I mentioned that one of the things on this blog would be recipes, so here’s the first.
The world's best roast beef sandwich.
Before I get into the details I just want a minor gripe on the etymology of sandwich. The usual story is that the earl of sandwich invented the eponymous snack so he could keep playing cards. This is one of those stories which bares half a second analysis. I’m prepared to believe that the names derives from the earl but the idea that no one put a bit of cheese between slices of bread before some chinless wonder is nonsense. Every culture that makes bread has a version of the sarnie, the more benighted seem not to have made the massive leap to putting a lid on it. Speaking of your open sandwich, I think they should be called the “Persils” as they are a gift to detergent manufacturers as they promotes pointless spillage. So let’s reintegrate the sandwich was invented by the bread eating people of the world.
Anyway I’ve just visited the BSA site (British sandwich association) and beef as a sandwich filling for shop bought sarnies is only 3% of the market. This probably has more to do with industrial food manufactures needs rather than our taste, beef is not as easy to keep safe in the “chill” cabinet of garages and convenience stores compared with everlasting day-glo cheese and processed ham. Anyway lets move away from the horrid butty industry those corporate mayo pushers with their tikka wraps and hoi sin gluten free nonsense.
The beef sandwich is the very simplest of sandwiches , but like all simple things needs care and precision in preparation.
Firstly the bread, this is the one area where flexibility is allowed, as long as the bread is fresh and thickly cut it doesn’t matter if it is brown or white. Rye bread, bread with grains in would be nice. I would exclude processed pap, baguettes, chapatti et al and anything too worthy and gluten free (anyone who doesn’t eat gluten is unlikely to eat roast beef anyway!)
All right thinking people agree that roast beef should be still pink in the middle so a couple of thick slices of cold home roast beef is ideal. If you can get good shop bought beef, go it.
One medium sized onion of medium heat, red ones are good ,too fiery though and they will dominate the whole.
One jar Colman’s English mustard. I don’t need to justify this surely, the countless other mustards are fine but beef sandwiches need Colman’s English full stop.
1. Slice the bread.
2. Spread to taste one slice of bread with mustard.
3. Lay on the beef, I usual tear the meat into strips too make eating that bit easier.
4. Season the beef (ground black pepper is best)
5. Next slice the onions this needs to be as thinly as possible. Take a steel to your chopping knife and make the thinnest slices possible. Discard any chunky ones. Depending on the size of sandwich and whether you will be dining alone add one to two rings of onion. Season the onion layer.
6. Now the lid if you have fresh bread I suggest you don’t need to butter this slice, but a smear of unsalted butter is permissible. Or some cold gravy left from the roast just enough to moisten the bread .
7. Press the lid down and cut dialogically . Now don’t start, sandwiches taste better in triangles it’s something to do with the geometry of you taste buds.
Accompaniments and variations.
In terms of additions clearly this being the perfect beef sandwich it can‘t be changed but if you must.
how about some horseradish sauces instead of mustard.
If you really must have salad a few sprigs of the freshest water cress are acceptable.
To eat along with the sarnie how about a bag of plain crisp or hoola hoops. (now’s not the time to discuss the pros and cons of flavoured crisps).
Or some pickles, a decent Wally (gherkin) or similar. Those yellow pickle chillies in jars are nice.
To drink: A nice cup up teas good, as is tap fresh glass of water, but if we are going for the best of the best a pint of Fuller’s London Pride is a near perfect meal!
Where should I eat this best of best sandwich.
Well sat on your back step in the autumn noon day sunshine is good as is under a tree giggling stupidly with a friend but the best place may just be in the quiet of well run pub just before it gets busy, you’ve finished the crossword and all wells with the world. Enjoy.
A brief note on mayo. It can’t have escape your notice that mayonnaise has taken over, what was once a rare and jolly accompaniment to a bowl of fresh vegetables or juicy prawns comes with everything from hotdogs to chips, pizza s ,salads and of course sandwiches. Try ordering a mayo free sandwich and most of the time the staff will nod as if they’ve heard you and then wanderer off to dollop gallons of stuff on your meal. It’s horrid bland gunk put their because prepared sandwiches would taste dry without it. It covers up bland poor ingredients and isn’t very good for you. The clue to it’s origin is in the name of the leading brand, Hellmann’s, whose the man from hell old nick himself Satan ,so don’t ever put Satan’s sauce in your sandwich or else you will be dammed for eternity.
I just done some surfing and looked at what people think makes a good sandwich, in America it’s the usual culinary skip i.e. most food items in a toasted bum with cheese on top urggh! Remember this is American cheese we are talking about double urggh!. They all seem to come with fries coleslaw et al. Look it’s simple if a sandwich need a spike thorough it, it is too full. Subs are things you sink to win wars and Mayo (one recipe used ¾ of cup of the junk) is a place in Ireland.
Note on the picture this is William Hogarths. The Roast Beef of Old England or Calais Gate. 1748. Oil on canvas. Tate Gallery, London, UK. Showing the lengths one should go to get a good sandwich.