Much under-rated yet loved by so many of us, the humble sandwich often gets overlooked in discussions about food, so this month we are making amends. A sandwich is more than two slices of bread wrapped around a filling – a good sandwich has soul, and we are not the only people to think so! When we opened our square-shaped Tupperware lids on the topic, we discovered a whole underground movement, from poetry and odes to record breaking moments and Tik-Tok influencers going sandwich-crazy.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT SANDWICH?
What’s great about the sandwich is that it is so versatile and the variety of bread at our disposal today means the options are endless, however ignore the classics at your peril! Despite our love of adventure and new flavours, there is something to be said about a well-made cheese and ham, tuna mayonnaise or egg salad sarnie. “I have to say there are reasons the classics work – normally because they are great flavour combinations. I love pastrami and Swiss cheese, with sauerkraut and mustard. Or a cheese toastie with real depth of flavour – we use three different kinds of cheese with chilli and red onions at all our Sam’s Larders,” Comments Sam Harrison, owner of Sam’s Riverside and Sam’s Larders.
Steve Humpherson, co-Founder and Director of CENSE says a good sandwich starts with quality ingredients, fresh bread and well-considered foundations; “I always recommend a lightly salted butter for that creamy seasoned finish, and make your own hybrid mayonnaises by adding complimentary components such as lemon zest (or juice), sriracha, pesto, chilli flakes and truffle oil.”
Taking time to consider textures and layers of flavour is also important. Adding crunch by way of lettuce, pickles or crispy onions makes a soft filling more interesting. “Smoked salmon and cream cheese is my all-time favourite. When paired with cucumber for added crunch and served in a bagel or in a wrap, it makes for a delicious lighter bite” says Joel Carr, Development Chef at Young’s Foodservice.
To create layers, use thinly sliced meat stacked with fresh ingredients that add colour and contrast. Let’s face it, in the world of Instagram, the “money shot” is always the first look at a freshly cut sandwich, so layers of meat and clearly defined fillings serve a hunger that doesn’t always originate from your customer’s stomach!
However, it is important to think of your audience too. An overfilled sandwich for a care home resident would be too much for them to handle and could get messy very quickly. In this instance, perhaps an open sandwich served at the table with cutlery would work better, or reduce the quantity of filling to make finger-sandwiches that can easily be picked up and consumed.
- Taking a seasonal approach to sandwich approach to sandwich fillings doesn’t need to fillings doesn’t need to be that challenging – in be that challenging – in cooler months try adding cooler months try adding toasted versions of the toasted versions of the classics, giving your diners classics, giving your diners much needed warmth and much needed warmth and comfort while retaining a comfort while retaining a sense of familiarity. Sense of familiarity.
- If you are short on fridge space and fridge space and budgets are tight, look to budgets are tight, look to options that extend your options that extend your menu throughout the day. Menu throughout the day. A croque monsieur, bacon a croque monsieur, bacon bap, sausage sandwich or bap, sausage sandwich or breakfast roll can work breakfast roll can work just as well at the start of just as well at the start of the day as it can for lunch. The day as it can for lunch.
- Research conducted by Délifrance revealed that Délifrance revealed that a choice of sandwich fillings a choice of sandwich fillings was the most important was the most important criteria when selecting where criteria when selecting where to buy a sandwich, closely to buy a sandwich, closely followed by the type of bread followed by the type of bread used and how fresh it was used and how fresh it was (57% and 56% respectively). The (57% and 56% respectively). The two most popular sandwich two most popular sandwich fillings were cheese (28%) and fillings were cheese (28%) and bacon (28%). Bacon (28%).
- If you think that sandwiches are a low- sandwiches are a low- cost meal, take a look cost meal, take a look at serendipity 3’s at serendipity 3’s quintessential grilled quintessential grilled cheese sandwich. Made cheese sandwich. Made with Dom Pérignon, with Dom Pérignon, gold flakes and gold flakes and truffle butter, it will truffle butter, it will set you back over $200!set you back over $200.
Breaking away from the classics to offer more interesting options and satisfy an audience with different dietary needs will always serve you well. Whether you introduce new flavour combinations via a weekly specials board, or change your menu seasonally for your guests, promoting your latest creation is a must. “We try new combinations regularly based on customer requests, so recently we did a houmous, avocado, roasted chickpea and sweet potato option and a chicken and harissa slaw on artisan sourdough. It sounds unusual, but there were so many layers of flavour! We have a wide range of customers and also cater to a variety of dietary lifestyles, so we try to mix up our offer to include both traditional favourites and more contemporary choices to suit everyone’s taste buds” comments Emma Louise Taylor, owner of Planks Kitchen. “We recently did a weekend special of BBQ pulled jackfruit topped with a creamy avocado slaw on either a vegan roll or sourdough for the end of Veganuary. We love listening to our customers about what they would like to try so are always happy to create new filling combinations.”
Your sandwich menu can also be inspired by using leftovers to minimise food waste. Today’s chicken tikka masala can quickly become tomorrow’s sandwich filling when combined with layers of lettuce, deconstructed onion bhaji, mango chutney and minted yoghurt. Leftover vegetables can be grilled and paired with halloumi, honey, thyme and chilli flakes for a great Mediterranean pita, and fish can be battered and fried or baked for a fish goujon sandwich.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRENDS
Yes, we said it – there are sandwich trends! Not too long ago, the sandwich became London’s hottest food trend, with meal-deals and delis popping up everywhere. At the heart of the scene was Bodega Rita, inspired by the corner stores found in New York City. Owner Missy Flynn enticed guest chefs from Chris Leach to Tomos Parry through the doors each week to make their own unique stacked sandwiches for the menu.
Today, with the digital era well and truly upon us, Tik-Tok is where the trends are forming and SandwichTok (yes, it’s a real thing) involves influencers rolling dice to decide what bread and fillings to use in their next creation. From the sublime to the ridiculous, the platform is full of inspiration and for the tech savvy, linking your menu or concept into digital trends can be great for promoting your brand and giving your operation a unique voice.
A LITTLE EXTRA ON THE SIDE
Like all good food, sandwiches work well with accompaniments – be that a side salad, crisps or something more adventurous. The team at Planks Kitchen take their sides seriously, integrating their deli counter into their menu and changing the options weekly to keep customers coming back for more. “Some of our deli sides include gunpowder potatoes, spiced cauliflower bites, Balela salad, harissa slaw, gochujang carrots and Cajun spiced sweet potato wedges. We find that customers love adding a deli side as they can’t decide between a sandwich and a deli bowl – so why not combine both!” Comments Emma Louise Taylor.
Sides are not there just to make the sandwich look pretty, they can increase the average sales value of an order if offered as an added extra. Sam Harrison recommends choosing your sides wisely “I always try to think what will complement the sandwich & add to the experience. For example, pickled cucumber on the side of our three cheese toastie or gherkins and salted crisps alongside the pastrami & cheese give that added bit of crunch and flavour that you crave to round off your lunch,” he says.
As the summer months start rolling in, sandwiches will come into their own, packing picnic hampers full of handheld delights or playing a starring role in street parties, tea parties and events, so give the humble sandwich a bit of extra love this year and see where it takes you!