Cooking with Johnnie Collins: The Perfect Sandwich

“So how was your lunch?” I can’t remember the last time someone was so seriously interested if his culinary creation had met my taste. We ran into each other a few more times and full-heartedly debated things like the sense and nonsense of green juice. Johnnie Collins had moved to Berlin in Fall 2014 to cook at “The Store Kitchen”, together with his friend Tommy Tannock, who founded the popular street food market “Bite Club”. The concept of “The Store”  is a project by the owners of the Vinyl Factory and under the creative direction of Alex Eagle. It quickly became clear to me: Johnnie’s doing everything right. He’s making his passion his job. In a small series of videos, he offers a peek into his world, starting with The Sandwich Series.

“I grew up in the countryside where I was fortunate to enjoy the benefits of home cooked meals, home grown vegetables and an open house where guests always came to enjoy delicious breakfasts, lunches and suppers. The first time I cooked for myself was when making a sandwich – and I still have a deep love for these. My brothers and I used to spend hours making sandwiches – often a competition to see who had made the best one with Mum the judge if we couldn’t agree. I can still spend a good 45 minutes to make a sandwich, plus more prep time which will often include – pickling vegetables, marinating meat, dressing salads, picking fresh herbs and more. This was when I first begun to love food – how different flavors work together, how important of texture is in food and, most of all, the importance of where the ingredients come from and how they are made.

Since the sandwich days I have cooked more and more at home, university and elsewhere for friends and family, and more recently at supper clubs, pop-ups and private dinners. My food takes influence from the numerous places I have visited, from chefs I admire and my more recent studies at the College of Naturopathic Medicine. All this has combined to produce the style of food I cook today. It is simple, unprocessed and natural, enhanced by an abundance of herbs and spices and places as much emphasis on flavor as it does on the origin of produce. It is a direct result of my childhood in the countryside growing up with my Mum’s cooking, which I believe gave me a natural intuition for flavors and seasoning, and the numerous experiences cooking with and for friends that taught me that a little bit of extra love, care and effort can produce amazing results.

Below is the first recipe and film for a mini series I have begun for the lovely girls behind this website. It felt appropriate to start with a sandwich as that is where it all begun.

A Spring Sandwich on Spelt Bread

The homemade bread used in this open sandwich is very easy to make and is wheat free. Spelt is an ancient whole grain that has a strong nutritional profile and although it contains gluten, this breaks down easier than in wheat. I add linseed and Brazil nuts to give additional nutty flavor and increase the nutrition profile. Rosemary and celtic sea salt bring it all together. It is very simple to make and best left to cool before serving, then sliced and toasted.

The smoked trout is high in essential fatty acids and combined with the seasonal blood orange, fennel, fresh herbs and horseradish gives a classic but beautiful flavor combination. The citrus cuts through the smokiness perfectly, and although it may seem like a lot of steps for a sandwich you will not only have a delicious loaf of homemade bread to enjoy you will also have the ingredients to create a wonderful spring salad when combined with a few leaves of oak leaf or lamb’s lettuce it works very well as a salad too.

For the bread:

  • 750g spelt flour, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted (plus extra for greasing bread tin)
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 9g, dry active yeast
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 100g whole linseeds / flax seeds
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary, stems removed with half roughly chopped and the rest leaves in tact
  • Handful of brazil nuts, roughly chopped, plus extra for the top
  • Large pinch Celtic sea salt plus extra for the top
  1. Add honey into a small bowl with 2 cups of hot water and whisk to combine. Add the yeast and linseeds and whisk again before leaving to stand until yeast makes the mixture frothy and linseeds are well soaked
  2. Combine flour, salt, finely chopped rosemary and brazil nuts in a large mixing bowl
  3. Mix eggs, coconut oil and vinegar in a separate bowl
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the egg and oil, mixing well – using your hands to rub out and lumps
  5. Make another well, add the water and yeast. You want the mixture to be slightly wet but smooth and for there to be no visible flour.
  6. Grease a clean bowl with coconut oil and add the mixture – cover it with a tea towel and set aside for half an hour. After an hour you should see some bubbles from the yeast and the mixture will have proved a little (although not as much as a usual loaf)
  7. Grease a bread tin with coconut oil, turn the mixture into the tin, add the remaining chopped nuts and rosemary to the top, leave to sit for 20 minutes then put in a preheated to 180 degrees C oven for 45 – 60 mins or until the top is golden.
  8. Turn out onto a rack, tap the bottom to hear that all important hollow sound that shows it is done, and eave to cool before slicing. Amazing toasted with a drop of oil

For the sandwich:

  • 200g of filleted local smoked trout
  • a few bits of shaved fennel
  • 2 blood orange segments, skin and pith removed
  • 50g greek yoghurt
  • 3 sprigs of parsley
  • 3 sprigs of tarragon or marjoram
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Freshly grated horseradish
  • Celtic salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Slice and grill or toast the bread until it is golden on both sides
  2. Whilst the toast is grilling make the horseradish yoghurt – mix the grated horseradish with the lemon juice, oil and fresh herbs (stems removed). The amounts will probably make more than you need for one sandwich
  3. Dress the golden toast with a little oil then a little of the yoghurt
  4. Add the flaked trout, being the generous and keeping the chunks large. You can overlap these to begin to create some height
  5. Lay the shaved fennel in and around the trout
  6. Cut the blood orange segments into 3 and arrange tucked in amongst the trout and fennel
  7. Add a few drips of the horseradish yoghurt, season with salt and pepper and serve
Johnnie Collins

Growing up in the English countryside, Johnnie Collins learnt the value of using seasonal, home grown or locally sourced produce from his mother. He begun cooking and entertaining for his friends and has since created, managed and cooked at numerous pop-ups, supper clubs and restaurants in London and beyond. He studied at the College of Naturopathic Nutrition and moved to Berlin in October 2014 to cook in The Store Kitchen.