Ham sandwiches were the first things I ever made when I began to learn to
cook at the age of eight. Even more exciting, was the thought of eating
them right there and then, as an added extra to my school meals.
Sandwiches, with their breaded carbohydrate outer, if filled correctly
with a combination of cooked meat, fish, quorn, egg, salad, chopped fruit, chopped
herbs and a tasty dressing, provide a balanced meal all by themselves. You
can be as straightforward or as creative as you like with those fillings,
flavours and textures. What’s more, you’re going to need very little,
if any, expensive equipment to prepare these nutritious tasty treats. The
advice I give here on making sandwiches can be applied just as easily to slicing,
spreading and filling other bread products. All the helpful suggestions
and preparation techniques can be altered to suit your own needs.
Choosing and Buying the Right Equipment
The beauty of preparing the humble but very important sandwich is that little
expensive or complex gadgetry is required.
if you prefer to eat unsliced bread you’re going to need something to slice
it with, this could be a large serrated bread knife either used on its own
or if you have little or no sight, in combination with a bread cutting board
where an adjustable bar is set to indicate the thickness of each slice. The
board is non-slip so stands safely on your kitchen work surface. This
product is available from the RNIB’s Online Shop. Please contact
them for more details.
The RNIB online shop is at https://rnib.org.uk/shop.
Visit good cookware shops to investigate their full range of products,
but please be very careful when examining knives or any sharp manual or electric
food slicers. Most knives on display in shops have protective plastic
sleeves over their blades, however, it might be necessary to ask someone with
sight to help you who can not only give informed and comprehensive advice in
describing knives and slicers to you, but insure that you don’t accidentally
touch anything sharp.
All large, long sharp knives should be safely stored inside an enclosed freestanding
or wall mounted knife block where all blades, when slotted into it, are completely
covered and protected so that they can never be touched accidentally.
Buy your knife block straight away at the same time as your knives to
ensure that it is large enough for your needs.
If you’re planning to slice your own bread, please buy a sturdy, good quality
serrated bread knife. If you ask for one by name the blade will be long
enough to cope with slicing a large loaf. The handle will be the right
length to sit in the palm of your hand so you can extend your fingers along
it to grip it safely and securely without any chance of them coming into contact
with the blade. It would be helpful if the knife handle was slightly shaped,
patterned or textured to make it easily recognisable, so that, whenever it is
taken from the knife block, you know, straight away, which side of the
handle relates to the sharp edge of the blade. Alternatively the handle
can be marked tactually or visually with either a bump on sticky
dot, adhesive tape, a small dot of contrast coloured glue or anything
suitable to indicate the edge relating to its sharp serrations. A bread knife needs to have lots of close serrations to cut through
a loaf evenly.
Buy a small kitchen knife which isn’t serrated, to prepare your sandwich
fillings, to slice or chop meat, vegetables and salads. Select
one with a blade that’s no more than three to 4 inches in length, this will
ensure that the blade is long enough to chop and slice those smaller ingredients
without being heavy to hold or feeling unwieldy to use. Once again,
as with the bread knife, try to find one with an easily recognizable handle,
that’s shaped or has room to be marked in line with the sharp cutting edge of
the blade. This small kitchen knife should also have a pointed end to
the blade for easier slicing and chopping. A pair of kitchen scissors
with large, easy to grip plastic handles can be used to snip salad leaves and
herbs. (Please see my other pages for helpful hints and tips on preparing fruit
To help spread your bread evenly with butter, fillings and toppings,
I’m sure you’d like to purchase a small, yet indispensable butter knife.
I wouldn’t be without mine so just to make sure I don’t lose it, I have
several. If, for any reason, I can’t find one when I go to my cutlery
drawer I have a mild panic, that’s how practical and useful I find it.
recognise it immediately by its uniquely-shaped handle. It
is wedged which sits comfortably in the palm of my hand, making
it easy to grip and stable to use. The thinner side of the handle
has a cut out or notch in it, in line with the slightly thinner sharpened
edge of the blade, used to cut through sandwiches after they’re made. The
wider edge of the handle is in line with the thickest, blunt edge of the blade.
As soon as I pick up the knife I know immediately, exactly which way the
blade is facing. The blade is chunky, straight and wide, the tip is rounded
so that if kept flat when spreading, it glides over the surface easily without
digging into or making holes in the bread. The butter knife is available
or, alternatively, from their cook shops in many city centres
across the UK. Lakeland sell numerous other small kitchen
knives, kitchen cutters , food slicers and lots more useful things to
help you with food preparation.
While visiting good cookware shops, examine the various electric and manual
food slicers on sale. Please bare in mind that although initially some
manual types may appear useable with adjustable slice settings, protective finger
guards, food pushers, and a handle to turn to operate and control the slicers,
many have a circular serrated blade which is very sharp indeed. Please
select carefully if you feel this type of bread cutter or slicer is suitable
The same safety precautions apply if you should choose an electric food slicer.
An electric carving knife may be a good alternative to a bread knife if you
have dexterity problems. When resting the knife on the loaf in the correct
position to cut a slice, the depression of a trigger or button vibrates and
rapidly jiggles the knife, which moves down and cuts through the loaf, with
very little pressure applied. Please keep your fingers well out of the
way when using this product. Also bear in mind that an electric carving
knife, although cordless, has to be recharged regularly from an electric
Buy a selection of small covered plastic bowls, these will be invaluable
both for mixing up sandwich fillings and storing them in the fridge prior too
sandwich making. Any fillings left over afterwards can then be stored
in the fridge ready to use on another occasion. Check
that lids fit snugly. Try taking them on and off several times discarding
any that are fiddly or awkward to use.
You may like to buy a selection of variously sized plastic, airtight storage
boxes or containers to store meat, cheese, salads etc. in the fridge rather
than leaving them in plastic bags, once opened.
Buy a box or perforated roll of small sandwich or freezer bags, both for
storing sandwiches in the fridge after they’re made, and to slide over opened
packs of meat and cheese products before storing them in the fridge to use later.
A perforated roll of Clingfilm or plastic wrap may be useful for
keeping smaller items fresh and refrigerated too.
Buy airtight plastic storage boxes or lunch boxes to store fillings and sandwiches
Look at a selection of food and herb mills, small kitchen slicers, particularly
for egg and tomato, invaluable for cutting through them quickly and evenly,
making them an ideal shape and thickness for sandwich making.
Sue’s Kitchen – Choosing your Bread
Next, select your bread from the huge variety available at your local shop
or supermarket, either choose a ready sliced loaf from the general bred
section, or you could pick up an unsliced loaf at the “in-store” bakery counter
where it can be sliced for you before you purchase it. Using sliced bread
may be more convenient and could speed up sandwich making, but don’t be dissuaded
from slicing an uncut loaf yourself if this is your preference. There
are loaves specifically recommended for making sandwiches, having a uniform
square or oblong shape, but if I were to give any advice at all, it would
be that the bread you buy to make sandwich making easy at first, shouldn’t be
a strange shape as this will make slicing or sandwich making fiddly. Don’t buy
bread that’s sliced too thinly or be the kind specified to make toast. The
former is more difficult to spread and may not hold a filling without going
soggy and falling apart and the latter tends to have a doughy texture
with little flavour. Nutritionally there is very little difference between
breads, although wholemeal or multi-grain loaves have a better fibre content,
are full of flavour and more satisfying to eat. If you have a
wheat allergy, gluten-free breads are also on sale.
There is a huge selection of other bread products to try including bread
rolls of all shapes and sizes, continental breads, those with World wide notoriety
and so many more. When you’re confident and practised in sandwich making,
Why not be a little adventurous and try a naan bread, French stick, or a flavoured
or seeded loaf.
Many breads freeze well if frozen on day of purchase,
but remember to allow those baked in-store to cool completely first to prevent
any mould build up in the wrapping. You may find it helpful to divide
a sliced loaf into what you may need each day, placing the bread into clean
plastic bags then tying the top of each one securely with a plastic tie or knot.
The bags can then be stacked inside another larger plastic bag in the
shape of the original loaf with the top of that bag also knotted or tied to
prevent the bread falling out. This will not only keep it together but
also save on freezer space. Most bread products can be frozen for several
weeks without any deterioration in quality, but smaller bread rolls baps or
cobs tend to dry out, feeling hard when defrosted if stored in the freezer
for too long.
Choosing your Butter, Margarine or Spread – Should you buy low-fat, a dairy-free Soya based product, a spread
with added omega 3, an olive oil healthy alternative, or simply buy full fat
dairy rich butter. There are salted or unsalted, saturated or poly unsaturated
and so many more. The choice is yours! If I were you I’d just try
a few then choose the one with the right flavour, texture and softness. Most
are sold in various sizes and come in re-sealable plastic tubs or containers.
Most dairy spreads, butters and margarines are formulated to be soft enough
to spread straight from the fridge. They should always be kept sealed
and refrigerated when not in use. It will be necessary to remove some
harder butters from the fridge half an hour before they are needed so they soften
slightly but always keep them at room temperature then seal and refrigerate
immediately after use. Many products have a long shelf life for convenient
storage in your fridge.
Whichever spread you choose, remember that fat, particularly the saturated
kind found mostly in butter, is bad for us if eaten in large quantities.
Only a little spread is needed to moisten the bread providing a seal to
protect it from moisture in the filling as well as adding flavour to your sandwich.
Of course, if you don’t like butter, spread or margarine, there is no
need to use it at all.
Selecting your Sandwich Fillings
Finally you have the task of selecting your fillings. Your local
supermarket will stock a good selection of cooked, ready sliced pre-packed meats
and meat-free alternatives. Why not buy a cooked chicken which cannot
only be used for making sandwiches but for your main meal too! You
can choose from a wide selection of chilled sandwich fillers, ready prepared
in small tubs. Cheese comes ready sliced or grated as well as in sealed
packs with low-fat alternatives, or there is always plain or flavoured cottage
cheese. Tinned fish, the oily kind which is so good for us, like sardines,
pilchards and mackerel can be drained, chopped and blended with sauces and dressings.
Don’t forget to buy a selection of either ready washed salad
leaves or something to add texture and crunch like carrot, celery and cucumber.
Fresh tomatoes add moisture and flavour. Ready grown
fresh herb leaves snipped from chives, basil or mint add interest. Buy
a salad dressing, salad cream or flavoured mayonnaise in a convenient plastic
flip top squeezy bottle making them easy to store and dispense. There
really is no end to the choice of sandwich fillings on offer.
Making your Sandwiches
Before you Start.
First of all make sure you have a cleared clean area of worktop, counter,
surface protector or breadboard on which to slice, lay out and spread
your bread. You’ll also need another clear work surface close at hand
to prepare and set out your sandwich fillings.
It might be helpful to prepare and refrigerate your fillings for later use
or convenience, before you slice or spread your bread, particularly if you’re
going to slice a loaf yourself. Preparing some fillings is likely
to take some time.
Remember, if your sliced, unspread bread is left uncovered for any
length of time, it may tend to dry out.
Make sure that your hands are clean.
Slicing your Bread – Cutting a straight slice of bread can be quite difficult for anyone, but
if you have little or no sight, and have never handled a carving knife before,
its very important to use it safely. Allow yourself plenty of time, work
carefully and methodically. If you have any doubts or worries at
all, just buy your bread ready sliced. It is possible to slice
a loaf if you use a safe technique but it will be very much a case of trial
and error to cut the right thickness to begin with. Using the RNIB’s
bread cutting board which enables the thickness of slice to be selected and
helps keep the knife straight as you cut down through the loaf should give a
fair degree of success. Many people find that an electric
carving knife needing very little pressure to operate cuts a fairly straight
slice. With great care and practice it is also possible to use a food
slicer with serrated blade and finger guard protection.
Adopting a Safe Slicing Technique
Unwrap your uniformly shaped loaf and examine it carefully. You’ll
probably find that it has a slightly curved top crust, making it a bit lower
at both ends and higher in the centre, this is due to the natural rising process
during cooking. Put your loaf on a clean, clear bread board or worktop,
crust uppermost so that its length is running across from right
to left in front of you. Take your bread knife from the knife
rack by its handle and lay it down on the board or surface nearest to
the end of the loaf where you prefer to start slicing from, depending on whether
you’re right or left handed. Keep the handle facing you. Examine
the shape of your loaf thoroughly. You’re going to cut the first slice
from that end of the loaf. Trace the approximate thickness of a slice
on the top crust with the fingers of the hand which won’t be using the knife.
Now, keeping them flat on the top of the loaf just after where you
think the correct thickness of slice should be, pick up the knife by its handle
with your other hand, keeping the serrated edge facing down towards the
worktop or breadboard and your fingers on the top edge of the handle. Slide
the knife up and over the top of the end of the loaf nearest to where you’re
going to cut the slice. Gently slide the serrated edge of the knife along
toward where your fingers are marking the correct thickness of slice, and when
the side of the blade of the knife touches the side of your fingers, move that
hand out of the way and rest the serrations in that spot, in other words, the
edge of the knife replaces your fingers so its resting in the correct place
to cut that slice. Move your free hand to the other end of
the loaf furthest from the knife and hold it firmly to prevent it moving or
sliding around. You won’t be in any danger of cutting your
fingers if you follow this safe technique. Don’t ever cut a slice
with both hands close together, if either the bread or the knife should slip,
there is a real danger of sustaining a cut finger or hand or cutting a jagged,
uneven, uneatable slice.
With your free hand and the knife in their correct safe positions, grip the
handle of the knife firmly, keeping your thumb on the underside of the handle
well away from the blade and all fingers curled over the top of the handle at
all times, never be tempted to use your fingers to feel or check where the knife
blade is while you’re slicing, or to feel how thick the slice of bread you’re
cutting is until the loaf has been completely cut through. Now, begin
to slice with a sawing action, by moving or pushing the knife back and forth
across the top of the bread, pushing the knife away from you and then
pulling it back toward you, applying a gentle even downward pressure.
At the same time, apply just enough pressure to the loaf with the hand
that’s on the furthest end of the bread, to prevent it from moving or sliding
around. You’ll hear the knife cut through the crust then into the bread as it
works its way down through the loaf. Eventually the sound will change
as it touches the board that the loaf is resting on. The knife will feel
lighter and move more freely as the last lower crust separates the slice you’ve
cut from the loaf. The slice will probably fall or drop to one side. Lay
the knife down, with the handle toward you and the blade facing away.
Move the cut slice onto a clean plate or a clear clean worktop
ready to spread later. Carry on slicing using the same safe technique
as before, taking care never to cut a slice of bread with your hands positioned
close together or with your fingers anywhere near the knife blade. Please
be especially aware that a knife can slip very easily and very quickly without
warning. The closer your hands are to the blade the more chance there
is of sustaining an injury. Never slice the last piece from a loaf with
both hands too close together.
Spreading your Sliced Bread
Put your stack of sliced bread on a plate or clear clean work surface, push
it toward the back well away from the edge, you don’t want it to get in
the way when you’re spreading or filling your sandwiches but it does need to
be easy to locate and be within easy reach. Remove your butter or chosen
spread from the fridge, I’m going to call it butter here so as not to cause
any confusion with the description of spreading bread. take
off the lid and discard any protective foil or greaseproof paper covering, put
the lid in a safe place so you can find it easily later. Put the tub of
butter on the worktop in front of the sliced bread. Fetch your butter
knife or spreading knife from the drawer and lay it next to the opened tub.
Lift off one slice of bread and place it flat on your clean surface nearest
to you so that the knife and tub of butter are next to it. Pick up the
spreading knife, hold it so the handle’s resting comfortably in the palm
of your hand. Find the top edge of the tub of butter with your other hand.
Rest your fingers lightly on the surface of the butter, bring the tip
of your knife up to rest along side your fingers, then gently dip the tip of
the blade into the butter then push or lever the knife up and lift it out. In
other words, dip the tip of the knife gently into the top surface and as you
push the end of the blade up and drop the knife handle down you should lift
out and have a small amount of butter on the top surface of the end of the knife
Gently touch the butter on the end of the knife to feel
how much there is. If there seems to be too much, just push a little back
into the tub with a finger. You’ll soon become familiar of the correct amount
needed to lightly coat or cover one strip or section of your slice of bread.
You don’t need too much at once, its easier to add a little more
Next, holding the knife firmly by the handle and keeping the blade
flat, locate the top edge of your bread then turn the knife over, laying it
butter side down, flat across the top edge of the slice. Keeping
the blade flat, apply a gentle even pressure, gradually sliding the
knife down toward you so that it glides over the bread. As you do
this, the butter will stick to the bread and because you’re keeping the knife
blade flat it will spread out evenly. You can let the fingers of
your free hand guide and trace the knife’s progress as it moves down over
the bread toward you. When the knife reaches the bottom edge of the bread,
lift it up and take it back up to the top of the slice where the butter
knife began its progress, and feel how much butter is on the bread. Use
your fingers to feel if its too thick or uneven. If the butter
does feel a bit too thick or unevenly spread, just take the fingers of your
free hand and the knife up to the top of the bread, and, keeping the
blade flat, let it follow your fingers down to the bottom of the slice with the
knife applying a gentle, even pressure. If the bread is still
a bit dry in places, lift a little more spread from the tub, keep the
fingers of your free hand on the area which needs a bit more spread then lay
the knife blade, butter side down, flat on the bread and gently press and slide
it toward you again to even out the butter.
Now, once you’re happy that that section or strip of bread is coated evenly,
give the slice a quarter turn on your bread board or worktop and, after having
lifted out another small amount of butter from the tub, laying the
knife horizontally across the top of the bread, butter side down, as before,
repeat the spreading technique again, keeping the blade flat, using the knife
and your fingers to detect and spread out any unevenness.
Give the bread another quarter turn, then spread it again. Now if you
give the slice yet another quarter turn, you’ll be back where you started from
and the whole of the slice should be lightly, evenly, coated with butter.
As with any new or unfamiliar task, spreading may take a little practice.
Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to help detect uneven spread and track
the knife’s progress.
Carry on spreading each slice in the same way, remembering not to stack the
buttered slices directly on top of each other, but to fan them out so that they
don’t stick together. Put your butter knife in a convenient place so that
its easy to find later.
Filling your Sandwiches
Now that you have a light coating of butter on your sliced bread, you’re
ready to add the sandwich fillings which you have prepared and put on one side
or taken from the fridge.
Lift one slice of buttered bread from the stack or pile, lay it flat on a
clear area of bread board, worktop or surface protector buttered side up. Let’s
say your simply going to make a meat or sliced cheese sandwich, unwrap or unseal
it, this is where a good pair of scissors or cutters will be useful, lift
off the top slice being careful to check for any interleaving of plastic or
greaseproof sheets sometimes included to prevent it from sticking together or
any outer rind found on some products.
Lay one or two slices on top of the bread, matching its shape, removing or folding in any overlapping
edges. Pick up another buttered slice from the pile, feel which
way round your filled slice is facing and turning this piece of bread to match
its shape, place it gently on top of the filling, pressing down quite firmly
to make sure that the sandwich stays together. Pick up your butter knife,
and holding it with the handle toward you and the blade facing away, keeping
the Sharpe edge facing down, use your free hand to find the centre
of the top edge of your sandwich. slide the side of the knife blade
up to where your fingers are resting, replacing them with the knife. Still
holding the handle toward you, gently tip the handle up, applying pressure so
that the end of the blade cuts through the top edge of the crust. Tilt
the handle down until its level again then press the blade through the
bread, drawing the handle toward you. You will hear when the knife has
cut through the sandwich as it touches the board or worktop and the two halves
separate. Don’t worry if it isn’t sliced equally, your sandwich will taste
just as good whatever shape it turns out to be.
Transfer it onto a clean plate. You will be able to cut a sandwich through easily once you’ve mastered
the sometimes difficult tasks of judging the central point, cutting through
the crusts and keeping the knife blade positioned correctly.
Sue’s Kitchen – Helpful Hints and Tips
When chopping fillings for sandwiches, use a small kitchen knife and
plate or board to prepare them.
Snip herb leaves and washed salad leaves with scissors or break them
up with your fingers, so much easier than chopping them with a knife.
When mixing chopped or diced ingredients for your sandwiches, transfer
everything into a small bowl and use a fork to combine them. This
method is particularly helpful to mix dressings or flavourings into things
like Chopped boiled egg, chopped meat, tinned fish, or diced mixed salad.
Use a spoon to scoop the fillings on to the sandwich.
If you’re adding pickle, jam or any other preserve to your sandwiches,
use a teaspoon instead of the end of the blade of a knife, to scoop it out
of the jar onto the sandwich, then use a knife to evenly spread it over.
Buy plastic squeezy bottles of salad cream, tomato sauce and other salad
dressings to make adding them to sandwiches easy. Hold the bottle
in one hand while the other locates the open sandwich. Now, lift the
flip top on the bottle, turn it upside down with the nozzle over the centre
of the filling, and squeeze the bottle gently. Use the fingers of
your other hand to monitor the amount coming out, move the nozzle
over the filling to make sure it comes out evenly. Cover with
another slice of bread and cut the sandwich in half as usual.
Spoon the right amount from tubs of ready prepared sandwich fillers
on to the bread, then even out with your butter knife.
Pour a small amount of salad dressing into a cup or small jug, then
blend them into, or toss in a bowl with, chopped or shredded mixed salad
Mix and shake salad dressings in a screw-top jar before adding
to sandwich fillings.
Bags of ready washed salads can be found in most supermarkets
and should be stored in the fridge.
Manufacturers use by or best before dates should be followed. Always check recommended use by or best before dates on your perishable
Remember to pack lunch boxes with nutritious, healthy items, balancing
protein packed meat, vegetarian alternative, fish, cheese, egg, with
vitamin rich, chopped mixed salads and vegetables. Instead of adding
those things to your lunch box which taste wonderful but aren’t particularly
good for us, like chocolate, biscuits and cake, put in a small handful of
natural, unroasted unsalted nuts, an item of fruit, many of which can be
bought ready peeled and sliced. I would never advocate unless its
for health or dietary reasons, a complete ban on sweet things, but although
they taste so good, they simply don’t give us the slow release fuel to keep
us warm and help to stave off hunger pangs like a well thought out balanced
selection. If you can, limit the crisps, biscuits, chocolate feel
good factor to once a week! Try to avoid sugar rich soft drinks,
not only are they calorie filled and bad for our health, but are harmful
to teeth and gums. Natural fruit juice is far better. Another
good alternative is a dairy dessert or low fat yoghurt.
The more healthy the food, the less excess weight you’ll gain. You
can eat much larger quantities of healthy food without putting on weight,
than you can those calorie packed alternatives, however good they taste
or make you feel.
Don’t forget that there is a huge range of low fat or sugar free foods
to replace high fat varieties. Diabetic foods are available too.
Be careful not to over fill your sandwiches, the more content you add
the more awkward it will be, to cut them through without some filling
falling out. It will also be difficult to pick them up and keep them
in one piece after they’re made when you try to eat them.
If you’re not going to eat your sandwiches straight away, put them into
a plastic bag or Clingfilm wrap and then into the fridge for later. Alternatively,
if sandwiches are made earlier in the day ready for lunch in late morning
or early afternoon, they should be wrapped and stored in a sealed airtight
plastic box and kept as cool as possible. Special cool gel packs can
be purchased for lunch boxes etc.
Never eat sandwiches that have been left at room temperature for too
long, or if they have been near, or subjected to any heat source. Bugs
which cause food poisoning can soon multiply resulting in tummy upsets if
these sandwiches are eaten.