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James Close: Convenience and the art of how to make the perfect sandwich

Michelin-starred chef James Close, of the Raby Hunt, shares his recipe for a Peri Peri pulled pork sandwich

Peri Peri Pulled Pork Sandwich
Peri Peri Pulled Pork Sandwich

Like most men, I love a sandwich. I like the immediacy and functionality of food shaped to post into the mouth.

I love the convenience. I’m happy knocking one up out of ingredients to hand while I’m working and I don’t care if it is a complete myth that the Earl of Sandwich invented it while gambling.

The sandwich could only ever have been dreamt up by a bloke who was insanely hungry and totally preoccupied so the story’s so perfect it should be true.

But for me, the sandwich is also something altogether more serious.

Beyond the convenience of assembling random ingredients between assorted breads, there has evolved a history of great sandwiches.

I have to say that, in between preparing and serving Michelin-starred food, when the time comes to eating quickly and satisfyingly, a well thought out sandwich is one of my favourites.

Some sandwiches arerelatively uncomplicated.

To create the BLT (bacon, lettuce, tomato) you need do no more than set out what it says on the tin. Once you know that the bread must be lightly toasted plain white, the bacon smoked, the lettuce iceberg, the tomato beef and the mayo Hellmann’s, then even the most hopeless can’t go wrong.

It’s identical in every cafe and lunchtime sandwich shop across the land, an ideal that should never be messed with.

The BLT’s cousin, on the other hand, the Club Sandwich, is like flatpack furniture instructions – a guideline framework for experimentation.

Thrown in some table service and a bit of flair – some kitchens will merely add chicken to a BLT – and hey presto... a basic Club.

But lace it with sliced hard boiled egg, three layers of home-made sourdough and a lemon mayo whipped up by the chef himself and then you’re really talking. The BLT is an absolute but the Club really allows you to show off!

Some sandwiches – American, of course – are all about scale.

The sandwiches at Katz’s or the Carnegie Deli in New York contain over a pound of assorted charcuterie and constitute about a year’s worth of calories. The Philly Cheese Steak is a combination of cheap industrial cheese, cheap industrial steak, onions and a roll that strains to hold it all in.

The French, by contrast, completely fail to understand the sandwich at all. In spite of producing some of the world’s most excellent bread, a request for ‘un sandwich’ will produce a single slice of cheese or ham in a piece of dry baguette

Finally we have the destination sandwich, a construction that food lovers will travel miles to enjoy. For the grand tourist there is the Lampredotto, a roll containing boiled tripe which, in the Mercato Centrale in Florence, is considered by many to be the best sandwich in the world.

In our own country, London’s food markets have been leading the way for some time.

Maltby Street Market: Ropewalk is home to O’Shea’s Butchers where it’s all about the best organic and free range meat produce in the UK. Then there’s also Arepa Stall at Camden Market and, of course, Tsuru Sushi where, if you get the chance, do try the legendary katsu which is a breaded and deep fried chicken thigh sandwich with hot sauce.

Could I select a favourite? Yes, but it’s none of the above.

For me, sandwich heaven has to be pulled pork and peri peri sauce. This is not an Earl of Sandwich, grab-it-and-eat kind of sandwich for the ingredients demand time and care. That said, once the fillings are made, putting the sandwich together from the fridge can be done in less than 60 seconds!

PERI PERI PULLED PORK SANDWICH

For the Peri Peri Marinade (this can be made a day in advance and refrigerated for up to three days)

125ml Tomato ketchup

100ml Fruit chutney

15ml Worcestershire sauce

35ml Soy sauce

125g Onion diced

5 Chopped garlic cloves

50ml Olive oil

75ml Red wine

40ml Cola

15g BBQ spice

15g Cracked black pepper

30g Maldon salt

30g Chopped thyme

10g Paprika

3 Chopped chillies (optional)

Pulled Pork Ingredients

2kg Shoulder of pork on the bone, skin removed (ask your butcher to butterfly this for you)

100g Peri Peri marinade

Maldon salt to taste

Reduction

300ml Cola

300ml Orange juice

40g Demerara sugar

75g Peri Peri Marinade

Preparation

Marinate the boned and butterflied pork shoulder for four hours in the Peri Peri marinade.

Reduce the cola and orange by 50% and put to one side

Once the marinade session is complete, place in a deep baking tray and season liberally with Maldon salt.

Place in a pre-heated oven (80 degrees C) for 16 hours (ideally overnight) uncovered. Turn at least once.

Raise the temperature to 100 degrees C and cook for a further 60 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and increase the temperature to 180 degrees C. Drain the liquid from the tray into the reduction and mix thoroughly. Pour liberally over the cooked pork and return to the tray. Cover with foil and return to the oven. Cook for 45 minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and leave the shoulder to rest in the juices for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the cooked shoulder on a drip tray.

While it’s cooling, use the two-fork method to shred or pull the cooked meat, as you would for a rillette. Remove any gristle and excess fat (leave some fat in for the reheating). Then put to one side and allow to cool. Store in a fridge, covered – this will keep for a further 4 days.

Remove excess fat from the reduction mixture and separate both. Reserve both for later use. Store in the fridge.

To serve

When reheating the pulled pork, put some fat in the pan and add approximately 150g (cooked weight) of it. Fry quickly and add some reduction to moisten.

Serve in any bread – a bap or, my favourite, a brioche – with home-made coleslaw and gherkin.

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