Al Dente: Sandwichhalla

Okay, I know this looks bad. But I can explain…
And also provide context!
Every now and then, you just need a sandwich. A lot of the time for me, ‘every now and then’ equates to ‘every couple of days’. Sometimes it equates to ‘daily’ and from time to time it equates to ‘I am frightened because the sandwich I was eating has finished and I have no more sandwiches.’ Sandwiches rule, I love sandwiches. So, a couple of weeks ago when Marguerite’s schedule had upgraded from ‘intense’ to ‘very intense’ and was still about ten days off ‘So intense,Gabriel Byrne’s patented over forehead doom gaze looks like small children playing with kittens in comparison.

She was working flat out, I was working flat out, so it was time to make some sandwiches! Off I went to the Church of St Jamie (We lug in his name), because he, like I, loves sandwiches and there’s a bunch of good to great sandwich recipes in his new book. We settled on three; two savory, one sweet, and the end result was an unusually crammed array of usual suspects. Take it away, Victor!

-Ciabatta rolls
-White rolls
-A lemon
-Chorizo sausage
-Feta Cheese
-Philadelphia soft cheese
-Manx cheddar with chilli
-Bourneville dark chocolate
-Have (several) bananas

So, let’s sand…some…wiches…
That just sounds wrong, anyway! First breaded payload deployment system please!
And first out of the gate is…Greek Style. Which in this case means herbs AND vegetables, putting this somewhere halfway between decadent and possibly obscene on the usual British scale of things. The prep here is insanely easy;

-Cut the white rolls in half.
-Drop slices of Feta onto them.
-Put tomato on the top.
-Sprinkle Oregano over the top of that.

There should actually be avocado in there as well, which makes a lot of sense. Avocado is brilliant, huge fun to use, packed full of…healthy…things and crucially has the BEST SEEDS EVER. Seriously, avocado seeds are great. Imagine someone took the wooden balls that the murder victim and murderer’s names are lasered onto in Minority Report and shoved them inside delicious, soft avocado flesh.
Then told you they were avocado seeds.
And you refused to believe them.
And then they showed you one suspended in water like Bruce Willis’ in Red with a little green shoot coming out of the top and you felt your mind BLOWN. How great would that be?

Anyway, sandwiches packed, you then, as Maximo Park once sung, apply some pressure.

Heat the pan, and you can add oil if you like. I didn’t, which may have been a mistake. Anyway, put them in the pan, then CRUSH THEM! CRUSH THEM WITH THE SWORD OF MICHAEL! MAKE THEM FEEL YOUR WRATH!

Or, of course, you could just leave the bacon press on top.

Then, after, I’d guess, about three minutes less time than I used, turn them over and CRUSH THEM again. Then serve them. These taste great by the way, the cold, salty Feta is a great combination with the slightly sweet, watery tomato and the Oregano adds a little bite to both tastes. And yes it’s a little burnt on the outside but it’ fine! Carbon’s good for you! More sandwiches!

Next up are the ciabatta rolls, with cheddar, mushrooms, lemon and chorizo. The recipe also recommends Rocket but this is one of the very few places where St Jamie and I part company. Much like his pathological fondness for Coriander, he’s also an advocate for putting cold salad components in hot food. Opinion is divided on this; he says it’s great, I say it’s a bit like eating hot weeds.

-Slice the ciabatta rolls lengthwise.
-Grate the cheese onto them.

In fact, let’s talk about the cheese for a moment. My wonderful sister lives on the Isle of Man, where I grew up. The island now has a large, enthusiastic dairy and they’ve got pretty creative with their cheeses. So, every now and then, a shipment of Manx cheese makes its way across the ocean from Sarah and we spend the next couple of months working through it. Seriously we’re coming up on the middle of February and we still have…
(Goes to check in fridge)
Two and two thirds blocks of cheese left. From December! And it’s good stuff too; cheddar with pickle, cheddar with Garlic and chive, all sorts of good stuff including this:

This stuff is great. The cheese, like a lot of Manx cheese, is crumbly but the chilli flakes in the cheese are small, precise and hot. The fun thing is that it’s more the ‘Oh that’s hot, I should probably drink some milk’ than the ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! MY FACE! MY FACE IS BURNING! THE DEMON CHEESE IS BURNING ME! IT’S BURNING MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!’

Which is obviously a relief.

-Next up, chop the mushrooms and put them on top. Of course it occurs to me now that I could have pan fried the mushrooms to soften them up but they worked just fine raw. Then, squeeze lemon juice over the top, close the sandwiches up and…

-Put them in the pan with a piece of chorizo on the outside and CRUSH THEM.

The Chorizo on the outside is weird. And, to be honest didn’t quite work, either sticking to the bacon press or the pan. I suspect oiling the pan may have helped with this. As it stands, I held them under the bacon press until they stopped sizzling ,thinking that would get the Chorizo crispy and the sandwich hot. To be fair it worked, and to be fair, the 4mm carbon crust on the outside of the sandwich actually tasted fine, but still, I see how I can improve this next time. And, of course,not committing burnination is top of that list. The sandwiches themselves were great by the way, the lemon and the chilli cutting across each other very nicely and contrasting with the soft, mild taste of the mushrooms.

Which brings us the baguette! And pudding! And chocolate! And more sandwiches!

So here’s what we have:

Now, what the recipe recommended was Mascarpone but, there was some kind of run on Mascarpone in Nottingham that week (I imagine variations on ‘This trifle needs Mascarpone, not cream! To Sainsburys! AWAY!’ echoing across town) so I was out of luck. And the Philly would work just as well, I thought.

-Saw the baguettes in half.
-Spread them with the philadelphia
-Chop the banana over the top.
-Then grate the Bourneville over the top.
-Then CRUSH THEM! Again!

So this is what it looked like:

Which, let’s face it, is a lot better than singey Joe and the Carbon Kid up there. However, this was the one time where swapping an ingredient out for another one didn’t work. Where the Mascarpone with its milky, slightly salty taste would have acted as a foundation for the other flavours, the Philly acted as slightly apathetic edible grouting. It didn’t register as a strong taste and whilst the bananas were good, the chocolate was equally far too mild, as it was in tiny pieces. So the good news is it wasn’t burnt and the bad news is that it wasn’t that tasty.

So let’s do the compare and contrast photo, Victor,and…!

I didn’t actually put the book in the shot but…black is a very fashionable…colour…goes with everything…

Anyway! Over all I had two choices here; I could kick my own ass about the least successful meal I’ve cooked so far being sandwiches, or I could content myself with the fact that I learned interesting things about them, will make them better next time and everything was edible. I’m going with that second option.

What I learned:
-A cooler pan for longer will do the same thing as an AC/DC style raw power kickbotty rock and roll pan will do. It will take longer but the time you lose you make up by not charring anything.
-Chocolate that’s grated is a little too polite to register as a taste.
-Philadelphia is grouting sometimes.
-Mascarpone is occasionally hard to find in this town.
-The Chorizo on the outside of the mushroom and cheese sandwich will work really well with an oiled pan.
-Oiled pans are sometimes better than non-oiled.

All still edible, all still very nice actually (Well aside from the grouting and banana and sad, sad chocolate shaving baguette which tasted like I imagine a sigh would…). They’ll come out better next time for sure.

Next Al Dente? Pastry cases are cooked, potatoes are roasted and red peppers are interrogated, all for the cause of deliciousness. See you there.

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