Archive for September, 2009


Summer Sausage, Cheddar & Wholegrain Mustard Sandwich at  The Lady Killigrew Cafe, MA, USA

Summer Sausage, Cheddar & Wholegrain Mustard Sandwich at The Lady Killigrew Cafe, MA, USA

I’ve just  bought a cookbook on eBay that I’ve been hunting down for years. Seven Hundred Sandwiches was compiled by kindred spirit Florence A. Cowles back in 1928. As hard as I try, I cannot conceive the idea of 700 sandwich recipes. This is why I must own the book. At some point Florence must have become insane with boredom. I’m hoping the recipes conceived on those down days will raise a smile. But I’m also hoping there’ll be a handful of sandwiches that will blow my mind. It was in this book that one of my favourite sangers of all time, the BLT, was first referenced.


There’s not much point in trying to improve the word of the sandwich god, but like any zealot, I’m always hoping to twist the original scripture.

Although the sandwich bible might not tell you, a great BLT requires bread that’s thick enough to toast without becoming brittle, and whole egg mayonnaise. In my heaven, heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced Spanish onions and a fiery hot sauce complete the picture. It may not be authentic, but sandwiches provide an excellent canvas for combining flavours you really enjoy. There aren’t many ‘don’ts’ in the world of sandwich construction, and the creation stories behind the most famous sandwiches usually involve a combination of boredom and available items. Just like religion itself, in fact.

Great sandwiches can be found all over the globe. Felafel, souvlaki, Vietnamese bánh mì baguettes, Indian masala dosa, and tacos all qualify as sandwiches in my book. The epicentre of all that is holy wrapped in bread is, however, the United States. Philadelphia Cheesesteaks, Po’ Boys, Reubens, hoagies, hot dogs and hamburgers are all designs worthy of their own scripture.

Burger at Five Guys, Pennsylvania, USA

Burger at Five Guys, Pennsylvania, USA

My most recent sandwich obsession came about from watching an episode of 30 Rock when hungry. The characters all get sandwiches from a secret place in Brooklyn frequented by teamsters. While the contents of the sandwiches aren’t revealed, Tina Fey’s snack-induced rapture got my imagination firing. And not about Tina Fey.

Here’s what I imagined the sandwich to be: a crusty French roll, the kind you get at Vietnamese bakeries, topped with five or six spiced meatballs in a thick tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. It would be grilled until the cheese is bubbling and the edges of the bread are golden brown. A judicious sprinkling of finely diced onion and hot pickled green peppers would finish it off. Having conceived of them, I set about making them the very next day. They ended up being roughly the size of my calf, and after devouring them, we weren’t quite right for two days. It may have been a colon crime, but it was the best damn sandwich I’ve ever eaten.


The ultimate meatball sub

It pays to be inspired and experimental, but as flexible and forgiving as the sandwich formula is, there are times when being a purist is vital.

The Club Sandwich should always, always simply consist of turkey on the bottom layer and bacon, lettuce and tomato on the top, separated by three layers of toast.

It’s a staple of room service menus and nine times out of ten it’s a crashing disappointment.

It remains to this day my Holy Grail of divine carbs.


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China 059

I have created a monster.

But, to give credit, a high-end Fat Farm helped. My hair-shirt wearing, recovering Catholic partner had signed up for ‘the program’ at the Elysia Golden Door Health Retreat. I didn’t.
Even with the edgy double-barrelled name and promise of luxe, fluffy robes and massages, I wasn’t fooled. This would be a week of early mornings, pre-breakfast exercise, and self-improvement workshops. Followed by more exercise, a calorie controlled dinner, and in my case, no doubt, tears. The real deal breaker for me was the ‘no booze, no caffeine’ regimen. Thanks, but no thanks.

Partner was, however. Partner spent a vacation in the pursuit of better bowel movements. I jetted off to Beijing to devour Peking duck, dumplings, and buckets of Tsing Tao beer.

China 026

Peking Duck service at the Peninsula Beijing

“I’m going to die,” Partner wailed over the phone on her second day. This non-smoking, moderate-drinking gym member wanted to go to hospital. Her coffee consumption had crept up to six cups a day, and going cold turkey had hit her like a cricket bat to the forehead.

Quite convinced, and secretly delighted, that I’d made the right vacation decision, I cajoled and soothed as best I could from a distance. I suggested tea, but that too was verboten. It was only after Partner’s threats to torch the place that the gentle staff relented with access to small amounts of green tea to help combat her withdrawal symptoms. Meanwhile, in Beijing, I went tea shopping.

Determined to support my newly reformed coffee addict, I sought out the best low-caffeine tea that money could buy, and discovered that I couldn’t afford it. Not in any sort of impressive quantity, anyway. It seems there’s tea, and then there’s tea. Much in the same way that there’s shiraz, and then there’s Grange.

Tea ceremony at Gong Wongfu, the residence of Prince Gong.

Tea ceremony at Gong Wongfu, the residence of Prince Gong, Beijing, China

The most highly regarded green tea in China is called lung ching, or Dragon Well tea, from Hangzhou. Only the finest leaves are hand-picked using gloves to avoid any perspiration from the harvester’s hands from fouling the end product. A tea connoisseur friend describes its buzz as ‘relaxed awareness’. Light on caffeine, it tastes like a spring day; it’s brisk and just a little floral.

Dragon Well Tea

Dragon Well Tea

At the next shop I discover white tea. With even less caffeine than green tea, and purportedly higher health benefits, it’s amongst the most expensive teas in the world. The very best is silver needle. It is at once buttery and nutty, and tastes delicately of autumn fruits. I buy a tin the size of a film canister.

White Tea

White Tea

My gifts of tea from China were well received, and having survived prison, Partner has become quite the aficionado. When I’m sent out to buy tea I now break into a mild sweat, fearful of coming home with an inferior leaf.

Tea Monster swoons over organic silver needle and frowns suspiciously at tea bags bought at the local Asian grocer. I’ve discovered that T2 shops are a reliable source of the good stuff.

I still enjoy my morning coffee, but in the afternoons I’ve switched to tea. I may not have endured the luxury horrors of a health retreat, but by proxy I’ve become a convert to the magical properties of a great cuppa.

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Famiglia Martelli

Famiglia Martelli

Dear Ms.

thank You very much for Your very appreced proposal. We are at Your complety disposal.

In this week, we send You same imagines of our pasta.

At Your disposal

Martelli  famiglia di pastai

Pastificio Artigianale

Famiglia Martelli

Via San Martino,3

56035 Lari (Pisa ) Toscana

tel. 0587-684238

fax 0587-684384


This was the email response I received a couple of years back after contacting the Martellis for a high-res image of their pasta for magazine publication. One of the buzzes of being an editor was being able to shamelessly promote stuff you really like. And when it comes to pasta, I really like Martelli.

It’s the way the Martelli family make it. According to their website, “Only the members of the family work in the pasta factory.”

Whatever they do, however they do it, they produce a superior pasta that is slightly textured allowing for ultimate sauce adhesion. At around $15 a pack it costs about ten times more than your regular supermarket brands.  But it is one hundred times better. Look out for it and make the investment.


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