I liken this simple snack to a prawn cocktail in a bun. It has had a place on the menu in the wine bar for about six months. Pepper from the nasturtium leaves, bite from the horseradish, creamy texture from the mayonnaise and sweetness from the prawns – it ticks all the boxes when it comes to flavour, texture and balance.
I look at sandwiches with admiration. They are not purely a thrown together convenience. Consideration of the combination of flavours and textures is important and somewhat obvious, but what is often overlooked is how they hold in the hand and how they eat. I have had far too many sandwiches that have had too much beetroot or tomato, creating a soggy mess that collapses and lands in my lap. Not good.
Anyone can create a good dish, or in this case sandwich, but it takes a person who really understands eating, and also enjoys eating, to be able to build a sandwich that is immune to catastrophe.
Many people have their own tricks when it comes to assembling sandwiches. People who make sandwiches en masse or in advance will only ever use margarine – it works as a form of insulation (and insurance) for the often-fake bread, and holds it together like Clag.
We have served a few sandwiches over the years. A recent favourite consisted of white bread filled with a fillet of premium anchovy, plenty of Montpellier butter and raw nasturtium leaves. Montpellier butter is a flavoured butter whose recipe comes from the city in southern France.
To make Montpellier butter, whip soft butter with chopped gherkins, boiled egg, and soft herbs. I like to add chopped tarragon and chives, and an anchovy for good measure.
The club sandwich has somehow found a place on every hotel room service menu. For many years, I have judged the food and beverage offerings of a hotel based on the quality of their club sandwich. How cold the beer is also wins a few points.
The BLT also has a high ranking. It covers all the food groups – bacon, lettuce, tomato, a squirt of mayonnaise – and texture pleasure buttons. The BLT is a good anytime sandwich and particularly good the morning after a night on the dance floor.
The one place that takes sandwiches to another level is New York. Katz’s Delicatessen has built an international reputation for its pastrami on rye and Sally’s fake orgasm. The sandwiches are so epic, so extreme in their super sizing, that they should only be shared. I couldn’t say it was the best sandwich I have ever had, but it certainly was satisfying to tick off the food bucket list.
– 6 extra large raw king prawns
– 6 small brioche rolls
– salted butter
– horseradish mayonnaise (recipe below)
– salt, to taste
– ½ lemon
– 24 nasturtium leaves, rinsed and dried
– 3cm piece fresh horseradish
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the prawns and simmer for four minutes. Remove the prawns and plunge them into iced water. When the prawns are cold, peel them and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
Cut each roll in half and spread it with plenty of salted butter.
Toast the rolls buttered side up, under a griller, or buttered side down, in a frying pan, until the cut sides are golden. Spread a teaspoon of mayonnaise onto each side of the rolls. Season the peeled prawns with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Place two nasturtium leaves on each roll. Place a prawn in each roll and grate fresh horseradish all over it. Top with another two nasturtium leaves and the brioche lid.
– 3 egg yolks
– 1 clove garlic, finely grated
– 2 tsp white wine vinegar
– pinch salt
– 300ml blended vegetable oil
– 80g prepared horseradish
– 1 to 2 tsp lemon juice
Place the egg yolks, grated garlic, vinegar and a good pinch of salt into a mixing bowl and whisk together.
Gradually beat in the oil, adding the first few tablespoons one at a time and beating very well after each addition.
Once a third of the oil has been incorporated the rest can be added in a thin stream, whisking all the while. When the oil has all been emulsified, stir through the horseradish. Season the mayonnaise with lemon juice and extra salt if you like.
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV, France ($95) – Leanne Altmann, wine buyer, Supernormal and Meatsmith
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 24, 2016 as "Prawn roll". Subscribe here.