Everyone knows what a sandwich is.
But maybe few know that it was originated in the 18th century by one of Britain's peers of the realm, the fourth Earl of Sandwich.
He was a great gambler and would spend hours on end at the gaming tables. It was during a marathon 24-hour gambling stint that the sandwich was proved to be a winner.
The earl, too engrossed to stop to eat, sent a waiter to get him some ham and slices of bread.
When these arrived, to save time, the earl placed the ham between slices of bread and proceeded to eat his "sandwich".
Of course, everyone has their own personal view of what constitutes a good sandwich. In addition to the standard two-slices-of-bread variety, sandwiches come in many forms, some with names as interesting as the contents. The club, open, canape, croissant, bagel, burger, baguette, BLT and submarine are well known. But what of the hero, the hoagie, the grinder, the gyro, the Reuben or the muffuletta?
A couple of my favourites are steak with horseradish butter in a baguette for dinner, or cripsy croissants filled wth melting brie and strawberries for lunch.
The United States serves up some interesting regional sandwich meals.
These include North Carolina's shredded mystery pork barbecue on a hot dog roll in a crinkled paper boat, Maine's lobster rolls, hotel and restaurant chain's Howard Johnson's fried clams on a bun, and a New Orleans' Po' Boys - the glutton's dream - with crisp batter-fried oysters between the halves of a gigantic roll with a side of coleslaw.
Sandwiches are versatile mealmakers. You can bet on it.
GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICH WITH BACON & AVOCADO MAYO
1 large skinned and boned chicken breast
2 tbsp each: olive oil, hoisin sauce, tamarind puree
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 rashers bacon
4 thick slices black rye bread or similar
1/2 avocado, mashed
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1 cup mixed rocket and baby spinach leaves
Combine the oil, hoisin sauce and tamarind puree in a plastic bag. Add the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Remove and sprinkle with pepper.
Grill or pan-grill on a ridged frying pan on medium for about five minutes each side. Remove to a warm plate, cover with foil and rest for five minutes.
Meanwhile, grill or microwave the bacon until crisp. Halve and grill the tomatoes. Toast the bread. Combine the avocado with the mayo. Slice the chicken. Spread the toast with the avocado mayo.
Place a slice on a serving plate. Pile with half the salad ingredients, then the prepared ingredients. Top with another slice of toast. Repeat. Serves 2.
BEEF & BLUES SUBMARINE
1 small focaccia, warmed in the oven
1/2 cup mayonnaise
16 fresh basil leaves
400g roast beef, thinly sliced
100g blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
Cut open the focaccia. Spread the cut sides with mayonnaise. Top each side with the basil leaves. Layer the roast beef on the base, then top with the blue cheese and a sprinkling of walnuts. Sandwich together with the top of the focaccia.
Cut into four to serve. Excellent with coleslaw and a bean salad. Serves 4.
STEAK SANDWICHES WITH HORSERADISH BUTTER
50g butter, softened
3 tbsp bottled horseradish cream
2 tbsp each: Dijon-style mustard, finely diced onion
Freshly ground black pepper to
4 fillet steaks (about 400g)
4 portobello mushrooms
1 cup rocket leaves
Preheat the grill to high. Combine the butter, horseradish, mustard, onion and pepper in a bowl, until well-combined.
Pat the steak dry.
Season with pepper, then place on a rack in a roasting pan. Spread the top of the steak with one teaspoon of the horseradish butter. Spread a little on each mushroom.
Grill the steak, about 5cm away from the heat, for three minutes.Turn over and spread the other side with another teaspoon of horseradish butter, then continue grilling for about three to four minutes.
Cook the mushrooms at the same time for about two minutes each side. Cut the baguette crosswise into four equal sections.Halve each section horizontally.Toast and brush with olive oil, if preferred.
Thinly slice the steaks on a 45-degree angle, across the grain. Spread the cut sides of the bread with a little horseradish butter. Top the base halves of the baguette with the steak, mushrooms, rocket and remaining bread.
PANINI LAMB SANDWICH
1 cup baba ghanoush (from the deli)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 oval panini breads
1-2 tbsp olive oil
400g roasted leg of lamb or grilled lamb steaks, thinly sliced
75g feta cheese, crumbled
Extra flat-leaf parsley
Season the baba ghanoush and add the parsley. Cut the panini in half horizontally. Brush the outsides lightly with the olive oil.
Spread the insides of four of the halved panini with the baba ghanoush. Arrange the lamb slices on top, then place the feta evenly on the meat and sprinkle with a little lemon juice. Add more parsley, if preferred.
Cover with the panini halves, oiled sides up, pressing down firmly. Toast in a panini or sandwich press. Makes 4.