Every week can be National Sandwich Week as far as I am concerned! I adore sandwiches and can happily fill up on these any day of the week: for me, the sandwiches are one of the highlights of any Afternoon Tea.
Crusts on or off?
Call me fussy, but I often prefer my sandwiches without crusts, especially whenever I am preparing an Afternoon Tea.
You don’t need to worry about waste from the crusts, as you can freeze them for later: blitzed in a food processor and fried off with olive oil, onions, garlic and fresh herbs, the breadcrumbs make an excellent topping for savoury dishes such as fish pie, or sprinkled over a casserole as it goes to the table.
I like to ring the changes with the breads and while I will sometimes use home-made bread for sandwiches, I often buy good quality breads to house the fillings: quite simply, when making a large batch of sandwiches, it is easier to use good bought bread so I can focus on the fillings!
White bread, seeded, wholemeal, rye breads, sourdough and flavoured breads such as sun-dried tomato, onion or herbed can elevate the humble sandwich into sometime even nicer.
When I am preparing Afternoon Tea I aim for no more than 3 or 4 different types of sandwiches, but always ensure there is plenty for seconds or thirds!
My favourite sandwiches
The following are some of my favourite sandwiches to make:
– cheese and chutney: a good firm cheese, thinly sliced, with a chutney of choice. Or use grated cheese mixed with some finely chopped spring onions and just a little mayonnaise, yoghurt or salad cream to bind. I love serving this in an onion bread.
– egg and cress: a classic filling, and rightly so. Use a well-flavoured mayonnaise to bind the eggs. Alternatively, use a little salad cream (which is a guilty pleasure of mine as I love the flavour it adds to egg sandwiches!). A few snipped chives in there do not go amiss either! For a really indulgent egg and cress sandwich, use duck eggs and flavour the mayonnaise with a little truffle oil (or freshly grated truffle: highly extravagant for a sandwich, perhaps, but boy is it good!)
– coronation chicken: poach chicken breasts gently in stock or water before cooling them, chopping and mixing with the sauce. For a simple sauce mix together mayonnaise with a little cooked-out and cooled curry paste (or add some curry powder to a little water and simmer for a few minutes). A spritz of lime juice, some finely chopped mango, chopped sultanas and flaked almonds are all great additions. This identical filling is perfect for vol-au-vents and the like.
– cucumber and cream cheese: very thinly sliced cucumber, unpeeled, a little seasoned cream cheese and a good white bread, thinly sliced. Simplicity personified!
– ham, cheese, mustard and rocket: mix butter with some English mustard to spread over the bread, and use good quality off-the-bone ham or Parma ham, cheese of choice (Fontina is wonderful) and some rocket leaves. This particular salad is also exceptional toasted.
– roast beef with horseradish sauce: brilliant with rare to medium-rare beef and the gutsy taste of horseradish and black pepper. The horseradish is best tempered by mixing it with a little crème fraîche.
– smoked salmon with dill butter: I love smoked salmon sandwiches served between or brioche sliced. Simply mix fresh dill and softened unsalted butter together, season and spread generously. I sometimes put just a little dill mayonnaise in there, too. The contrast of the slightly sweet bread and salty salmon is heavenly!
– poached salmon with shrimp & caper butter: lightly poached and crushed well (almost to a paste) with a little mayonnaise that is just enough to bind. This is excellent with bread that has been spread with shrimp butter (which is just puréed brown shrimps and a few capers mixed with unsalted butter, seasoning). I sometimes like to add a little smoked salmon in there too.
Sandwiches are a crucial part of any Afternoon Tea in my book, and set things up for the excitement that is to come with the pastries, cakes and any of the other savouries treats. For my take on Afternoon Tea, with ideas, recipes and tips, pop along to my Afternoon Tea page: Afternoon Tea