place the roasting tray over a medium heat and pour in the white

wine. Reduce by half, then add the chicken stock and an extra glug

of olive oil administered like squirts of factor 50 at the beach: a

generous coating. While the liquid returns to a simmer, take a

small bowl and whisk together the mustard and crème fraîche,

loosening the mixture with a couple of spoonsful of the simmering

stock. Pour the resulting sauce into the tray. The liquid does not

have to cover everything – remember that you are looking for the

alligators-in-the-swamp effect.

Place in a barely medium oven for at least 3 hours, the crème

fraîche and meat juices unify while it blips away. Check the shoulder

with a skewer and, when the meat is tender and yielding, add

the peas and return to simmer in the oven for a few minutes longer.

Reinforce the seasoning if needed, discipline your mint leaves and

fold through to finish.

The leftover braising juices and slippery peas make an excellent

sauce for farfalle – a favourite for staff dinners.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press.  Photography by Jason Lowe

WARM BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD WITH LABNEH AND CHILLI

Labneh is yogurt that has been strained of all its whey, leaving the thick, almost cheesy, curd behind. It needs a day or two to reach its peak, so if you’re making this at more of a run, just use a really thick, Greek-style yogurt.

SERVES 4–6

500g/1lb 2oz/2 cups natural yogurt

salt and pepper

1 small butternut squash or pumpkin

olive oil

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

For the dressing

a big bunch of parsley, leaves only

½ tsp ground coriander

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed to a paste

juice of ½ lemon

100ml/3½ fl oz/7 tbsp olive oil

1–2 DAYS AHEAD:

Line a bowl with a clean tea towel. Tip the yogurt in, add a pinch of salt, then tie the towel up with string and hang from a cupboard handle over the bowl.

UP TO A DAY AHEAD:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Wash the squash but don’t peel it (the skin is delicious) and cut it into rounds, discarding the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, and roast for 45 minutes. Leave to cool; chill overnight if necessary.

UP TO AN HOUR AHEAD:

Make the dressing: finely chop the parsley and mix with the ground coriander, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, or whiz in a blender.

30 MINUTES AHEAD:

If necessary, warm the squash in a medium oven (180°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4). If the oven’s already on for something else, do it at that temperature, keeping an eye on it if it’s particularly hot.

DINNERTIME:

Place the chunks of squash on a plate and top with a dollop of labneh. Scatter with chopped chilli and a generous dressing of parsley oil, then serve.

TWEAK: Use goat’s milk yogurt instead, to produce lovely goat’s curd. Also delicious just spread on toast.

Extracted from Let’s Do Dinner by James Ramsden, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Yuki Sugiura.

Wonderful Veg Tagine

Serves 6

1 pinch of saffron

4 cloves of garlic

4cm piece of ginger

Olive oil

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ras el hanout

1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste

2.5Kg mixed veg, such as aubergines, courgettes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, red onion, butternut squash, mixed-coloured peppers.

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas

100g dried apricots

1 preserved lemon

300g couscous

½ bunch of mixed fresh herbs such as dill, mint, flat leaf parsley (15g)

20g flaked almonds

Put the saffron into a jug, cover with 500ml of boiling water and leave to infuse. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the garlic and ginger, then place in a large casserole pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil, the cumin, cinnamon and ras el hanout. Add the tomato paste, fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then pour over the saffron water. Trim and prep the veg, as necessary, then chop into large chunks, adding them to the pan as you go. Top in the chickpeas (juices and all), roughly chop and add the apricots and preserved lemon, discarding any pips, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to love, and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

When the veg are almost tender, just cover the couscous with boiling water, season with salt and pepper and pop a plate on top. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff and fork up. Pick the herb leaves and toast the almonds. Serve the tagine and couscous sprinkled with almonds and herbs.

Delicious served with harissa rippled yoghurt.

Extracted from Veg by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Ltd (2019 Veg) Food photography: David Loftus

Brown Butter, Rose and Chai Cake

Serves 10

228g flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cardamom powder

160g yoghurt

200g caster sugar

130mls oil

1 teaspoon rose water

2 ½ tablespoons black tea leaves

165mls milk

For the Glaze

60g unsalted butter

180g icing sugar

½ teaspoon cardamom powder

2ml rose essence

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease a 8.5×4.5 loaf tin.

Brew the tea with 165mls of milk first. Bring it to a boil, remove from the heat and keep it covered for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the tea to steep. Strain with a fine mesh sieve and bring the milk tea to room temperature before using. You need around 2/3 cup of tea.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom powder together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yoghurt and sugar for a few minutes. Add the oil and rose water and whisk for another few minutes until the mixture is creamy.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk tea to the batter. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula. Pour into the greased loaf tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Shift the icing sugar and cardamom powder together and set aside.

Cook the butter in a saucepan over a low flame for 5 to 8 minutes till the butter browns. Be careful not to burn the butter. Strain the browned butter to remove any impurities.

Add the icing sugar, a little at a time, and whisk to combine. Add a few teaspoons of milk and rose essence to thin the glaze, so it’s a pourable consistency.

Remove the tea cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen before unmoulding.

Once the cake is completely cooled, drizzle the glaze on top.

Extracted from Adventures with Mithai by Rachel Goenka, published by Harper Collins.

Florentines

Makes 40

50g mixed glacé fruit

50g candied orange peel

35g glacé cherries

100g flaked almonds

25g flour sifted

100ml whipped cream

85g caster sugar

30g mild honey

300g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F). Butter a baking tray.

Finely chop the mixed glacé fruit, orange peel and cherries and place in a bowl; add the almonds. Tip the flour into the bowl and stir carefully by hand to separate the pieces of fruit.

Heat the cream, sugar and honey until simmering; stir over low heat for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Using a wooden spoon, carefully blend the hot cream mixture into the glacé fruit and flour. (If desired, the Florentine mixture could be kept refrigerated for 2 days).

Using a spoon, put small mounds of the mixture on the baking tray placing them well apart. Flatten with the back of the spoon into 3cm discs. Transfer to the oven and when the discs start to bubble, remove and cool for about 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C (325°F) and bake the discs for another 10 minutes. Cool and transfer to a wire rack.

Temper the chocolate: Coarsely chop the chocolate. Place 2/3 (200g) of the chopped chocolate in a bowl; melt over a bain-maire until the chocolate reaches 45°C on a digital thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until the temperature drops to 27°C. Return the bowl to the bain-maire, stir gently and reheat the chocolate to 32°C.

Using a pastry brush, apply a layer of tempered chocolate to the flat side of each Florentine; tap each on the work surface to release any air bubbles in the chocolate. Spread with a second layer, using a spatula to remove any excess chocolate. Harden the Florentines at room temperature.

Chef’s Tip: Make sure that you spread the dough out thinly on the baking tray otherwise the Florentines will not be easy to eat when cooked.

Extracted from Le Cordon Blue Chocolate Bible, from the famous French culinary school. Published by Grub Street.

National Sandwich Day…

Guess what? Tomorrow, November 3rd is National Sandwich Day, can you imagine…. There’s a special day to celebrate just about everything nowadays so why not cast a spotlight on the humble sandwich, a universally loved fast food, synonymous with convenience and super versatile.

Every country in the world has a range of sandwiches based on a mind boggling variety of breads from sourdough, brioche, challah, pide, foccacia, baguette, burger buns, rolls of various shapes and sizes, pitta, rye, pumpernickel, English muffins, bagels to the ubiquitous squishy sliced pan.

The origin of the sandwich is well documented, it can be traced back to the 18th century when John Montague – the 4th Earl of Sandwich, a notoriously heavy gambler, instructed his staff to bring his food to the table so he could eat it easily with one hand without interrupting his card game… the sandwich was born. Who could have the predicted the limitless number of variations on the theme…

Virtually every county has one and in some cases many more.

Sandwiches can be simple grab, gobble and go, affordable street food, to luxurious combinations created by Michelin starred chefs, sweet, savoury, hot or cold, jumbo or petite…..

Some are steeped in tradition; others offer a glimpse into the history and customs of a region. Travel to the East and Far East, Middle East, South America, the Caucasus, the Caribbean, the Nordic peninsula…..Chances are you will find multiple variations but sandwiches are for everyone – they bridge the gap between all cultures and can be super nutritious or ‘lay on you like a third mortgage’.

Starting with Ireland, let’s take a quick jaunt around the globe – apart from the lunch box staple, processed ham and easy singles, or a grilled cheese toastie, I’m opting for the breakfast roll, a Full Irish crammed into a roll, the Irish equivalent of a Mexican breakfast burrito, immortalised in the comedian Pat Shorts’ song Jumbo Breakfast Roll which topped the charts here In Ireland in 2006.

The UK has its ploughman’s, the chip buttie and more genteel crust less cucumber sandwich, cut into elegant triangles. Then there’s the BLT or the BLTA which includes avocado as well as the bacon, lettuce and tomato.

Croque Monsieur, Croque Madame spring to mind in France as does Pain Bagnat or a simple Jambon Beurre. Then let’s jump to Italy for Tramezzino… I love these little ’humpbacked sandwiches bursting with tasty fillings. Then there is Panino and Panini with a myriad of options and have you tasted a Mozzarella en Carrozza, a fried sandwich oozing with bubbling melting mozzarella – a speciality of the Campania region of Southern Italy, home to many different cheeses including mozzarella.

In Germany seek out the Leberkäse, particularly in Bavaria. A crips whote bnun stuffed with pork or pate and drizzled liberally with sweet or hot mustard.

The Bocadillo is Spain’s sandwich supreme, a baguette where anything goes from Jámon Serrano (Serranito in Andalucía) morcilla,  (black pudding) to fried squid, padron peppers, an omelette or simple, crushed, super ripe tomatoes, sea salt and olive oil on bread, in the unforgettable Pan con Tomate. A Montadito is a bite sized open sandwich or a plugs, a tapas sized version on a dinner roll….

In Greece seek out the delicious Gyro, traditionally made using lamb, beef or pork cooked on a rotisserie combined with tomato, onion and a yoghurt dressing , all served on a pita – what’s not to like!

In Holland the most bizarre thing I’ve tasted was a hundreds and thousands sandwich, two slices of squishy white pan, buttered generously, sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and sandwiched together – I kid you not…..

In Bosnia-Hertzigovina, Croatia, Serbia…. Ćevapi is a favourite.

The Banh Mi of Vietnam, a French baguette filled with barbequed or grilled chicken with lemon grass and veggies and a creamy mayo is now a global craze. There is even a desert banh mi loaded with ice cream and crushed peanuts.

The doner kebab dates back to the Ottoman Empire – juicy chargrilled meats, sliced from a rotating grill and stuffed into a pitta pocket and then there’s sharma and falafel, a favourite all over the Middle East which has now popped up everywhere. Try the Rocketman’s version of falafel on Prince’s Street in Cork.

The US has seen more than its fair share of iconic sambos, beginning with peanut butter and jelly, the Ruben, a club sandwich, the meatball sub, philly, po boy from New Orleans, muffaletta, fried chicken biscuit, pulled pork sandwich, grilled cheeses delicious the lobster roll to mention just a few. All of the afore mentioned sandwiches are pretty well available in New York as well as numerous ethnic specialities. Including the Barro Luco, the famous Chilean steak and cheese sandwich as is Chivito from Uruguay) Choripán and Tortas from Argentina and all the Mexican favourites, Cemita and Pambazo…..

Got to stop soon but can’t forget the Vada Pav in India and the Bombay sandwich, a vegetarian ‘take’ on a club sandwich with that zingy coriander chutney and then there is the Chutney sandwich, an Indian riff on the British afternoon tea sandwiches.

China too has many favourites, fluffy steamed boa buns, stuffed with pork belly, coriander, greens and peanuts, Oh my!

Japan’s food scene is totally amazing, you mustn’t miss the Croquette Sando or Karroke Sando – panko crusted croquettes sandwiched between two slices of soft white bread topped with tangy Katsu sauce.

Even more bizarre is the Strawberry Sando….

I’m running out of space there is so much more, there could be 4 or 5 articles on the subject, here are just a few sandwiches to whet your appetite….

Pulled Pork Sandwiches in Baps with Rocket Leaves and Cucumber Pickle

2.2-2.6kg (5-6lbs) shoulder of free-range range

Sea salt

a little fennel seeds, lightly crushed

To Serve

fresh baps

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rocket leaves

Cucumber Pickle (optional)

Brambley Apple Sauce (see recipe)

Score the skin of a shoulder of free range, preferably heritage pork, Rub lots of salt and a little crushed fennel seed into the cuts. Roast for 18 hours at 90°C/194°F, the meat should be almost falling off the bones and the skin crackly. Remove the crackling, preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F, put the crackling on a tray and cook for a few minutes until bubbly and crisp.  Alternatively slow roast at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 7-8 hours.


To Serve

Split the fresh baps, pull the warm meat off the bone, season with Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, add any meat juices, maybe a few chilli flakes, taste. Fill the warm baps with a few rocket or a mixture of salad leaves, some pulled pork, and a few pieces of crunchy crackling, cucumber pickle, and a dollop of Bramley sauce.

Serve immediately.

Bramley Apple Sauce

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking.

450g (1lb) bramley cooking apples

2 teaspoons water

50g (2oz) sugar, or more depending on tartness of the apples

Peel, quarter and core the apples, then cut the quarters in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan. Add the sugar and water, cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, stir so it’s a uniform texture and

taste for sweetness. Serve warm.

Muffuletta

A speciality of New Orleans muffuletta is a chunky, macho sandwich. One can vary the fillings but there must be lots of it.

Serves 10 (approximately)

1 large or 2 smaller round rustic loaves

10oz (300g) pitted black olives

3 red peppers (roasted, peeled and roughly cut into chunks)

3 yellow peppers (roasted, peeled and roughly cut into chunks)

4-6 tablespoons tapenade

salt and freshly ground pepper

5oz (150g) salami thinly sliced (approximately)

12oz (350g) curly endive and oakleaf lettuce or a mixture of salad leaves

8oz (225g) Provolone or Buffalo mozzarella

5oz (150g) mortadella or cooked ham thinly sliced

2oz (50g) rocket leaves

Cut a lid off the top of the loaves of bread.  Remove the soft crumb and keep for breadcrumbs.

Smear Tapenade over the base and the under-lid of each loaf.  Then arrange layers of salami, salad leaves, roasted peppers, Provolone cheese and ham or mortadella on each base.

Place the bread lids on top, cover tightly with pure cling film and chill for at least one hour before serving.

Divide each muffuletta into five or six wedges and serve.

Note: Basil pesto, red pepper or sun-dried tomato pesto may be drizzled on bread with the Tapenade.

Roast Chicken, Celery and Walnut Sandwiches

This combination also makes a delicious salad when cut into chunkier dice.

Makes 4-6 sandwiches

2 cups of diced freshly roasted free-range chicken (include some crispy skin)

1/2 cup of diced celery

1/4 cup of diced fresh walnuts

1/2 cup of homemade mayonnaise (see recipe)

1/4 – 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

best quality fresh white bread

butter, soft

Method

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Butter each slice of bread, spread a layer of filling over each base.  Press another slice of bread on top.  Trim off the crusts before serving.  Cut into fingers or triangles and serve. 

Note

We sometimes dip the cut sides of the bread into the chopped parsley for daintier sandwiches.

Japanese Strawberry Sando

A speciality of Tokyo – bizarre yet irresistible. Fruit sandwiches can also include kiwi, mandarin, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, bananas….the bread should be soft and crust less.


Makes 1

2 slices of white yeast crust less bread (in japan they use Shukupan)

2 tablespoons (approximately) whipped cream, well sweetened with castor or icing sugar

4 – 5 ripe strawberries halved lengthwise

To assemble, spread a layer of sweetened cream on both sides of the bread. Halve the strawberries and arrange a nice neat row on one slice. Top with the other, cream side down. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or so. Unwrap, cut diagonally, arrange on a plate. Serve and enjoy.

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