Local food: sandwiches
30th April 2021
In May we celebrate British Sandwich Week (17–23 May). Debs Pennell discusses the origins of this staple meal and gets some tips from local chefs and delis on how to create the ‘ultimate’ deli-style sandwich
Follow Debs Pennell on Instagram @eatdrinkforage
However young or old you may be, you will have undoubtedly eaten a good number of sandwiches in your time, whether that be as a staple item in your school lunchbox, purchased from a motorway service station when travelling from A to B, at a celebration with a finger buffet, or on picnics with friends and family. A sandwich is a convenient and transportable meal, and, with a wealth of incredible products available to us, there is no excuse for an unimaginative filling! The definition of a sandwich reads: ‘an item of food consisting of two pieces of bread with a filling between them, eaten as a light meal’.
Today the sandwich has become more than just two slices of bread with a filling; we are blessed with open sandwiches, grilled sandwiches and wraps made from flatbreads, naan and tortillas, to name a few. There are seemingly infinite combinations of sublime fillings on offer, and endless varieties of bread from which to choose. In short, the lowly sandwich has been elevated to gastro food status in recent years, and incredible creations are now available from sandwich shops, cafes, delis and pubs in our local area.
A sandwich is a very personal thing, and we all have our favourite filling; Paddington Bear’s was, of course, marmalade, Elvis Presley preferred grilled peanut butter with banana and bacon, and Her Majesty The Queen takes afternoon tea every day with a selection of her favourite sandwiches including cucumber and smoked salmon.
As a Yorkshire lass who grew up by the coast, I would bestow the delights of the ultimate homemade fish finger sandwich. After a year of lockdowns and too much time to reminisce, I found myself recreating a childhood favourite! Even this once-ordinary fare can be elevated into a luxury food: use fabulous locally baked or homemade (in our case) white bread, a chunky white fish from @farrelsfish, coat in crispy homemade sourdough breadcrumbs, dribble with luscious tartare sauce, maybe even tomato ketchup too, add crisp gem lettuce leaves and thinly shaved and pickled red onions – you can taste the sea and dream of being there!
It is interesting and mouth-watering to see and hear what other local foodies in our area are creating in their kitchens.
THE BLONDE BEET
Favourite sandwich: Homemade herbed flatbread with a pea and mint hummus, carrot falafel and zesty radish and pumpkin seed slaw. Jo Kemp who owns The Blonde Beet says, ‘It’s a bit spicy, crunchy and full of veggies!’
Exciting news! The Blonde Beet – Kitchen + Community opens in Stamford this month (in the pretty courtyard behind All Good Market), for takeaways, daytime and casual evening dining with innovative locally and responsibly sourced plant-based food at its heart. Keep an eye on The Blonde Beet’s social media site to see how this exciting new project is progressing.
Winner of The Great Food Club Cafe of The Year 2020
2c Mill Street, Oakham LE15 6EA
Favourite sandwich: The Cuban Mojo Club Sourdough: slow-cooked pulled pork in a Mojo marinade, sliced ham, mature cheddar, American mustard, dill pickles, mayo & leaves
Opened in November 2018 by husband-and-wife team Iain and Alyson, The Larder remains true to its ethos of ‘love what’s local and independent’, sourcing from small local suppliers in and around Rutland. The pork and ham for their Cuban Mojo Club Sourdough sandwich is from Leeson’s Butchers in Oakham, and the country white bread is from Hambleton Bakery.
Their slow-cooked shredded pork shoulder, marinated in a mix of orange, lime, oil, coriander, mint, cumin, bay, garlic, chilli and oregano, is sublime! Iain says, ‘the variety in this sandwich is what makes it our favourite – the citrus and spice of the pork is offset by the cheddar, mayo, pickles and mustard. So many contrasting flavours that just seem to work perfectly together.’
With a menu that changes weekly and a special brunch menu on Sundays, this is a cafe that offers the ultimate deli-style sandwich experience: beautifully presented, and with modern, on-trend fillings.
THE KING’S ARMS INN
Favourite sandwich: Jimmy’s Smokehouse honey mustard-smoked ham, mayo, tomato and lettuce
When you own a smokehouse, it’s not surprising one of your favourite sandwiches is something that is home produced from bread to filling. The ham is home cured and smoked on site, and is one of their most popular sandwiches, complete with homemade mayo, vine-ripened tomatoes and a choice of mustards. All The King’s Arms Inn sandwiches are served on thickly sliced fresh baked white or granary bloomer bread made in the pub kitchens, and accompanied by a delicious coleslaw and game chips.
James Goss, Head Chef/Proprietor, says: ‘We do get a lot of walkers stopping for a pint and a sandwich. There is a lovely marked walk directly from The King’s Arms Inn, and we are a very dog-friendly pub, with plenty of parking, which means we are kept very busy throughout the summer. Another of our more traditional sandwiches, Launde Farm beef and dripping, is also a big favourite with many local people.’
With a covered outside seating area now directly in front of the pub and a more informal benched area for further guests to the side, the pub has modified its outdoor space to create more seating for alfresco eating.
Fascinating facts about sandwiches
• Around 12 billion sandwiches are eaten in the UK every year!
• According to studies, two fillings seem to be the optimal amount for the perfect sandwich – I’m not sure I agree with this!
• Official Guinness Records show that the world’s largest sandwich weighed 2467.5kg (5,440 lbs).
• It is reported that in 2008, an attempt in Iran to beat the record for the world’s biggest sandwich failed, because an impatient crowd decided to eat it before it was measured!
• The sandwich is named after John Montagu (1718–92), the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who popularised eating beef between two slices of toasted bread. A convenient snack to be eaten whilst gambling! It is suggested, however, that the actual ‘inventor’ of the sandwich was Hillel the Elder, a Jewish Rabbi from the 1st century AD – he started the Passover tradition of putting meat and bitter herbs between pieces of matzah; the meat represented abundance, bitter herbs were for the difficulties of life, and the matzah stood for liberation and freedom.
• The verb ‘to sandwich’ was first used in the early 1800s, meaning ‘to have a light meal’.
RECIPE: CLASSIC BANH MI SANDWICH
I could not resist suggesting that you try the following incredible gastro sandwich recipe, which serves 4 people
Main filling – either 2 chicken breasts, 1 good-sized pork tenderloin, or 2 x 300g blocks of extra firm tofu (works really well with all of these)
Extra Virgin olive oil for cooking
4 small baguettes from a local bakery, sliced in half leaving a hinge
Good-quality or homemade mayo
A few sprigs of fresh coriander per sandwich
Sriracha to drizzle
1 small daikon, sliced into matchsticks, or a bunch of red radishes, sliced into thin rings
2 small carrots, sliced into matchsticks
½ a small cucumber, sliced very thinly
½ a jalapeño chilli, thinly sliced
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
You can prepare the pickled veggies in advance. Place the daikon (or radish) and carrots in a medium jar with the rice vinegar, sugar and salt, and toss in the dressing. Leave to marinade for at least an hour, or store in the fridge for up to a week.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tamari soy sauce
Juice of ½ lime + a little zest
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp minced ginger
Freshly ground black pepper
To make the marinade, whisk together all of its ingredients in a small bowl.
• If using tofu, drain it and slice it into 1cm-thick slices. Place it on a piece of kitchen towel and gently pat dry to remove excess water.
• Place the meat or tofu in a shallow dish and pour the marinade on top (note you need to reserve approximately 4 tablespoons of the marinade to use later when building the sandwich). Turn the ingredients to fully coat them, leave the tofu to marinate for at least 15 minutes, and the meat for a minimum of one hour.
• Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium-high heat. Add a little oil to the pan and place the meat or tofu pieces into it. Let them cook for a few minutes per side until they are deeply golden brown and caramelised around the edges. Check the meat is fully cooked. Remove from heat, season to taste and leave the meat to rest for 5 minutes and then cut into thin slices. The tofu can be used immediately.
• To assemble the sandwich, take your sliced baguette and coat both sides of the bread with mayo; divide the thinly sliced meat or tofu slices amongst the baguettes and then drizzle with a tablespoon each of the reserved marinade. Add pickled veggies, jalapeño chillies and fresh coriander, and serve with sriracha.