It’s time to celebrate one of the great British culinary inventions. Who knew that several hundred years ago, a quick decision to put some meat between two pieces of bread would forever change lunchtime, teatime, and… picnics. Where would the great British picnic be without the sandwich?
How It All Began.
This devilishly handsome fellow was John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich and namesake of our beloved food item.
He became the earl at the tender age of 10. He grew up to hold a number of illustrious titles – First Lord of the Admiralty and Postmaster General to name but two.
But of course these are not why we remember his name.
According to legend, Montagu was quite a gambler. During his many hours at the card table, he asked for sustenance to be brought to him. His servants obliged with pieces of meat (typically beef) between two pieces of toast. His gambling companions soon asked for the same – “the Sandwich.”
Other stories claim that Montagu ate this, not at the gambling table, but at his work desk, where naval duties kept him preoccupied into the wee hours.
Whichever version is the truth, or if there is indeed another long-forgotten explanation, we now have the sandwich.
Sarnies. Butties. According to the folks behind British Sandwich Week, we love them. In fact, Brits eat some 11.5 billion of them each year.
In 2015, The Daily Telegraph reported that Britain’s favourite sandwich is the humble cheese sarnie, followed by chicken and ham.
The starting point for any good sandwich is the bread, and today’s supermarkets and bakeries carry a wide range, from crusty baguettes to soft wholegrain baps. The right or wrong choice of bread can make all the difference.
For delicate little finger sandwiches, a simple sliced white or wheat bread with the crusts cut off is suitably dainty.
For something more substantial, make sure your bread is up to the task. You don’t want it to fall apart under layers of beef and horseradish.
Soft, sweet breads, such as a French brioche, are the perfect base for Nutella and banana.
Baps and similar rolls are perfect for picnics or lunches, when filled with cheese, ham and tomato.
A slice of crispy baguette makes the ideal base for an open-faced sandwich.
And that’s barely scratching the surface. There are still plenty of other choices – pita, sourdough, ciabatta, and more.
We could be here for evermore listing all of the possible sandwich fillings, so rather than even attempting such a Herculean task, here are a few combinations to try.
- The ultimate fancy tea sandwich is simple slices of cucumber between fingers of white bread. Add a little salt and pepper and don’t leave these sitting around or they will quickly become soggy.
- Why not put a traditional British roast in a sandwich? Thick slices of roast beef with horseradish between slices of hearty wholegrain? Turkey, cranberry, and a little stuffing? Roast lamb and mint sauce?
- Everyone loves a cheese sandwich. Add some pickle, coleslaw, grated onion, or tomato for pure sandwich enjoyment. But if you want something a little fancier, try some brie with peach jam or goat cheese and roasted red peppers. Or Stilton and slices of fresh pear.
- Add some sauteed onions to a classic sausage sarnie or bacon buttie.