I’ve eaten a lot of salt beef sandwiches in my life: fat heavy numbers from Baker Street cafes that I could barely get my sizeable jaw around, midnight bagels in taxis passing through Brick Lane, New York food trucks, and supermarket pretenders that didn’t quite hit the spot but were better than not having one at all.
I set about trying to create a vegan version that would be just as delicious in its own right, while staying as faithful as possible to the original. This took a few tries; I marinated in beer, in powdered mushroom stock, in dark hoppy ales and Bisto granules, before I decided to just let the flavours speak for themselves and stop trying to imitate the actual beef. The result is crisp but tender, dry enough but with a juicy bite and a tangy, salty, peppery familiarity, something that’s equally at home in a toasted white bagel as a hunk of dark, sweet rye bread.
- 400g tin of jackfruit in brine – I like Summer Pride
- 1 cooked small red beetroot
- 1 tsp vinegar – any clear kind
- 1 tsp each of salt and black pepper
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp light cooking oil, plus extra for frying
- 1 tsp finely chopped dill pickle
- 1 tsp finely chopped onion
- 2 tbsp vegan mayo
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tsp horseradish, if available, or English mustard
- A dash of hot sauce
- 2 bagels, sliced, or 4 slices rye bread
- Dill pickles, thinly sliced
- 2 slices smoked vegan ‘cheese’
First drain your jackfruit through a fine-mesh sieve. Squeeze the excess liquid using your hands to push it against the sieve, until the fruit feels fairly dry, then pop it into a large mixing bowl.
Finely grate the beetroot over the top. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper, paprika and oil. Break up the jackfruit with a fork or spoon into tiny shreds so the marinade soaks right in. Leave for an hour in the fridge.
Meanwhile, make your dressing. Place the dill pickle in a small bowl with the onion. Add the Vegan Mayo, ketchup, horseradish or mustard and hot sauce, and stir well to combine. Put it in the fridge until required.
When the jackfruit is well marinated, tip it into a large non-stick frying pan. I prefer to do mine in a wok, but that’s because I like the space to shove it all around a bit. A normal frying pan will do just fine. Add a splash of oil and cook on a high heat for a few minutes until it starts to sizzle, then reduce to a medium heat and cook for 15–20 minutes more, stirring occasionally to disturb it. You want the jackfruit to be slightly crisp at some of its edges, with a dry-but-juicy texture to imitate the salt beef.
Toast your bread – whether a bagel or rye bread – lightly on both sides. Now you need to move quickly. Smother the base layer with your jackfruit. Pile it high. Add sauerkraut, pickles and ‘cheese’. Top with dressing. Pop the other slice on top. Halve it if you please – I prefer not to. Devour, over a plate, to catch all that will inevitably plop out the other side as soon as you take a bite. If it’s not leaking, it’s not full enough. There is no gracious way to eat this, you just have to get on with it! And enjoy.
From Vegan(ish) by Jack Monroe, published by Pan Macmillan, £16.99