When I get asked what my favourite food is, my instinctive answer is ‘sandwiches’. My favourite time of the year? Christmas. And for one happy month, these two glorious institutions collide to create ‘The Christmas Sandwich’.
I absolutely love a Christmas sandwich – a trait that didn’t go unnoticed in the Which? office last year when, every day, colleagues would ask me for a gastronomic low-down on my lunch. Now, in 2015, it’s gone to a new level.
My Christmas sandwich taste test*
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise, given Which?’s product testing reputation, that this year my colleagues have asked me to rate the Christmas sandwiches available in our local area.
First, I need to be clear about what constitutes a Christmas sandwich. This is controversial in itself, but for me it must contain three key ingredients: turkey, stuffing, and cranberry jelly. I’m fine with people adding other ingredients, except cheese, ever. Ham, bacon, mayo, even green leaves all appear in different versions – but if it doesn’t contain the 3 key main elements, it’s not on my list.
The prize turkey
Let’s start with the most disappointing effort. Bottom of my table by some distance is Sainsbury’s Turkey Feast. I didn’t like it last year, and I don’t think there’s been any improvement in 2015. A sandwich the Grinch would be proud of.
Next up, perhaps surprisingly, is a poor showing from M&S, mainly due to a gritty stuffing that wouldn’t have been out of place on Scrooge’s menu. WH Smith, a new entrant on my tasting list this year, was equally forgettable, but that could well be down to the fact that I wolfed it down late one night on the train home.
Then, among the decidedly delicious showings are, in escalating order of tastiness, sandwiches from Boots, the Co-op, and Tesco. The latter defied all expectations, so much so that I admit I’ve been back on more than one occasion.
What about the independent cafe?
I should pause here to say that I’ve not forgotten about our local sandwich shop. Handmade fresh to order, in a giant ciabatta, this was a Christmas sandwich worthy of a slot on Man v Food. Four rashers of bacon! Three stuffing balls! And more meat than your average roast dinner. Sadly, food won – it was the only festive sandwich I couldn’t finish, and to be brutally honest, it wasn’t really very nice.
So who gets top spot? Last year, EAT raised the bar with a humdinger of a Festive Full Works bloomer. I’ve loved it again this year, but to my surprise, given how much I dislike their effort last year, the 2015 crown goes to Pret’s impressive Christmas Lunch, with its crispy onion and crunchy stuffing just tipping the balance in its favour.
I’m not sure I’ll be getting any offers to judge the next series of Masterchef, but in the meantime I’d be interested to know what foods you most look forward to at this time of year – and who makes the best.
*This is not an official Which? taste test.