In search of sandwich heaven.

Is there a food more versatile than the mighty sandwich?  It can be all things to all people and after years of being a favourite snack for those on the move, it is still being used as a testing ground for flavours and textures.

If the quiche has been blighted by mass production, then the sandwich has often fallen foul of plain apathy.  We take the sandwich for granted.  We don’t always take the time to prepare sandwiches with quality bread or quality ingredients, but by golly, it is so worth the effort when we do!

Cafes and even supermarkets have certainly picked up on the demand for inventive flavour combinations and well-sourced ingredients.  Nowadays, England is no longer full of train stations with wilting tomato sandwiches on rubbery white bread.  Ingredients are hand-picked, sun-blushed, vine-ripened, oak-smoked, oven-roasted, lightly salted, gently aged and freshly prepared for the discerning consumer.  Add to that a description on the packaging that would be quite at home in a H.E Bates novel and you’ve got a fairly accurate snapshot of the English attitude towards food right now.  People want basic food with a touch of luxury.  Simplicity coupled with quality and effort.

With our little boy napping and a natural lull in the rhythm of the day, I realised that it was way past lunchtime and we were due some sustenance.  I knew that I wanted a sandwich and seeing some fresh baby spinach in the fridge, I recalled a tuna melt that I used to buy from the same place that got me hooked on smoothies.  Their tuna melt was made with mozzarella, baby spinach and some red onion.  I decided I could easily top that with just a few of the ingredients at hand.

I wouldn’t make this sandwich too often because it takes time and care, but with the rain coming down in grey sheets and nothing else to pique my interest, I was more than happy to devote a little time to constructing this delightful treat.  The flavours are full without being overpowering and the textures are a joy.  The tuna melt is not a new invention and in the past I’ve gone for the bigger is better approach.  However, this toasted sandwich is going straight into the top 5 of a sandwich chart that I haven’t compiled, but probably exists somewhere in my food subconscious.  It’s nothing short of awesome, so simple that it’s hardly a recipe and definitely worth your time.

My perfect tuna melt (This will make two generously proportioned sandwiches)

4 slices wholemeal bread

1 tin tuna in sunflower oil

1 onion (sliced into rings)

2 handfuls fresh baby spinach

6 tblspoons grated Red Leicester

6 tblspoons grated mature Cheddar

3 tblspoons grated Grana Padano

3 tblspoons mayonnaise

1 tblspoon dried oregano

2 tspoons Dijon mustard 

half tspoon Cayenne pepper

butter

black pepper

I began by finely grating the cheese and tossing it all together with the oregano and plenty of black pepper.

Next, I drained the tuna and mixed it in a small bowl with the mayonnaise and Cayenne pepper.  Meanwhile, I gently fried the onion rings in a little olive oil until brown and almost crispy and set them aside.

I spread a slice of bread with Dijon mustard and lay the baby spinach on top in a thin layer.  Using a fork, I spread a very generous amount of tuna mayo onto the spinach and topped it with the fried onions.

Now the sandwich was ready to receive a pile of the finely grated cheese mix.  I pressed the pile of grated cheese onto the sandwich with the palm of my hand to keep it all from crumbling and then did the same with the final slice of bread.  I gave it a quick buttering on the outside before laying it onto a hot griddle.

A couple of minutes on each side and the melt was ready to dive into!

What’s your perfect sandwich?

God save the quiche.

Too many people say that they don’t like quiche.  In my experience, quiche gets a rough press and often deservedly so.  The problem is that there’s an abundance of bad quiche out there.  Who’d want to bring children into a world where so many crusts are soggy, fillings are meagre and texture is akin to a fritatta left out in the rain?

Join the fight then, to bring taste and texture back to the long-besmirched picnic regular.  Champion the cause of quality quiche!

For my own part, I’m focusing on three key areas that will ensure a quiche that anyone would be eager to polish off in one sitting: A dry and crumbly base, a firm, yet creamy filling and as much flavour as you can pack into every bite.

I too have been left saddened after tasting another soggy shop-bought cheese and onion quiche.  My memories of the worst buffets include a quiche covered in soggy tomatoes and a bendy base.  I’ve eaten more watery quiche Lorraine than I’d care to mention and always with the feeling that someone had picked all of the bacon out of my slice just before I got to it.  No, quiche is at the very bottom of many a food list.  Something has to be done.

The recipe I’m posting today is a favourite of mine.  I first made it about four years ago after deciding that I wanted a quiche that would sate my hunger for a really cheesy flavour and the freshness of chives.  I didn’t want a mere hint of cheese, I wanted an unmistakable celebration of it.  With that in mind, I present to you, my first (but certainly not the last) volley in the battle for great quiche!

Chutney? Don't mind if I do.

Dimitri’s double cheese & onion quiche

500g shortcrust pastry

260ml double cream

150g Red Leicester cheese (finely grated)

100g mature Cheddar cheese (finely grated)

5 spring onions (sliced)

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1 bunch chives (finely chopped)

1 tspoon black pepper

1 tspoon sea salt

Grating the cheese finely ensures plenty of cheese in every bite.

I use frozen pastry, but feel free to make your own.  I begin by rolling it out on a floured surface until it is just less than a centimetre thick.  I place it in a nine-inch sandwich tin (which I normally use for cakes) lined with baking paper.  You can use a quiche dish or anything similar as long as it is at least an inch deep.

If you don’t have baking beans, pour in dried pasta or any type of dried bean so that they cover the base.  Bake the pastry in the oven at 180C for about fifteen minutes on the middle shelf.  Remove the beans and return the pastry to the oven until the base is golden.  This will ensure that you avoid soggy pastry.

In the meantime, beat the eggs, yolks and double cream together in a large bowl.  Add plenty of salt (so that you don’t end up with a bland quiche) and black pepper.  Next, add the spring onions and chives and finally the cheese.  Mix it all well so that the thick mixture has an even distribution of cheese, onions and chives.  You can use other types of cheese that you like.  I chose mature Cheddar for sharp flavour and the Red Leicester for colour and a mellow aftertaste.

If your pastry was overlapping, now is the time to trim it with a sharp knife.  Pour the filling into the pastry and cook in the oven for about forty-five minutes.  The middle needs to be set, so test it with a skewer after forty minutes.  If it comes out clean, the quiche is set.  Cover the quiche with tin foil if it begins to burn on top.

Let the quiche cool slightly before tucking in.  This will help it to set nicely.

You can serve the quiche hot or cold.  Either way, you’ll convert a lot of quiche naysayers.  I guarantee it.