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The English sandwich: the British and their love for sandwiches

The English sandwich is the UK's most popular snack. Why that is, how a real British sandwich is made and recipes and insider tips for the original English sandwich.

The ultimate guide to the British sandwich

Triangular, practical, good: the sandwich is part of the basic culinary supply in Great Britain. It is said that up to 3.5 billion sandwiches are consumed in the UK each year.

In honor of the sandwich, there is even a whole week of festivities and culinary delights in Great Britain: the British Sandwich Week. Reason enough to take a closer look at the iconic snack. Everything you always wanted to know about the best gourmet British invention since the Scone and Mushy Peas.

The English sandwich: shrouded in legends

Laziness paired with ingenuity are the characteristics of the 4th Earl of Sandwichthat led to the invention of the English folding cuff. At least legend has it that the earl named John Montague was reluctant to get up from his chair while indulging in his passion, playing cards.

What he just didn't like were sticky playing cards - because back then, meat was eaten with the fingers. Because a card game like this can take a long time and the earl had a healthy appetite, he decided that you could just put the meat between two slices of toast. Problem solved, fed up with Earl, born of a world idea.

A snack, so many terms for the English sandwich

Sure, you could just call a sandwich a 'sandwich'. The British, however, have a few more expressions to describe their favorite snack in between. 'Butty' or 'Sarnie' are terms that one hears particularly often.

"Roughly speaking, and without doing much research, I associate 'butty' with northern England and 'sarnie' with southern England," says Jane Eggers Translations, a translator. Because of her job, she deals a lot with English slang words and their origins. "I think 'butty' comes from the fact that sandwiches are usually made with butter, and 'sarnie' is probably just an abbreviated form of 'sandwich'.

The British sandwich is called differently in the USA

By the way: the word 'sandwich' can lead to confusion depending on the English-speaking area: traditionally the term 'sandwich' has a narrower meaning in Great Britain than in the USA. In Great Britain, a ’sandwich’ is actually just the variant two slices of bread with something in between.

The variant of the bun with something in between is a 'roll' or 'filled roll'. In the US, sandwich can mean both. That's why Americans may well raise their eyebrows when they hear the word 'butty' - it may sound strange to their ears because of the similarity to 'butt'. "

The perfect English sandwich: this is what it should look like

The classic British sandwich is actually quite simple: two slices of soft bread, spread with butter, then topping in the form of cheese, cucumber, roast meat or ham. According to a survey, it does "Humble cheese sandwich", So the cheese sandwich in its simplest form, the favorite lunch of the British.

The classic: the English cucumber sandwich

In every supermarket you can get the standard variants with egg and cress, cucumber and salmon, tuna and corn, egg salad or onion and cheese. In addition to these simple designs, there are now countless variants of the classic British sandwich, right up to the luxury version of the gourmet sandwich. You just have to look around the food department at Harrod’s in London to get an idea of ​​what is possible.

Here is the recipe for the English cucumber sandwich.

British recommend their favorite sandwich

An unrepresentative survey of my British friends showed a strong tendency towards simple sandwiches. Everyone agreed: it doesn't have to be particularly “posh”, so it doesn't have to be boastful or exciting. Instead, of course, extremely important: the right topping and the right sandwich bread.

The perfect companion to the English sandwich: the pickle

Simon loves his sandwich with mature cheddar cheese and, most importantly, the 'Branston Pickle', a sweet and sour, chutney-like spread with small pieces of vegetables that complements the cheese (similar here).

The right bread for the British sandwich

The right bread is also important: while in Germany one always thinks that the British eat untoasted toast bread, Great Britain places great value on a good sandwich bread. It's soft, but immensely juicier and more delicious than plain toasted bread. Simon prefers Granary or Tiger or Giraffe Bread. By the way, the name says it all and has a story of its own, as you can read here.

The best sandwich in the UK?

Paul, on the other hand, likes his sandwich with thickly sliced ​​boiled ham and mustard - a spread that is unthinkable for Simon. Jimbo, on the other hand, thinks that the best sandwiches are not to be found in the UK:

"As with everything that the glorious British nation has invented, the idea of ​​the sandwich was also stolen from other countries just to make it better." But if it has to be, he likes to eat 'Bap' with bacon, egg and sausages with brown sauce. Round, soft and roll-shaped, that's how you see it 'Bap' out - whether according to Jane Egger's definition it can still be considered a classic sandwich?

Oscar, Grammies ... and Sammies!

For the film industry there is Oscars, the music business has that grammy, and in the UK the Sammies are awarded every May. Both British Sandwich Industry Awards will the Sandwich Designer of the Year chosen in different categories. In 2017 the coveted trophy went to Martin Wilshire from the '2 Sisters Food Group' for his St. Clements Duck sandwich.

Intermediate British sandwich:
Tips from the food blogger

I admit I'm not an expert on sandwiches. I really like to eat it (preferably the 'Plowman’s' with cheddar and pickle, by the way), but art does not come from wanting, but from being able to. A true artist in the kitchen, on the other hand, is Rose from A Modern Rose. The British food blogger from Berlin told me why the British are so into sandwiches, what is important in a really good sandwich and how it should not be prepared under any circumstances.

Complete the sentence: "The perfect sandwich is_____"

... prepared with good quality bread that is neither too thick nor too thin and topped with a mixture of good ingredients.

Why are sandwiches so popular in the UK?

That probably has to do with the fact that they are so easy to prepare on the one hand and so variable on the other. You can really put everything in a sandwich! They also have a nostalgic component to them, as we all grew up eating sandwiches in the lunch box. In addition, there is a sandwich on every corner and the choice is endless - even if you eat a sandwich every day, it doesn't always feel like the same food!

What is your favorite ingredient for a sandwich?

I grew up with cheese sandwiches, so I just have to admit that 'Cheese & Pickle' is my favorite sandwich! In my opinion, chilli, shrimp and rocket are also great for it. That makes the sandwich so fresh and the chilli gives it that certain kick.

Who makes the best sandwich?

Since I've lived in Berlin, I'd say that the best sandwiches are made in my kitchen! I just can't find a decent sandwich here in Berlin, except at Barcomi's, who make sandwiches on juicy, thick slices of bread and top them with delicious ingredients such as chicken salad.

Why does the British sandwich have a rather dubious reputation outside of the UK?

This is probably due to the misunderstanding that one imagines a sandwich as a few limp pieces of bread with a taste-neutral topping. Of course there are plenty of these sandwiches, but a sandwich can of course also be a very fresh snack with tasty ingredients.

How should a sandwich not be at all?

At one point I ate an egg & spinach sandwich that was just awful. The spinach was very difficult to chew and was still very watery, which made the bread sticky when damp. What I also don't like are raw onions in a sandwich! Too much butter and a thin, sad topping are also guarantees for a really terrible sandwich!

And now: Bon appetit with the British sandwich!

Are you hungry? I definitely do. I don't need British Sandwich Week to enjoy a British sandwich either. For me, theoretically, every day could be sandwich day.

English sandwich recipes

Soon you will find recipes for original English sandwich classics on A decent cup of tea. Including, of course, a recipe for what is probably the most classic of all British sandwiches, the English cucumber sandwich. But there will also be more unusual sandwich recipes and I'll tell you my favorite recipe for a Scottish sandwich. Stay tuned, it starts here soon!