While jacket potatoes, noodle pots, salads and even meal replacement shakes are becoming popular at lunch, the humble sandwich is still a midday mainstay.
The UK’s commercial sandwich market is worth over £3.5bn-a-year, the equivalent of around 3,500m individual sandwiches bought each year over the counter The sector is booming and shows no sign of declining. This is reflected by the increasing number of food outlets which cater for people who are always on the move and like to grab and go. Moreover, people are becoming more sophisticated in their tastes. Gone are the days when a sandwich would comprise of a simple slice of meat or cheese between two slices of buttered white bread.
Now, there is an ever-increasing range of flavour combinations influenced by menus from around the world and a dazzling array of speciality breads to choose from. And consumers are happy to pay a higher price for a perceived ‘premium’ product.For sandwich shop owners, there’s the rub.
While ‘go to’ sandwich staples like ham salad, cheese and pickle and egg mayonnaise will always have their place, it puts the more adventurous sandwich purveyors who are willing to push the boundaries of flavour at a distinct advantage when it comes to the price they can charge their hungry punters.
Five of the best.
An explosion in TV cooking shows which showcase foods from around the world, the multicultural melting pot of food business owners of different nationalities and an ever-more adventurous and demanding consumer base has led to the boom in the UK’s sandwich fayre.
From timeless classics, through street food staples, to butties put a modern twist on traditional recipes, there’s a sandwich out there to suit every taste. Here’s our pick of the world’s best:
The Reuben – An American classic which is starting to gain traction here in the UK on the back of TV shows such as Man vs Food and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The Reuben takes corned beef to a whole new level. Rather than using the small, pink rectangular stuff found in awkward-to-open tins, thick slices of cured and salted beef are piled high on Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, slathered with Russian dressing and sandwiched between two slices of toasted rye bread. Traditionally served with a spicy, pickled gherkin, it will make you feel like Meg Ryan did after ordering one in that scene from When Harry Met Sally. Want what she’s having?
The Croque Monsieur – This enduring Gallic classic makes a mockery of the claim that the French don’t do sandwiches. Simplicity at its best, the classic Croque Monsieur comprises just three ingredients – ham, cheese and bread. Yet, when heated, some sort of magic alchemy creates a slice of oozing, cheesy goodness that delivers a taste experience which far outweighs the sum of its parts.
El Bocadillo – As the Croque Monsieur has just demonstrated, often, simplicity is the key to sandwich perfection, and they don’t come any simpler than El Bocadillo. Utilising just two ingredients, jamon (cured ham) and a rustic baguette, this minimalist Spanish sandwich is all about keeping it real and letting the quality of its ingredients shine.
Cubanos – This Latin American variation on the toasted sandwich became a modern sandwich classic after being popularised in the food truck road trip movie Chef. However, it goes far beyond simply whacking a ham and cheese sandwich under the grill. Traditional Cubanos combine spiced and marinated meats with mustards, salsas, pickles and an array of cheeses, before being coated in oil and heat-pressed to melty, golden glory.
The Bacon Butty – Unsophisticated, yes. Unrefined, maybe, but there’s something reassuringly comforting about the Great British bacon butty. Whether you like yours oozing with tomato ketchup or slathered in brown sauce, this is the breakfast of champions, the lunchtime of kings and snacking at its most satisfying.
Now, your kitchen may not allow for such an expansive range of cooking techniques. Similarly, your customers may not be ready for such unique flavour combinations and instead, have more traditional tastes. However, regardless of your menu, there are a few things you can do to ensure you serve the perfect sandwich every time:
Top tips for creating the perfect sandwich.
Give it a twist – Even with the most basic of ingredients, you can transform your sandwich by simply adding in a little bit of flavour. Some lemon zest, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, pickles or spicy salsa can all add extra depth.
Choose the right bread – If your fillings are moist or saucy, you’ll want a bread that is strong enough to hold itself together – tortillas and soda bread both hold up well. Similarly, if your ingredients are delicate, you’ll want a light and airy bread to showcase their flavours – a bloomer or batch loaf will usually do the trick.
Lock the flavour in – Using butter, mayo or another type of spread will not only add some moisture and taste to your sandwich, it will also help to protect your bread and lock the flavour in.
Avoid soggy bread – Patting lettuce, cucumber, tomato and other salad ingredients dry before putting them on your sandwich will help prevent any excess moisture from seeping into your bread. Again, buttering your bread beforehand will also add a layer of extra protection against sogginess.
Use fresh ingredients – This is the golden rule. Whether your sandwich consists of cheese, meat, salad, sauce, mayonnaise, it will only be as good as the ingredients you use. And you can only have confidence that you are serving the best if you have reliable refrigeration, which keeps your ingredients cooler and fresher for longer.
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