Friday, June 14, 2013

Mum's little salmon sandwiches

What a week! It started with the launch of The Colour of Food and has been hectic ever since. Lois Daish launched it and Mary Varnham published it. I'm wearing the apron my friend Camille sent me, made of recycled tablecloths.
For the launch I made (with invaluable help from friends) retro food from the 1950s, the sort of thing my mother would make for family parties. Ham sandwiches, Snax biscuits with vintage cheddar and pieces of pickled pear (in Mum's day it would have been chutney but I thought there should be a nod to today's goodies too), and Mum's fudge cake (made by the lovely Sarah from Awa Press). And two large plates of Mum's little salmon sandwiches. Several people have asked me for the recipe, so here goes.
        Only it isn't exactly a recipe. The first time my sister and I made these was for the gathering following Mum's funeral in June 2001, almost exactly twelve years ago. We had to marshall our collective memories to work out how she made them. We mixed, tasted and mixed again until we thought we'd got exactly the right balance of salmon and vinegar.

This recipe makes around 80 small sandwiches.
First, you need two loaves of the thinnest sandwich-sliced bread you can find. I used light wheatmeal - I think Mum did sometimes use this too, though she usually used white bread.

Then you need butter or butter-like spread. The classic is butter mixed with a little hot water, but you can also use one of the butter/oil spreads if you prefer.

And of course, tinned pink salmon. No such thing as smoked salmon in the 1950s!
For the launch I used three of the largest (415gm) tins.

Open the tins, drain the salmon and put it in a large bowl.
Add vinegar. Now this is the tricky part.

In my mother's day the only vinegar commonly available was DYC malt vinegar. But this time I thought I could improve on that a little. I didn't want to use balsamic - it's too strong for the salmon. Instead I used Delmaine's red wine  vinegar, with a splash of DYC malt vinegar for authenticity, and also a good squeeze (half a lemon) of lemon juice and a pinch or two of salt (taste it carefully when adding this)..
         But I can't tell you exactly how much of the red wine vinegar to use, because I didn't measure it. I just kept adding it in small splashes and mixing it thoroughly into the salmon, and after a few splashes, added the DYC and the lemon juice, then a little more red wine vinegar until it tasted right. I added the salt at the end, tasting again..
         My sister and I were surprised how much vinegar it took to get the right flavour. It has to be distinctly sharp and vinegary, but not so much as to completely overwhelm the salmon or make it too wet to use as sandwich filling. You need a damp but still firm salmon mixture that you can spread thickly and reasonably smoothly on the buttered bread. Just try it yourself and see how you go. You might like less vinegar than my sister and I do (only then they won't be Mum's sandwiches).

It pays to set up an assembly line! Take two pieces of bread at a time from the packet, open them and spread them with butter. Put them lightly together and pile them up in pairs.
Open each pair and spread one reasonably thickly with the salmon, then close them firmly. Cut the crusts off.
Cut each large sandwich into four, either in triangles or in little squares. (Mum usually made triangles but I opted for squares this time, keeping the triangles for the ham and mustard ones. A sandwich plastic cutter guide like the ones they use in choose-your-own-sandwich places helps, but I didn't have one.)
Arrange them neatly on two large plates and cover them with a damp teatowel until required. (We had finished making them about an hour ahead of time - you don't want to leave them much longer than that.)

Very basic, very retro - and everyone loved them.

                                            Here's my little mother with my son in 1987.


Mairi @ Toast said...

Congratulations on the book launch! I am looking forward to reading it :) These sandwiches sound perfect...just like my Gran used to make them! said...

Hello Anne - Just finished reading 'The Colour of Food' and loved it! I loved all the wonderful food experimenting you did (including the failures) - your passion shines through for food and life. It reminded me of the first time I made moussaka (living in Manchester doing my OE) and I'd never seen an eggplant, or a red chilli before - so somehow at the market, I purchased large red chillies and proceeded to build a layer of mince, a layer of chillies and the cheese sauce - ending up with an inedible lunch (my friend and I tried gallantly to eat it...)

AnneE said...

Just the kinds of responses I'd hoped for - each adding your recollections of your own food history. Thank you!

rhaselgrove said...

Thought you might like this. As a child we had salmon sandwiches for very special treats and when family came for tea. I loved salmon sandwiches and they were the only sandwiches that I would eat on white bread. I was ( still am) very fussy with my food.

We used to go to my Aunts and there had salmon sandwiches on white bread. I used to say they tasted different but my mum would tell me it was because it didn't have vinegar in them. YEARS later I realised that these sandwiches were in fact TuNA ( which was vastly cheaper).

Now? Love salmon and tuna sandwiches on wholemeal.

AnneE said...

A great comment, thank you! I tend to use the little cans of flavoured tuna to make sandwiches - it makes up for the blander taste.