Friday, 25 July 2014

Salt beef bagel

Here's the thing about bagels - I tend to think I like them more than I actually do. I've lost count of the number of times I've thought "Oh yum! Bagel!" and then got bored half way through the interminable chewing and scraped off the topping with a fork. Generally, I'd rather have something from the fluffier side of the breadroll family (as long as it isn't dusted in flour: I hate that).

But we were watching an old No Reservations episode, and Bourdain was eating bagels at a deli in New York, and it looked so good, that when I was offered some limited edition New York Bakery bagels to try, I was powerless to resist. These are a mixed seed bagel, with pumpkin, sunflower and linseeds baked in, and more seeds on top.

I didn't have time to cure my own brisket, so I bought a nice piece of organic salt beef for our sandwiches.

I split the bagels, toasted them, smeared them lavishly with hot English mustard and piled on the hot salt beef. It is, incidentally Colman's mustard's 200th anniversary, which they are celebrating with these adorably nostalgic labels. Unfortunately, the labels are only the normal paper ones, but I am hoping that they will produce some more memorabilia with that polar bear on it. The museum (you make mustard for 200 years, you get a museum) does sell a tea towel and an apron, but I'd like it on a proper mustard pot. Or one of the mustard powder tins. Anyway, since the Jewish community in London has been selling bagels for almost as long as Colman's have been making mustard, since before the influx of Polish Jews to New York even, it makes sense to me to use the very English mustard on what is usually considered a very American sandwich.
In the 20s apparently a bear with a toothache suggested mustard
The bagels were so nice that they weren't very bagelly at all...

My favourite salt beef sandwich in London is the one at the Brass Rail, in Selfridges. Lavishly filled with excellent salt beef and eye-watering quantities of mustard, the only drawback is the rye bread isn't quite sturdy enough, and ends up dissolving into wallpaper paste around your fingers. Making the sandwich on a toasted bagel does avoid that; it has the structural integrity to stand up to hot, moist meat (oh behave!) to the last bite. They did not, however, have the dense, chewy texture that I associate with bagels (another plus as far as I am concerned).

These seeded bagels had a pleasantly nutty, malty flavour that complemented the spice of the beef (this beef was quite a spicy one, it had residual little bits of coriander clinging to the edge). There was a slight sweetness to them as well, that I thought went well with the clean heat of the mustard.

I've never made bagels myself, but it is my understanding that they are usually a lean, fatless dough. Looking at the ingredient list, these bagels do have rapeseed oil in them, which is probably why they didn't go instantly stale the way other bagels seem to. In fact, they were still pleasantly fresh-tasting a couple of days later, ready to stand up to a schmear of cream cheese and quite a lot of smoked salmon, for a very good brunch.

In fact, the only thing I didn't like about these bagels were the seeds on top - the millet was impossible to chew, and most of the seeds just ended up scattered on and around the board where I prepared the sandwiches. So it turns out that I do like bagels, but only when they aren't very bagelly.


Esi said...

I'm mixed about bagels. Usually too much bread for me, but I can get on board with this sandwich.

The Cat's Mother said...

Great sandwich. I wonder if the polar bear was wearing a mustard plaster? Imagine some sort of hot pack on a painful tooth. I like the black dog jar of course.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Esi - I know exactly what you mean!

Mother - I am sure it is a mustard plaster. Such an odd thing to use as a USP, to modern eyes! The black dog jar is very cute too.

grace said...

i like the flavor those seeds give sometimes, and the contrast in texture can be nice, but they're so messy and always end up stuck in my teeth!


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