This week, I am writing to you from the west coast of Sweden. We have visited almost every summer for the past 16 years. For my wife, Sofie, it’s a way to reconnect with her motherland, and, for me, well, I still find novelty in the food, customs and oddities that make Sweden so unique .
Crayfish parties, grilled hot dogs, crisp bread with pickled herring and cream-laden strawberry cakes are all part of the experience here during the summer. In between all that, my short-order cook role for two little lake swimmers requires more simple fare, which is why I’m offering up three summer sandwiches this weekend.
The first is my perfect BLT — the kind of sandwich which is almost always disappointing unless you make it yourself. Simple though it may sound, the combination of bacon, lettuce and tomato requires attention to detail, and well-chosen ingredients are key to making it worth your while. Whether you toast your bread or not is up to you. I do like to fry slices of sourdough in some of the bacon fat for just a little more joy in the eating experience. Summer tomatoes at their best, salty back bacon (I love O’Neills from Wexford) with crisp, freshly washed butterhead lettuce with a slather of mayonnaise and you are on your way to one of the most iconic sandwiches you will taste this summer.
Next up, the perfect picnic sandwich, pan bagnat, a pressed sandwich from the South of France, filled with produce of the region. It can be found in most cafés but is incredibly easy to make at home, and it makes a wonderful addition to any picnic spread. The traditional version uses a round loaf specifically baked for the dish, but I use the more readily available baguette. The sandwich can be made in advance, but is best enjoyed two to three hours after it’s made.
Lastly, my new favourite summer fix, grilled prosciutto cheese sandwiches. The key here is using the combination of mozzarella and scamorza from southern Italy. Melted together, they produce an Instagram-worthy stretchy cheese pull that is rather irresistible with salty prosciutto and a schmear of pesto. Delicious on its own, but dipped in a spicy marinara sauce, it’s next level as a little lunchtime treat.
Time: 30 mins Serves: 4
16 slices O’Neills smoked back bacon
8 thick slices tartine sourdough
2 ripe vine tomatoes, thinly sliced and sprinkled with a pinch of salt
1 butterhead lettuce, leaves separated
For the bacon fat mayonnaise:
1 large free-range egg
Juice of ½ lemon
½ garlic clove
½ tsp Dijon mustard
200ml vegetable oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
2. Lay the bacon out on lined baking trays and place into the oven for 20 minutes.
3. While the bacon cooks, make the mayonnaise. Find a jug or jar that you can fit the head of a hand blender into snugly. If you don’t have a jug or jar to suit, then you can make this by hand — it will just take slightly longer.
4. Place the egg, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper into the jug. Place your hand blender into the bottom of the jug and begin to blitz. Do not move the blender at all. After 30 seconds or so, you should start to see an emulsion forming. At this point, you can begin to slowly tilt and lift the head of the hand blender until the mayonnaise is completely emulsified. Set aside.
5. After 20 minutes of cooking, the bacon should be just starting to crisp up. Remove from the oven briefly, draining off all of the fat into a bowl, and then place back into the oven for 5 minutes.
6. Lightly toast your sourdough slices and place on a chopping board for assembly.
7. Add the drained bacon fat into the mayonnaise and stir to combine, adding a tablespoon of water if it is too thick. Taste to check the seasoning and add more lemon juice/salt/pepper if needed.
8. Once the bacon is cooked, spread the lightly toasted sourdough with the bacon fat mayonnaise on both sides and season with black pepper. Add the lettuce to 4 slices and then top with the thinly sliced tomatoes, the bacon and then add the second slice of bread. Devour immediately!
Time: 40 mins Serves: 2
1 small baguette
3-4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tbsp of olive tapenade
4-6 beef tomatoes, cut in slices
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
A small handful of basil leaves
4-6 anchovy fillets
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1 small handful of green olives, pitted
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1. Cut the baguette in half and then in half lengthways. Drizzle the cut sides of the baguette with olive oil until it is soaked through.
2. Spread the tapenade over 2 halves of the baguette and then layer on top the tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar, basil leaves, anchovy fillets, onion and green olives. Season with a pinch of salt and a crack of black pepper.
3. Place the other baguette halves on top and then roll up tightly in parchment paper.
4. Tie tightly with string and then place between two baking sheets with a heavy weight on top for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
5. When you are ready to serve, unwrap and enjoy.
Time: 1 hour Serves: 4
For the chilli and garlic marinara:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tin good-quality chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sea salt
25g unsalted butter
For the sandwiches:
6 tbsp basil pesto
4 small ciabatta or panini rolls, sliced in half
12 slices prosciutto
1 ball mozzarella, cut into slices
50g scamorza cheese, cut into slices
50g Parmesan, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. To make the marinara, heat the olive oil over a low heat and add the chopped chilli and garlic cloves. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Then add the chopped tomatoes and sea salt. Stir to combine and then cook, over a low heat, for about 40-45 minutes, until the sauce has thickened considerably.
2. Stir in the butter, allowing it to melt into the sauce, then set aside.
3. For the sandwiches, mix the pesto with the mayonnaise and set aside.
4. Lay the bread out on a chopping board and add some basil mayo to both sides, spreading out to the edges. Top the base with 3 slices of prosciutto, then layer with 3 slices each of mozzarella, scamorza and finally a sprinkling of Parmesan. Season with sea salt and black pepper and place the lid on top to sandwich the ingredients. Repeat until you have made all the sandwiches.
5. Add the butter to a large frying pan and set over a medium heat. Add 2 sandwiches and cook for 5 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for a further 5 minutes on the other side. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches and serve with the marinara on the side for dipping.