Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

For when sushi sandwiches don’t exist

I spatchcocked a chicken on Friday night for the first time… Writing that sentence made me realise that it (spatchcocking) sounds quite rude (ahem). It isn’t though, it’s great, especially if your spatchcocking results in your chicken being marinated in garlic, lemon and thyme and then slowly braised on a barbecue – which mine was.

Essentially the removal of the chicken’s backbone so that the bird can be flattened, this procedure helps speed up the cook-time so that the chicken isn’t as dry as it could be. Plus in BBQ terms you get the whole outside, summer, smoky vibe, which was magical.

I also barbecued some thick-cut bacon as well, which is a different kind of gravy when it comes to swine appreciation and the next day, faced with left-overs to be used up, I made a chicken and bacon mix with mayo, a squirt of lime, seasoning and just a touch of barbecue sauce. The result was one of the best chicken mixes for a sandwich I’ve ever had: Potent, with a hint of charring and that shimmering echo of outside, summer vibes. Magical.

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Altogether, I’m way too fond of sandwiches. I think if I soul-habitated, I’d live on them. One of my other favourites at the moment is pineapple and pesto, a pairing idea I pilfered from Serendipity in Omagh.

It’s my go-to sarnie at the cafe, whether it’s in a panini or a flatbread or in a regular toastie and, I think, it’s the great clash of salty and sweet that makes it work. Plus it’s super versatile and at home I’ve tried pineapple and pesto with tuna, chicken and salami (separately) and they’re all great.

One night last week I went to bed a little hungry. Normally, to get me through my adventurous dreams (I could be battling zombies one night and flying helicopters in El Salvador the next), I’d take a little snack before hitting the hay, often cornflakes; the sweetened milk works well as a soporific too. But on that fateful night there was no snack and for the first time in a long while, I actually dreamt of food. It’s funny the way the mind can play tricks. I dreamt I was in Go Sushi in London and I was eating sushi sandwiches (!?!) and lifting plates off the conveyor belt like an eating machine on fire.

Then, when it came time to pay, I realised I didn’t have my bank card, not to mention cash. My suggestion to wash the dishes didn’t fly and I had to leave my mobile phone with the manager as surety whilst I headed off to find some bucks. It was more soap opera than adventure but I’m sure a dreams specialist could point out certain gluttonous/anxiety issues.
The next morning I woke up wondering if sushi sarnies should be invented and then coincidentally wound up making the open sandwich you can see in the picture that evening. OK, so it isn’t exactly sushi but it’s a sandwich nonetheless and there’s shellfish thereon. Maybe my subconscious was hungover from the dream.

Speaking of hangovers, I see scientists think they’ve discovered the cure.

And here was me thinking the cure was a gallon of Lucozade, two Berocca back-to-back, a McMuffin meal from McD’s and the rest of the day in the foetal position on the sofa, wiring random junk food into me.

Meanwhile, I may or may not have supplied a recipe for soda wheaten bread previously but if I did, please ignore. This one is the ultimate and it works a treat as a base for the Ultimate Open Prawn Sandwich.

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It’s reminiscent of the scone that my mother used to make when I was a nipper (she still makes it but I’m not a nipper any more – more’s the pity). This is a true story: My father had to tell her to stop making it, as it was so delicious and moreish we couldn’t stop eating it. Thankfully, she ignored him.

INGREDIENTS (WHEATEN SODA)
• 250g of plain white flour (you could also use soda flour and omit the bicarb)
• 250g of wholemeal flour
• 100g of porridge oats
• 30g of cold butter, chopped
• 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
• 1 tsp of salt
• 1 large free range egg
• 500ml of buttermilk

INGREDIENTS (PRAWN MIX – FEEDS TWO)
• 200g of cold water prawns
• 2 tbsps of decent mayo
• 1 tsp of tomato sauce
• half tsp of chipotle paste or Cholula
• squirt of lime juice (or lemon)
• sea salt and white pepper
• cayenne pepper

THE PLANS
To make the bread, mix the dry ingredients together and then add the butter and rub in with your finger tips.

Add the egg to the buttermilk and mix through with a fork. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix through with a butter knife.

Using your hands, bring the dough together and then tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead once or twice, so that it’s well combined. Over-working the dough will make it tough and it won’t rise as well.

Shape into a round and then move onto a floured baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top and retire to the oven, which you have cunningly pre-heated to 180C.

Let it rip for at least 30 minutes and then remove from the oven. You’ll have heard it said that if it sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom it’s ready.

Personally, I’ve no idea what hollow is meant to sound like when thumping bread so I generally have a poke at it and it if feels solid and baked, that’s good enough for me. Either way, if it doesn’t seem completely baked, give it another five mins in the oven.

After that, remove to a wire rack for cooling. If you want a soft crust, cover with a tea towel. If not, don’t. Personally, I like a good tight crunch.

This bread is best eaten as soon as it cools with a scandalously large slice of real butter. But for the purposes of this open prawn sarnie, it’s best used the next day when it’s hardened slightly and can be cut thickly and toasted.

For the prawn mix, mix the mayo and red sauce with the squirt of lime and the chipotle. Mix and taste. Now add the seasoning and taste again. Keep going until it’s perfect; it may need another squirt of lime.

Add the prawns to a bowl, fire in the sauce and stir through.

Toast and butter thick slices of the bread (real butter, obvs) and then lay on big heaps of prawns-in-sauce. Sprinkle on some cayenne and maybe a chopped spring onion and they’re done.

Stupendous!

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