I wish I could say there’s a perfect sandwich ratio – 1:1 bread to filling, or something. But some are preposterously filling-heavy (think big deli sandwich stack), while others lean clearly more towards the casing (see my carrot cake sandwiches below). Some are open-faced, while others do without bread altogether, which begs the question: does a sandwich really need bread at all? It’s a hot debate, and one in which I shall not cast a vote. Focusing on what we can all agree on, however, a sandwich needs a sturdy base of some kind and a topping or filling of some capacity, and the two need to come together in harmonious matrimony.
Prawn, cucumber and scotch bonnet buns
I love the fruity smokiness of scotch bonnet, but you can use a milder chilli, or none at all, if you prefer. Take care not to overcook the prawns: take them off the heat as soon as they turn dark pink, so they remain juicy.
Prep 25 min
Cook 25 min
For the cucumber salsa
1 small cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthways (230g net weight)
1 tbsp lime juice
Flaked sea salt
1 green chilli, roughly chopped (seeds and pith removed if you prefer less heat)
3⅓ tbsp (10g) roughly chopped chives
3 tbsp (5g) roughly chopped coriander leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
For the prawns
80g unsalted butter
½ onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the flat of a knife
½ scotch bonnet chilli, roughly chopped (seeds and pith removed if you prefer less heat)
4 limes – 1½ juiced, to get 3 tbsp, the rest cut into wedges, to serve
300g peeled raw king prawns, roughly chopped
4 brioche buns, cut in half widthways
First make the salsa. Scoop out and discard the watery centre of the cucumber (I use a teaspoon to do this), then chop the rest into 1-1½cm dice. Put this in a bowl with the lime juice and a teaspoon and a half of flaked sea salt, toss to combine and leave to steep.
Meanwhile, put the chilli, chives, coriander and oil in a spice grinder (or in the small bowl of a food processor), blitz smooth, then set aside, ready to mix with the cucumber when you’re ready to serve.
For the prawns, put the butter, onion, garlic, chilli, lime juice and a teaspoon of flaked salt in a medium saucepan on a medium heat and cook, stirring often, for about eight minutes, until the butter has melted and the onion is soft and aromatic. Stir in the prawns and cook, stirring, for for about 90 seconds, until the prawns turn pink, then turn off the heat.
Drain the cucumber, transfer it to the herb oil bowl, add the spring onions, and toss to combine.
Toast the brioche buns, then fill with the warm prawns, top with some salsa and serve with the lime wedges for squeezing on top.
Tamarind rarebit crumpet with saffron piccalilli
The rarebit mixture is a cheat that involves no pre-cooking and really couldn’t be simpler. These quantities for the piccalilli will make more than you need here, but it keeps in the fridge for up to two days, ready for stuffing into sandwiches and wraps. If you prefer, however, use a good shop-bought piccalilli, to save time.
Prep 20 min
Cook 45 min
For the piccalilli
5 spring onions, trimmed
1 tbsp (20g) runny honey
2½ tbsp apple cider vinegar
1½ tbsp English mustard
½ tsp tamarind paste
½ tsp saffron threads
½ small kohlrabi, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes (150g net weight)
3 red chillies, finely sliced into rounds
1 small cucumber, peeled, watery centre scraped out and discarded, flesh cut into 1cm cubes (100g net weight)
2 tsp black mustard seeds, lightly toasted
Salt and black pepper
For the rarebit mix
20g tamarind paste
20g English mustard
120g mature cheddar, grated
75ml double cream
3 tbsp (5g) finely chopped coriander leaves
First make the piccalilli. Finely chop the spring onions, keeping the white and green parts separate. Put the honey, vinegar, mustard, tamarind paste and saffron in a small saucepan on a medium heat, warm through for three minutes, then transfer to a large, heat-proof container. Stir in the spring onion whites and all the remaining piccalilli ingredients, add half a teaspoon of salt, toss to combine, then leave to macerate for at least half an hour (if you want to get ahead, do this the day before and refrigerate overnight.
For the rarebit mix, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl with a generous grind of pepper, then chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Turn the grill to its highest setting. Lightly toast the crumpets, then put them on a medium oven tray lined with foil. Top each crumpet with a high dome of the rarebit mixture, then grill for six to eight minutes, until melted, blackened in parts and bubbling.
Transfer about two-thirds of the piccalilli to a small bowl, stir in the spring onion greens and coriander, and serve the crumpets hot with the piccalilli alongside.
Carrot cake sandwich cookies
These are more cake-y than cookie, like bite-sized carrot cakes. They’re quite rich and decadent (essentially, there’s a two-for-one deal on each one), so all you’ll need is one with a strong cup of coffee. You can make the cookies and filling separately in advance: store the cookies in an airtight container for up to two days and keep the filling in the fridge. Give the filling about 30 minutes to come up to room temperature before assembling just before serving .
Prep 20 min
Cook 45 min
Makes About 15
For the carrot cake
250g plain flour
1¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
100g pecans, toasted and finely chopped
30g desiccated coconut
300g finely grated carrots (ie, from about 3 carrots)
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g soft light brown sugar
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
For the cream cheese filling
225g cream cheese, at room temperature
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g icing sugar, sifted, plus 2 tsp extra to finish
2½ tsp orange zest
Heat the oven to 190C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, bicarb, baking powder, ground spices, salt, pecans and coconut, and set aside.
Use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the grated carrots – you want to be left with 200g after they’ve has been wrung out – and set aside.
Put the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment in place, then beat on medium speed for about 90 seconds, until just combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time and, once incorporated, add the vanilla, carrots and sultanas, and mix to combine. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they’re just incorporated, then transfer to a piping bag and snip the end to make a 2½-wide opening. Pipe heaped tablespoons of the mixture, each about 35g and 5-6cm in diameter, on to two large oven trays lined with baking paper, using your fingers to round them off slightly (don’t flatten them) – you should have about 15 in all. Bake for 10 minutes, until just cooked through but still soft to the touch, leave to cool slightly, then gently transfer to a rack to cool completely. Pipe the remaining dough on to the cooled trays and bake, so you end up with about 30 cookies in all.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Put the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment in place, then beat on medium speed for about a minute, until light and smooth. Transfer to a bowl, then rinse the mixing bowl and paddle. Put the butter and icing sugar in the clean stand mixer bowl and beat on medium speed for about 90 seconds, until light and airy. Fold the butter mix and orange zest into the cheese, then refrigerate for 20 minutes, to firm up a little.
Once the cookies have cooled, pair them up, trying as best you can to match ones of similar sizes. Spoon a generous tablespoon of the filling on to the flat side of one cookie, spreading it out slightly to cover, then top with the flat side of the other cookie, so making a “sandwich”. Repeat with the remaining cookies and filling, to give you 15 in total. Before serving, use a fine-mesh sieve to dust the tops of the cookies with the extra icing sugar.