Sandwiches; a slice of life

HOW sandwiches have changed since my teens, when the choice was ham, cheese or salad.

When one went to a ballroom of romance like Las Vegas in Templemore, if a likely lad invited you to have a ham sandwich and as well as a mineral, that coded message meant you were in with a good chance.

Sandwiches are now the food of the moment perfect for a grab, gobble and go lifestyle and a perfect basic for creative chefs and all the rest of us to play with ideas and flavour combinations.

The ever-widening range of breads provides a variety of textures, flavours and shapes to fill or pile toppings on to. At the Cork Market, the Midleton Farmers Market and Leopardstown Market in Dublin, Declan Ryan of Arbutus Breads sells a range of about 10 different breads.

Gorgeous real bread like it used to be and many like they never were foccacia, tomato and basil, red wine and walnut, olive, hearth-baked sour dough, rye and spelt breads and Fougasse a delicious flat bread slathered with anchoiade.

The Alternative Bread Company in Cork also has its devotees.

Apart from those, a few other artisan bakeries and a few traditional bakeries, there is a huge variety of frozen par-baked breads available at virtually every shop, supermarket and filling station.

If, however, you are fortunate enough to still have a good traditional baker in your area, treasure them, support them and pay them willingly.

Flat breads are great for sandwiches and pitta or pocket breads are now widely available, as are tortillas. Less posh but nonetheless delicious are floury baps, squishy frankfurter rolls and Waterford blaas. The loose crumb from the centre can be scooped out and made into breadcrumbs for another dish. Use butter to add extra oomph and consider adding some other flavours to the butter freshly chopped herbs, anchovies, mustard, garlic, ginger, spring onions, chopped olives, sundried tomatoes, freshly crushed pepper or chopped nasturtium blossoms.

Pair the flavoured butter carefully with the filling a lovely garlicky cream cheese is good, as are tapenade, pesto and anchoiade.

Fillings can be sandwiched between two slices of bread, piled along or into rolls, or as a topping for delectable open sandwiches. Mexican flour tortillas are the basis for wraps which can enclose all manner of fillings. Pitta pockets can be stuffed with anything from bacon and egg to a quick salad and chargrilled lamb, or hummus and roasted vegetables.

Add a crunchy element good quality potato crisps, tortilla chips or prawn crackers are good. As ever, use top quality ingredients, a sprinkling of imagination and pay particular attention to the seasoning it can make or break a sandwich.

Bean and Sausage Rolls

Makes 6

6 little frankfurter rolls

1 can baked beans (420g/14oz)

6 good quality sausages

sunflower oil

1 tbs honey

1 tsp grainy mustard

1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary.

Heat rolls in a warm oven for a few minutes, long enough to crisp the crust. Cook sausages in a little oil on a pan or in a hot oven 200C/400F/Gas mark 6. Heat beans.

Split rolls down centre. Mix honey with mustard and a little freshly chopped rosemary. Toss cooked sausages in honey mixture. Return to oven for 2-3 minutes. To serve, press down the crumb a little in the rolls. Spoon some hot beans into each roll, top with a sticky sausage. Serve immediately.

foolprooffood

Single serving

An omelette is the ultimate instant food, but many a travesty is served in its name. The whole secret is to have the pan hot enough and to use clarified butter if at all possible. Ordinary butter will burn if your pan is as hot as it ought to be. The omelette should be made in half the time it takes to read this recipe. Your first may not be a joy to behold but persevere, practice makes perfect. The best tender golden omelettes take no more than 30 seconds to cook 45 seconds if you are adding a filling time yourself, you'd be amazed.

2 eggs, preferably free range organic

1 dessertspoon water or milk

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 dessertspoon clarified butter or olive oil

filling of your choice

omelette pan, preferably non stick, 23cm (9 inch) diameter

Warm a plate in the oven. Whisk the eggs with the water or milk in a bowl with a fork or whisk, until thoroughly mixed but not too fluffy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the warm plate by the cooker.

Heat the filling also to hand, hot if necessary with a spoon at the ready.

Heat the omelette pan over a high heat add the clarified butter it should sizzle immediately. Pour in the egg mixture. It will start to cook instantly so quickly pull the edges of the omelette towards the centre with a metal spoon or spatula, tilting the pan so that the uncooked egg runs to the sides 4 maybe 5 times. Continue until most of the egg is set, the centre will still be soft and uncooked but will continue to cook on the plate. If you are using a filling, spoon the hot mixture in a line across the centre at this point.

To fold the omelette: Flip the edge just below the handle of the pan into the centre, then hold the pan almost perpendicular over the plate so that the omelette will flip over again, then half roll / half slide onto the plate so that it lands folded in three. Serve immediately.

Suggested Fillings: Tomato fondue

Piperonata Mushroom a la crëme

Crispy bacon, diced cooked ham or chorizo sausage

Goats cheese, grated cheddar, gruyere, parmesan or a mixture.

Fines herbs: add 1 teaspoon each of freshly chopped parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon to the eggs just before cooking or scatter over the omelette just before folding.

Smoked salmon or smoked mackerel: add about 1 oz (30g) and perhaps a little finely chopped parsley or dill.

Kidney: cook one cleaned and diced lamb's kidney gently in a little butter, add 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley and keep warm.

How to clarify butter:

Melt 225g (8oz) butter gently in a saucepan or in the oven. Allow it to stand for a few minutes, then spoon the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top of the melted butter. Underneath this crust there is clear liquid butter.

The milky liquid at bottom can used in a white sauce. Cover and store.

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