Warm Pastrami on Rye

, from Issue #54. September, 2015
Photography by Aaron McLean.
Warm Pastrami on Rye

Purists use only slices of meat, mustard and bread in this traditional deli sandwich, but other fillings can be added.


1 recipe pastrami, thinly sliced
crusty rye bread, sliced
butter, at room temperature
American ballpark mustard
thin slices Swiss, Havarti or Gruyère cheese

To serve
Fennel coleslaw
Dill pickles
Good quality potato chips

1.5 kilogram piece corned beef

Spice rub
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon caraway seeds

Fennel and Horseradish Coleslaw
3 cups finely shredded white cabbage
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely sliced with fronds reserved

¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup thick plain yoghurt
1–2 tablespoons horseradish
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Spread each slice of bread with butter and mustard. Layer with several slices of pastrami and a slice of cheese. Cut on the diagonal and skewer with toothpicks. 


This is a simple version of pastrami that is easily made by the home cook. I haven’t smoked the piece of meat, just coated it in the spice mix and left it to cure for 24 hours before steaming until meltingly tender.

Spice rub: Place all the ingredients in a spice mill and grind until finely ground. You can also use a mortar and pestle, but finely grind each spice individually and then combine.

Put the corned beef on a large plate and cover the entire surface of the meat with the spice rub, pressing it on to adhere. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

To cook: Fit a steam basket to a large stockpot and fill with water to about 4cm below the level of the steam basket. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Place a piece of baking paper just slightly larger than the meat in the base of the basket and place the meat on top, trying not to dislodge the spice mixture. Cover and keep the water at a constant simmer, but not rolling boil. Cook for about 3 hours, topping up the water if necessary, until the meat is very tender when pierced with a thin skewer. Leave the meat to rest in the steamer for 1 hour before slicing. 

Fennel and Horseradish Coleslaw

Dressing: Whisk the sour cream until smooth then stir in the remaining ingredients.

Put the cabbage and fennel in a large bowl and toss with enough dressing to just coat, but not so much that the salad is drenched.