A guide to modern sandwich making

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It might just be because I’ve been watching the TV series Friends recently, and Joey’s favourite food (other than pizza) is sandwiches, but I just feel like sandwiches have been on my mind for a while now. Growing up in Australia the standard school lunch is a sandwich, which I feel like I’ve been avoiding sandwiches for a while now. Not only did I have sandwiches all through primary and high school, I then became a teacher so the sandwiches continued for years after that as well.

You know, this could very well be the reason why lunch is my least favourite meal of the day, and why I don’t really eat sandwiches any more.

Well, that has all changed recently. The more I’ve been looking up great recipes to share with you, the more I somehow have tended to want to try great sandwiches. I mean people, sandwiches are just not what they used to be. No longer is it a couple of slices of semi-stale white bread with some kind of basic spread or limp lettuce and cheese!

Sandwiches have had a renaissance and they’ve gone gourmet! Thank god!

But don’t stress, gourmet sandwiches don’t have to mean gourmet prices (unless you want them to). Despite the prices charged in local cafes for a sandwich full of great flavoursome tid-bits, its really pretty easy to make great sandwiches at home. Keep in mind that most sandwich fillings can also be used for wraps, but today I’m just going to concentrate on the sandwiches.

Start with the perfect bread

Bread has changed a bit since I was a kid too – its no long white pieces that can be mashed together into a ball or bent out of shape in a kids’ lunch box (though they do still exist). The choices these days are much more adult:

  • Sourdoughs in many combinations – white, brown, spelt, with olives or raisins, etc
  • Baguettes and French sticks
  • Crostini, mini bagels, crackers and ryvitas.
  • Bagels, English muffins, paninis, or other rolls.
  • Pita bread and a wide range of other flatbreads
  • Gluten-free, wheat-free or nut-free breads.

Open or closed?

The great thing with all these new bread choices is that you don’t have to make the standard filling between 2 slices of toast any more – although you can if thats what you still love to eat. You can pile ingredients on top of any slice of bread and make a monster of an open sandwich, or a dainty treat on a sandwich sized cracker. The choice is yours!

My recommendation? If you want more bread, go for the closed sandwich, or if you want to toast it or make it a jaffle sandwich. If you want more of the fillings, make it an open sandwich and spread the toppings across the 2 slices so you fill your plate and feel like you have a more filling meal. Its a great dieting hack too, because you feel like you’re getting more.

Hot or cold?

Are you making a cool cucumber sandwich on a hot afternoon, or a cheesy toasted sandwich to warm you on winters day with a good cup of homemade soup? Either way, you can make a decision to have a cold sandwich (i.e. Room temperature sandwich) or something that gets toasted, grilled or heated in some way.

My favourite hot sandwiches are jaffles. I get my jaffle iron out in the winter and pile in some great ingredients and some cheese so the whole thing melts together. If you spread tomato paste over one half and add your favourite pizza toppings you can have a pizza flavoured sandwich in no time – yummo!!

The other way I like a good toasted sandwich is to have the open style of sandwich, and layer on ingredients until the top is the cheese. I then put it under the griller or in the oven to melt that cheese all over the top of everything else. You can also do the pizza style here too, or my favourite is with baby spinach, tomato slices and a slice of pineapple with the cheese melted all over the top. I’ve been making this combination since I was in high school and still love it.

So what will you make today? An warm sandwich pressed in the sandwich press or jaffle iron? Will you toast the bread first or toast it after? Will you leave it as is and just enjoy the ingredients as they are? It’s totally up to you and the way you feel when you make your sandwich – and you might like to mix it up each time you make a sandwich! I’m sure that’s the way Joey would go!

Basic condiments

The most basic of condiments to go on a sandwich are your basic spreads like:

  • Vegemite (for us Aussies anyway).
  • Jam.
  • Peanut butter.
  • Butter.
  • Nutella or other choc hazelnut spreads.

You can the have things like the basic cheeses and meats:

  • Sliced tasty and cheddar cheese.
  • Sliced ham (various types), spam (ham in a can) or bacon.
  • Sliced roast beef, corned beef and silverside.
  • Devon, mortadella, pastrami, salami and other man-made meat combinations.
  • Sliced chicken or turkey.

Most of these you can get pre-sliced from the deli or in vacuum sealed packets in the fridge section of the supermarket.

Basic sandwiches are great but you can also ramp them up with a few other basic condiments like:

  • Tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, garlic sauce, chilli sauce or sweet chilli sauce.
  • English, American, wholegrain or Dijon mustard.
  • Basil or sun-dried tomato pesto or olive tapenade.
  • Mayonnaise, aioli (plain or garlic) or even Dijonnaise (a mix of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard).
  • Regular chickpea hummus, or a version of hummus such as carrot hummus or chilli hummus.
  • Good old English chutney (goes well with cold cuts of meat) or Indian mango chutney.

Try some gourmet ingredients as well

When I say gourmet ingredients these are foods you might not thought of putting on a sandwich, so they can be really expensive or foods within your price range, such as roasted beef, chicken, lamb or other meats you’ve roasted yourself and got as leftovers (and are waaaaaaaay tastier than the pre-sliced bought stuff). The benefit of cooking your own meat at home is that you can add any hersb, spices or flavourings to the meat as it cooks and that flavour will come through on the sandwiches as well.

Other ingredients you could add are:

  • Olives
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Nice cheese like shaved parmesan or gorgonzola; pieces of brie, camembert, blue cheese; slices of edam, emmenental or gouda.
  • Fresh herbs like parsley, basil and coriander.
  • A sprinkle of spice like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or cumin.
  • Dips like French onion, capsicum and feta, spinach or olive dips.

Recipe ideas

And after all that if you haven’t thought of some amazing sandwich combinations of your own, here’s a few recipe ideas to get you in the mood:

Whats your favourite sandwich? Let me know in the comments or send me a tweet @SpicedAnecdotes.


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