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
a little fennel seeds, lightly crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.