The origins of this sandwich are mysterious ...
Some maintain that it was José García, owner of a Havana bar nicknamed 'Sloppy Joes's' due to his ropa vieja sandwich which became known as a "sloppy joe". Others maintain it originated in Sioux City by a chef named Joe who made "loose meat sandwiches".
You can read all about it here: An Ode to Sloppy Joe
Variations exist, but it is essentially a ground meat sauce in a burger bun.
We can keep it paleo ...
First, the meat sauce, which is simply onions, minced beef, garlic, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, thyme, perhaps some carrot. I used leftover Chilli Con Carne but will most definitely make this more traditionally in future.
For folks culturally foreign to this American delicacy, think of it as all the ingredients you'd use to make a burger, but then don't make a burger ... make a sloppy burger.
Next, the burger bun, for which we'll use a couple of portobello mushrooms. This is not substitution, this is supplanting the bun for something much more fun, nutritious and actually more tasty ... by far.
Get your griddle hot and place the mushrooms on their tops with the darker underside exposed. As they warm through, the juice therein will sweat out. When there's a good amount of juice collected, flip over carefully so as to capture all the juices under the mushroom and press down with a slice to boil all that flavour back into the mushroom, while evaporating the steam.
You'll be left with mushrooms which are not soggy, but fully retained in flavour.
How better to accompany this feast than with a condiment and a side?
The condiment, tomato ketchup ...
Easy to make - take some tomato puree and flavour with a gastrique of cider vinegar and honey, some salt and a touch of arrowroot in lemon juice. Ensure that the ingredients are thoroughly combined in a blender.
Honey? Honey is more than sweetener - natural and loaded with complex medicinal effects ranging from immunity boosters to anti-cancer and anti-microbial properties. It passes the hunger/gatherer principle. The honey I used is local (very local, like a mile or so away) from Denholme Gate Apiary.
Arrowroot? It's just a starchy thickener. Don't fret.
Don't like the idea of either? Don't put them in. Fancy Stevia instead? Well, it's a banned food in Europe, so out of my recipe, but feel free. I don't know enough about Stevia, having never tried it, but think that a chemically extracted powder is not really within the spirit of paleo.
You could buy a primal-friendly ketchup - Tiptree brand is pretty good, organic and hand-produced. Actually, Heinz now make an organic version of their ketchup which uses tomatoes grown free from pesticides and contains no MSG or HFCS! It's a strong step in the right direction, Heinz!
The side, primal slaw ...
Shred come white cabbage, grate some carrot, slice from red onion, glob of soured cream, spritz of sherry or cider vinegar, pinch of salt, stir, done!
Serve out onto a clean plate, first mushroom down, meat filling on top falling out for artistic effect, good glob of ketchup, good helping of grated cheddar cheese, second mushroom on top and a helping of slaw alongside.
Naturally, feel free to use much less meat than pictured and eat this conventionally, picked up with all that good stuff oozing out and falling back onto the plate!
Messy food is good food ...