Does your sandwich taste like Christmas?

We have reached that time of the year again, when the weather has changed and brought with it some early dark evenings. Late workouts now require some extra layers and high vis accessories, but in early December, it still feels like I am in the lull before the storm. But perhaps I am in denial as there are definitely the tell-tale signs of the upcoming holiday festivities around me. Already, the Christmas tv adverts are on repeat and the annual lighting of the Christmas streetlight displays has taken place. The shops are also filled with the most organised consumers determined to have ordered, bought and wrapped everything before the rest of us even think about it. Many others are hitting the shops while strategically settling in at home, posed and ready to strike online. As the the Black Friday sales stretch into Black Friday weeks, Cyber Mondays, festive Tuesdays and ‘FINAL’ sales, I will eventually have to face the fact that Christmas is coming. In the meantime, before I completely surrender myself to the organisational chaos and frenzy of planning Christmas parties, shopping and of course, cooking, there is a more pressing matter at hand. The battle of the Christmas sandwiches 2017 has commenced and every supermarket has launched their version of holiday spirit between two slices.

It’s game-on again as each supermarket returns this year to try and tempt us with their sumptuous creations of the ultimate Christmas sandwich. The sandwich stakes are high as each is heavily promoted alongside the rest of their Holiday foods and drinks they hope we purchase between bites. It is widely accepted that the gold standard of Christmas sandwiches is based on roast turkey, as it continues its reign at the top of the popularlity charts as the main star and focal point of Christmas dinner. However, over the years, supermarkets have increasingly hedged their bets and diversified by creating more Christmas varieties using different roasts including vegetarian and vegan options. Even so, the range of Christmas sandwiches on offer by different supermarkets is, in general, still very much the same. This adherence to traditional Chrsitmas sandwich fillings means that there is not much scope for supermarkets to stand out from the competition. However, doing so can also backfire…

Who could forget the 2015 Sandwichgate, when Tesco thought that had come up with a lunchtime winner with a chocolate and cherry monstrosity that they tried to pass it off as a sandwich? The decadently thick layer of chocolate and cherry filling with mascarpone cheese made an incredibly stodgy filling that could barely be contained between the slices of cinnamon bread and had no business being there. The flavours just didn’t work and even the hungriest office workers and students found it too rich to eat more than a couple of bites. Not even being part of a meal deal could shift it. As word spread among the sandwich eating masses, they took to social media to share their outrage. Luckily, the lesson of what can happen when a Christmas sandwich goes rogue must have stuck because the retail offerings in 2016 returned to much more tradional fare.

But a lot can change in a year and in 2017, some of the supermarkets have pushed sandwich boundaries again. I had heard the rumours that some of this year’s Christmas turkey sandwiches were unrecognisable and some supermarkets had created what can only be described as turkey sandwich imposters. Even worse, some of the Christmas turkey sandwiches had been lumped together with others that were decidedly unfestive. Taking matters into my own hands, I had to investigate.

With less than a month until Christmas, time was of the essence. I thought it would be wise to concentrate on the legendary Christmas turkey sandwich but also keep a lookout for any rogue sandwiches lurking on the shelves. Now when it comes to Christmas turkey sandwiches, everybody has their own way of making one at home and the question of the ‘right’ way to do it can cause a lot of controversy. Which seems odd because the sandwich is entirely dependent on the variety and availability of leftovers from Christmas dinner. Needlesstosay, the contents of the said, Christmas dinner, varies enormously. Therefore, I am not about to start an argument for and against the addition of chipolatas, mashed potatoes, gravy or Brussel sprouts to a turkey sandwich filling. However, I think it is reasonable to say that as a bare minimum, one would expect a supermarket bought Christmas turkey sandwich to contain 3 essential ingredients, mainly some turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiched together between 2 slices of bread. With that in mind, I sought out the Christmas turkey sandwiches 3 of leading supermarkets to see if they were sticking to tradition or trying to shake things up this year.

Starting with Marks & Spencer, it’s no surprise that this long-established store has once again brought back its bestseller, the Turkey Feast sandwich. This traditional sandwich contains everything that you would want and expect to find in something made from your Christmas dinner, all wrapped up in festive colours. The sandwich ingredients of turkey breast, canberry sauce, herby stuffing, mayonnaise and crispy bacon are simple and the soft malted brown bread holds it all together like a warm hug. And with 5% of the sandwich proceeds going to the homeless charity, Shelter, this is a sandwich with a heart.

However, sitting right next to the Turkey Feast in another jolly box was another offering from their Christmas sandwhch range which seemed particularly unfestive. It was M&S’s Lobster & Prawn Thermidor with Brandy, sandwiched in a brioche roll. A brioche roll?! Used in a sandwich?! Is that even legal?? On closer inspection, I found that the rogue sandwhich was also part of the Help Shelter campaign. Admittedly, the filling itself does not sound unappetising but I ask you, is it Christmassy? I think not.

Next, I went to Sainsbury’s to see if they had stuck to tradition or gone off piste with thier Christmas sarnies. At first inspection, I breathed a sign of relief as it looked like they had played it safely this year with their own Turkey Feast sandwich. Like Marks & Spencer’s, it ticked all the boxes of a traditional Christmas sandwich, containing turkey breast, pork and chestnut stuffing, maple cured smoked bacon, cranberry and port sauce and mayonnaise on malted bread. However, there was also a decent amount of spinach in it which looks like it was added as an afterthought or maybe just to fill it out. Although the spinach does not add anything especially Christmassy to the filling, I think the Turkey Feast gets away with it. In the end, the Turkey Feast is a dependable sandwich that doesn’t rock the boat too much. Alas, it was joined on the shelf by two new Christmas turkey varieties and it was clear that Sainsbury’s had entered new sandwich territory.

First up was the Christmas Lunch Wrap. A flour tortilla wraps around a filling of turkey, stuffing and a little cranberry sauce but it is also stuffed heavily with sausage and bacon. The Wrap also contains spinach which only helps to dilute any festiveness created from the Christmas filling. In effect, the Wrap does not seem anything like a Chrstimas turkey sandwich should be. It only looks like an ordinary wrap made for a boring lunch, thwarting any holiday spirit. Bizarrely, this disappointing Christmas sandwich is an absolute antithesis to Sainsbury’s second turkey sandwich creation. It is fair to say that they tried to supersize the Christmas cheer in their new sandwich which has been christened, The Snow Globe.

The Snow Globe is unlike anything seen before in the chilled sandwich section of any supermarket. The turkey sandwich is packaged just like a snow globe, in a domed case, and from a distance it looks like it contains something more burger-like. However, on closer examination, the label reveals that it is actually Christmas dinner in a brioche bun. Brioche, again! However, this is not some ordinary brioche but is a brioche topped with edible stars which can be shaken around the packaging like a real snow globe. I had to assume that the sandwich was meant to be shaken far more gently than most children shook an actual snow globe. In any case, the star-covered brioche is filled with the traditional ingredients of turkey, stuffing and cranberry. Now if they had stopped there, they may have kept within the boundaries of Christmas turkey sandwiches. However, Sainsbury’s could not resist adding bacon, more spinach and a Brussel sprout ‘slaw’, thus moving the sandwich further away from tasting like Christmas dinner and only emphasising the presence of the brioche. In effect, the Snow Globe may look sparkly and festive but it’s not really a Christmas turkey sandwich.

Lastly, I thought it would be worth returning to Tesco to see what Christmas sandwich creations they had come up with this year. Tesco continues to have one of the largest ranges of Christmas sandwiches on offer including a Turkey & Trimmings sandwich, Finest Turkey Feast sandwich and a Healthy Living Turkey & Trimmings sandwich. They all resemble traditional Christmas turkey sandwiches and contain similar basic ingredients. They differ mainly in the quantity and quality of ingredients and for instance, the Healthy Living sandwich is considerably sparser and uses spinach as a filler to cut the calories. This makes the Healthy Living sandwich less like eating Christmas dinner and more like the beginning of a New Year’s resolution. Tesco has also come up with one more turkey version, the Turkey & Trimmings wrap. Like Sainsbury’s wrap, Tesco’s gets all the ticks for containing turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. However, the wrap goes all wrong with the addition of shredded lettuce, and only reminds you that it is nothing like Christmas dinner. Like many people, I enjoy eating wraps but it has to be said that it is just not Christmas turkey sandwich making material. Trying to pull off a wrap as Christmas dinner is just sad.

I was relieved to find that this year, there was no evidence of Tesco producing another chocolate and cherry concoction. However, as I scanned for the rogue I came across another Christmas sandwich that stucks out among the rest. Amongst Tesco’s vegetarian range, Tesco’s Finest Bubble & Squeak Fritter with Spiced Red Cabbage Roll caught my attention. It goes without saying that no one would expect a vegetarian Christmas dinner sandwich to contain traditional turkey accompaniments and this sandwich is no different. The sandwich’s carrot and flour roll is filled with breaded potato and cabbage fritters, onion and sage stuffing, cooked red cabbage spiced with cinnamon and star anise, held together with vegan mayonnaise. It sounded like a pretty straightforward albeit different vegetarian sandwich, but the spiced cabbage helps to give the sandwich a Christmassy flavour. However, this vegetarian sandwich comes with a slightly questionable accompaniment: a sachet of coconut bacon flavoured flakes to sprinkle inside the filling, to add some crunch. For a vegetarian sandwich to use bacon flavouring, even if it is strictly vegan, just seems wrong. I cannot help thinking that a vegetarianism (and veganism) is not just for Christmas…

So there we have it, a small sample of what sandwiches are out there waiting for you to munch on while you work on your Christmas preparations before the big day arrives. I am sure that I may partake in the odd store bought turkey sandwich or two but if I’m honest, what I am really looking forward to is making my own. Because only I can make the ultimate Christmas turkey sandwich (although my husband will argue that he does). We may have different techniques, using the same leftovers but one thing is for certain. The best Christmas turkey sandwich will never be made with a wrap!

But now on to the recipe…Without the Christmas turkey leftovers, it would be impossible to recreate the best turkey sandwich. But with all my criticism of wraps stuffed with spinach disguised as Christmas turkey sandwiches, I thought the least I could do was come up with something that would use them up. This recipe for Speedy seedy tortillas is perfect for dipping into the Spinach hummus and Spinach & ricotta baked dip. They are all very tasty and so were quickly devoured by my family. They would work very well as a last minute addition to any holiday entertaining you have coming up but they are so effortless to prepare, you don’t need to wait for an excuse to make them.

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