Having just come back from the US of A, where I ate rather more toasted/grilled/fried sandwiches than was probably good for me, it seemed kismet to find this book on my desk.
Few people can surely honestly say they don’t like a ‘toastie’. It’s the combination of the golden-brown and crunchy bread and the oozing unctuous cheese that does it. And it’s especially good if you’ve come home slightly the worse for wear from the pub. Even if you have trouble putting your front door key into the lock, it’s not impossible to work the grill once you do stumble inside.
I do miss the old eye-level gas grills on ovens though, the modern oven that requires you to hold your head upside down to monitor proceedings is tricky enough sober, but when you’re squiffy it makes all the blood rush to your brain in a way that brings on dizzy spells.
Anyway, this book takes the toasted sandwich seriously as a gourmet treat and kicks off with a page that puts the world to rights re basics. Butter the outside before toasting, it gets things golden and one-day old sliced bread performs better than fresh, for example. Now of course in an ideal world we’d all have the kind of toaster that comes with a cage that you can lower your toasty into the heat with. You know the ones, but they are a bit expensive.
There are also the ones that shut like a press and tightly seal the edges for you, I find these produce rather greasy toasties and what's more ones with an interior temperature somewhere close to that of the sun’s core.
The opening pages debate the merits of various cooking methods and then go on to talk about cheese types and their melt points, choice of butters (herbed and flavoured) and salad and slaws, which don’t just add health elements as you might expect but just like salt and pickles contribute to the overall taste experience.
So, the recipes. Well there are the classics, with of course Ham & Cheese cooked in a frying pan for maximum tastiness, and more exotic treats such as pork meatballs, pickled fennel and walnut pesto.
Frankfurter, Gruyere and sauerkraut filing sounds rather remarkable and spiced Stilton, cheddar and kimchi sounds rather explosive frankly. On the other hand, a macaroni cheese stuffed toasty just sounds either very wrong or very right, depending on the individual’s taste and overall sense of decency.
There are sweet toasties too - the classic peanut butter & banana and the less well-known apple & cinnamon with toasted pecans plus, and get this, custard! The hardback cover is rather sweet itself, die-cut to reveal the toastie behind and the book while packed with ideas is small enough to sit on a shelf nice and near the toaster. You’ll be reaching out for it on lots of occasions.
An antidote to fine dining, a solution to the munchies and a treat at any time. All hail the toastie.
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