Thursday, March 8, 2012

Braesola, Rocket and Olive Sandwich


Once upon a time I worked in the city. I absolutely hated it, so as a consolation prize I bought lunch every day. Usually I had sushi, but other times I ate Mexican wraps, interesting sandwiches, teriyaki chicken skewers, lavish salads, or even that most guilty of pleasures, hot chips.

Then I had babies, and stayed home. When they were little, I found myself preparing and packing away and sweeping up after six eating sessions a day (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, pre-dinner vegies and dinner); and so I rarely bothered to make lunch particularly interesting. I think of these as the cheese and avocado sandwich years – absolutely delicious, but seven days a week for five or six years was probably about enough.

These days, however, my kids are older and I have more energy for lunch. Some days I eat leftover rice warmed with homemade chicken stock and piled high with fresh coriander; other days, some sort of lentil soup which I have made earlier then frozen in convenient portions; and yet other days, big salads dotted with felafel and drizzled in tahini and lemon. I still enjoy a really good sandwich: a bit of bread slathered in avocado and topped with cold chicken left from a roast; thin toast, salted butter and a sliver of ham; a soft roll filled with chévre and sun dried tomatoes; or even now, my historical favourite, cheese and avocado on rye.

Top of the list, however, is braesola, rocket and olives.

Braesola (aka bresaola) is an Italian meat. More precisely, it is aged air dried beef, very delicately spiced with rosemary and juniper. Braesola is very lean and has a slightly sweet flavour, which is a magnificent foil for metallic salty olives and spicy rocket. So while I feel rather silly posting a sandwich formula – hardly a recipe – this is so easy and delicious that I simply must.

You can buy imported braesola at good delis; however I have also seen an Australian braesola made from kangaroo. If you don't mind eating Skippy, it's not bad at all.

The Best Sandwich in the World (Braesola, Rocket and Olives)

- 3 slices of braesola
- a ridiculously large handful of rocket (enough to obscure the bread and much of the plate; think of this sandwich as a gussied up green salad barely contained by a bit of carbohydrate)
- 4 or 5 kalamata olives, pressed to remove the pit and torn in half
- 2 slices of bread, or a crusty roll

If you are using a crusty roll, open it up and tear out much of the soft bread inside. Gobble it up.

Now, this is not your mother's sandwich of a single flaccid slice of pressed chicken which you found in your lunchbox every day in primary school. Think New York deli sandwiches stacked two inches high with shaved meats and realise that three slices of braesola is a mere taste, just a whiff, of the good stuff.

So now layer the braesola three slices thick. Dot it with the olive halves. Load up the sandwich with a silly amount of rocket – don't worry, you're eating this at home and when rocket falls all over your plate you can pick it up and shove it in your mouth – then push down the top.

Hold it all together, open the mouth wide wide wider and crunch!

(Back garden: rocket. Victoria: bread. Oh the shame: Greek olives, Italian braesola. Is there an Australian producer that makes firm olives???)