We're a nation of sandwiches lovers, so much so there's a whole week dedicated to them! Therefore, it's with great delight we welcome Helen Graves, author of the book 101 Sandwiches and popular blog London Review of Sandwiches to our blogging team. In the first of a new series she argues that egg mayo is one of the greatest fillings of all time.
It’s fair to say the British eat their share of sandwiches and then some. Finger sandwiches at afternoon tea; roast ham with nostril-searing English mustard; fat wedges cut from a steak-stuffed shooter’s loaf; chip butties, fish finger hangover-busters and mouth scorching Breville toasties. We’ve certainly nailed down some classics. I do feel however, that a few fillings get an undeservedly rough ride, and first on the list is the egg mayo. Why don’t people realise that egg mayo, properly made, is one of the greatest sandwich fillings of all time? No, this isn’t a joke.
The first key to the success of the egg mayo is its versatility. Think about it: is there really a bad time to eat this Queen amongst sandwiches? Hungover? Yes to egg mayo. Lunch? Yes to egg mayo. Afternoon tea? Dinner? Late-night munchies? You get the picture.
Just as crucial is the comfort factor. Soft white bread meets still warm egg; it’s stupendously easy to eat. While a bolshy steak sandwich or a crusty cheese baguette scratch and barge their way into your bread-hole, the egg mayo nurses as it glides down the gullet. Hell, you barely even need teeth to eat it. It’s the mashed potato of the sandwich world.
The beauty of course lies in the simplicity, which means that it’s incredibly easy to balls up. Firstly there’s the bread, which must be white, incredibly fresh and importantly, not particularly sturdy; there aren’t many places where sourdough is inappropriate but this is one of them. A plain white sandwich loaf is best. The eggs are, obviously, crucial, and should be of the finest quality you can find; free-range surely goes without saying? Try to get a named breed if you can, like the Cotswold Legbars or Burford Browns from Clarence Court, which are widely available now. Mayonnaise should be homemade; rich and glossy. And so to the question of additions, which is a topic that can make people – at least the people I hang around with – extremely animated.
The answer to this problem, I think, lies in the distinction between the British egg mayo, and the American egg salad sandwich. The Americans like all kinds of different stuff in there with their egg, bringing all manner of flavours and textures. Fine. It’s an egg salad though. An egg mayo by contrast is much simpler, and for that reason I eschew capers, gherkins etc. and go with a generous helping of snipped chives; all the allium twang necessary without the squeak of onion. To season, a trick I nicked from St.John restaurant – malt vinegar. Works perfectly, and what could be more British? The same goes for white pepper rather than black.
I know it can be hard to hold back with the extras, but I speak from years of bitter experience when I say that the knack to making the perfect egg mayo, as with many recipes, really is in knowing when to stop.
Perfect Egg Mayo Sandwich
(makes 2 sandwiches)
4 slices soft white bread
4 good quality, free-range eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons home made mayo (see below)
Chives, about 1 heaped tablespoon, finely chopped
For the mayonnaise
1 good quality free-range egg yolk
Groundnut or vegetable oil
Approximately 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/ teaspoon mustard powder
Put the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 6 minutes. Place in a bowl of cold water.
Make your mayonnaise. By far the easiest way to do this is by using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, but it’s perfectly possible by hand.
Put the egg yolks in a clean bowl and whisk them together. Whisk in the mustard powder. Begin adding oil a few drops at a time, whisking as you do so and making sure each bit of oil is fully incorporated before adding the next. As you whisk in more oil and the mayo starts to thicken, you can start adding it in very slightly larger quantities until you are steadily adding it in a thin stream. If it splits, don’t despair. Take a fresh egg yolk in a clean bowl and begin adding the split mixture into it, very slowly, just as if it were the oil. This should bring it back. Add the white wine vinegar and season with salt.
Peel the eggs, and mash them with a fork. Mix in 2 tablespoons of the mayo and the chives, then season with salt and white pepper. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to start with, adding more if you think it’s needed. Spread the mixture onto one slice of bread, top with the other, and cut into preferred sandwich shape.
Inspired? For more egg recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.
Bibs @ Tasteometer
I disagree slightly with this. It must contain Mustard Cress. Sometimes a little Sriracha too.
13 May 2014
13 May 2014