I often tend to think of a sandwich as a bit of a cop-out when it comes to mealtimes. If you can't be bothered to cook or nobody is really hungry enough for a full meal, a sandwich can be a good standby, but it's not usually very exciting - depending on what's in the fridge, in our house it will usually be ham, cheese, tomato and cucumber, or maybe tuna and mayonnaise if you're lucky, all probably sandwiched between bland supermarket bread (unless I've been organised enough to bring out the bread machine). Jonas Cranby is the same - he hates the fact that the word sandwich often equates to plastic wrapped breads with mayo-drenched filling and wilted lettuce, tough dry ciabatta with lumpy margarine, rolled up slices of pre-cut cheese and a standard tomato or dry and boring bread with no substance.
The Ultimate Sandwich is the result of his treks around the world, looking for the ultimate sandwich highs and it's amazing to see just how many exotic takes on the humble sandwich there are.
The book starts with some totally simple and instantly recognisable sandwiches, taken to their most sublime form that you can aspire to recreate. There's nothing pretentious or complicated about Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup, a BLT or a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich. The difference here is that the author shows you how to make your own versions of store-cupboard (and sandwich) staples such as Nutella, peanut butter, grape jelly, ketchup, mayonnaise or even mustard - something I'd never have thought of making from scratch.
You can't make a great sandwich without great bread and the book also gives you the recipes needed for the different types of bread - pain de mie, brioche, steamed rolls, Sicilian loaf, breakfast muffins, baguettes and the amazing-looking Marble Rye that you can see here, which is apparently a classic Jewish caraway-scented rye bread that I absolutely want to make.
As I'm a huge fan of globe-cooking, I love the exotic versions of sandwiches that I'd never heard of before : Bulgogi Bao (from Korea), Muffuletta (a Sicilian-influenced creation from New York's French Quarter), Torta Ahogada (or "drowned sandwich" from Mexico), Thit Heo Banh Mi (from Vietnam), Medianoche (from Cuba) ...
Others are American classics that I've heard of but never tried because I've never really known what they are : Meatball Hero, Lobster Roll, Eggplant Parm, Grilled Shrimp Po'boy, Fried Chicken Scones, Pastrami on Rye ...
The book finishes up with some sandwich dessert options such as ice cream sandwiches - there's a banana bread ice cream sandwich that sounds particularly nice.
I'll definitely never write off sandwiches as boring food ever again and I'm looking forward to trying out some of the more exotic recipe ideas. I'm not sure I'll go as far as making my own mustard and Nutella, but that's the beauty of the book - you can make everything from scratch or mix and match with shop-bought ingredients.
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £14.99
Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.