Spice up your sandwich

Cold weather provides a good excuse to rethink the sandwich, that most versatile of meals. At this time of year, I like to serve them hot, stacked with ingredients to suit the season. Try roast vegetables, any cured meat, cheese or slow-roasted pork. To top it all off, add your choice of pickles and chutneys, aioli and mayonnaise.

Below are four of my favourite recipes at the moment. The mushroom burger is inspired by a similarly delicious dish at Melbourne's Market Lane cafe. The chicken souvlaki is a classic combination of juicy chicken with garlicky yoghurt sauce whipped with feta on soft, home-made pita. Or try my indulgent steak sandwich with thinly sliced steak and caramelised onions on toasty sourdough. Oh, and for good measure, a side serve of crunchy, spicy onion rings. Tuck in.

Quick steak sandwich

Use rump steak if you prefer, add mushrooms, or even a fried egg.

600g eye fillet steak
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 red onions, thinly sliced
8 thick slices sourdough bread
150g baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper
Good-quality chutney or relish

Thinly slice steak into eight pieces. Set aside. Heat oil in a pan and cook onion until softened. Lower heat and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until onion starts to colour and get crunchy around the edges.

Brush sourdough with a little oil and cook on a hot grill plate for a few minutes either side, or toast the bread. Wilt spinach for a few minutes in a small non-stick pan. Cook steak in a very hot pan with a little oil for about 30 seconds either side. Season with salt and pepper and set aside, keeping warm. Pile wilted spinach on a slice of toast, top with two slices of steak and lashings of onions. Dollop with good-quality chutney and top with a second slice of toast.

Serves 4 

Fried onion rings

1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp Tabasco sauce
2 large brown onions, peeled and cut into 1cm-thick rings
1 cup plain flour
Vegetable oil, for frying

In a bowl, mix paprika, cayenne and onion powder. Set aside half the spice mix. Combine other half with buttermilk and Tabasco. Add onion rings and press to coat. Marinate for one hour. Heat a deep fryer to 180C. Combine flour with remaining spice mix. Dredge onions in seasoned flour, coating evenly. Shake off excess flour and dip back into buttermilk mixture. Recoat with spiced flour. Fry until golden brown, turning to cook evenly, about three minutes each batch. Drain on paper towel. Serve hot.

Mushroom burgers with haloumi

125g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp finely chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, basil, oregano)
1 anchovy fillet (optional)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1 lemon
4 large Portobello mushrooms
Sea salt and black pepper
1 cup good-quality mayonnaise
1 tbsp chipotle in adobo sauce*
4 slices haloumi
Plain flour for dusting
Fennel pickles to serve**
4 large crunchy burger buns, toasted on cut sides

Mix butter with herbs, anchovy, garlic, curry powder and a squeeze of lemon juice to make a spreadable consistency. Heat a grill pan or barbecue until hot, brush mushrooms with herb butter, season and grill for five minutes on each side, or until well cooked. Brush liberally with herb butter while cooking. Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise with chipotle sauce and set aside. Dust haloumi with flour, cook on grill on both sides until golden and place on top of mushroom. Squeeze over some lemon juice and dollop with spicy mayonnaise. Add pickles and serve on toasted buns immediately.

Serves 4

*Chipotle in adobo are spicy Mexican-style chillis sold in tins at selected supermarkets and specialty stores.

** Fennel pickles are sold at selected food stores, or substitute any pickles.

Tip Leftover herb butter can be kept refrigerated or frozen until next time.

Chicken souvlaki

Skip making the pitas if you are short on time but trust me, once you've made them, you won't look back.

Pita

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp castor sugar
450g plain flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing

Chicken

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
500g boneless chicken thighs

Tzatziki sauce

1/2 cup plain Greek-style yoghurt
125g Greek-style feta cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Lebanese cucumber, seeded, coarsely grated and drained

For pita, mix water, yeast and sugar in a bowl and leave in a warm spot for 20 minutes until mixture foams. In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix flour and salt. Add olive oil and yeast mix and combine; mix until dough is smooth. Turn out on to a lightly floured bench, knead a few times then shape into a ball. Replace in bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for about 15 to 20 minutes.

To marinate chicken, combine lemon juice, oregano, oil, salt, garlic and chicken in a shallow bowl. Cover with cling wrap and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

For tzatziki sauce, put yoghurt and feta in a bowl and blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Add lemon juice, garlic and blitz again to mix. Add cucumber and stir through. Season with salt and pepper if required.

Preheat barbecue or grill plate to medium heat. Divide dough into 12 pieces and roll out into flat, thin discs about 16 centimetres across. Brush with olive oil and place on grill. Gently brush a little oil on top. Cook for 20 seconds or until bread puffs up, then turn over and cook for 20 seconds. Do not cook for too long or they will dry out and become crisp. When cooked, stack them on top of each other and wrap tightly in a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Remove chicken from bowl; discard marinade. Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. Cook chicken for eight minutes or until done, turning once. Rest on plate, then shred into bite-size pieces. Place chicken in each pita bread, top with tzatziki and serve with salad.

Serves 4-6

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    The story Spice up your sandwich first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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