As regular readers of HTE know, this series takes a flexible line on sourcing. Cheap does not necessarily mean nasty and, ultimately, it is all down to the cash in your pocket. When you are skint and hungry, most things taste incredible. Moreover, we are children of the processed food age. We all love stuff, from Babybel to Dairy Milk, at which militant foodies would gag. HTE is a safe space. No one is judging you.
Depending on the size of your sausage (no giggling at the back), take three or four from the pan – you did fry them, right? – and split them lengthways. This will allow you to build a thorough, corrugated sausage coverage across your bread which, among other advantages (sausage in every bite!), will bring a welcome stability to your sandwich. That people still put whole, uncut sausages into huge, flappy slices of bread and then wonder why they spend half the sandwich trying to stop them falling out, is testament to man’s enduring stupidity. The only thing worse is using chipolatas.
Fundamentally, there are very few cheeses that truly work in a sandwich. If you wish to avoid creating a dry, claggy sanger of a muddled, indeterminate character, you need to use something hard, waxy and tangy in the lincolnshire poacher or mature cheddar line, which you may want to augment with a little red leicester or double gloucester. Wonderful as they may be elsewhere, a sandwich is no place for the crumbly and/or dense likes of feta; wensleydale; almost all Lancashire cheeses; goat’s cheese (that is a salad cheese, no matter how you moisten it with beetroot); brie (especially when paired, egregiously, with cranberries); any of the blue cheeses; cream cheese*; cheshire; stinking bishop or any other gooey cheeses which must be sealed in a lead Hazmat container in your fridge, to stop your neighbours complaining about the smell.
Pedants will take great pleasure in pointing out that this "classic" was only actually given a name and a PR push in the 1960s, by the Milk Marketing Board, but people, including some ploughmen, had been eating bread and cheese with beer for aeons. Therefore, no matter how it has been glossed, this stands as a much-loved British meal, and one which people feel passionately about. As Tommy Cooper once put it: "I had a ploughman's lunch the other day ... he was livid."
There are people – frigid, sexless husks of humanity tormented by issues of taste and decorum – who insist that guacamole, salsa and sour cream should be served on the side, in little pots, so that a) you can get an equal little dip of everything, as you see fit, and b) you won't get messy. What next? Eating nachos with a knife and fork?
The fish finger “scene” is divided into two often mutually antagonistic camps: posh and traditional. However, neither can claim to have produced the perfect fish finger sandwich. In fact, in their militant defence of their entrenched positions, both groups fail to see the flaws in their own methodology or the valuable lessons they could learn from one another.
For instance, no one really wants a fish finger sandwich served on huge doorstep slices of bread. In this instance, using great plateaux of loaf is a pose, a foodie affectation. Similarly, it is inverted snobbery of the worst kind to maintain that a “proper” fish finger sandwich can only be made with budget fish fingers, which offer a tiny, grey inner core of mulched, fish-derived protein matter at the centre of a limp, greasy lump of breadcrumb. They may bring on Proustian memories of school dinners/late-night adventures in bedsit cookery, but they cannot, in any objective sense, be said to taste “nice”. Hopefully, this blog will lay out the case for a third way forward.