On The Menu: Gourmet toasties - creative food that we can all afford to eat


The days I spent off school with a cold always started the same way when I was a child – with a loud thud. That was the sound of the ancient toastie maker coming to rest on the kitchen surface, after having been removed by my father from its perch on top of the kitchen cupboards.

God know how many years of service this machine had given us. It still retained some sheen on its chrome surface, but its innards were black as pitch and it weighed about three-quarters of a ton.

What make it was escapes me now, but whatever it was it was the buy of the century. It churned out the most wonderful toasties, crushing the white bread against its hot jaws, charring it, and melting the cheese and heating the ham within. It was exactly the sort of thing you needed on a day when you'd brought the duvet down to the sofa, being warming, comforting, and, more importantly, uncomplicated.

What to make of the blooming trend for "gourmet toasties", then? When Cinnamon Soho announced that it currently has a summer toastie menu, I was surprised. It seemed a little, well, silly to be trying to turn the essence of comfort food into something more highfalutin. The descriptions didn't help much, either. There was the Bombay Burner (£7.75) – "dubbed as the world's hottest toastie and featuring a Scotch Bonnet-level of spice; the Kadhai Spiced Crab (£6, pictured above) – crab, tomatoes, and tamarind; and a Keema Gotala (£6), which involved lamb mince and a scrambled egg.

At first, after reading it, I was tempted to cringe. But after looking a little harder, I found that the toastie is having what fashion types call a moment. In Bristol, the Pickle Food truck takes care of all your toastie needs; Manchester has toastie-purveying Volta; and elsewhere in the capital, at Deeney's, you can get a Macbeth Haggis toastie.

As fun as it all sounds, it also raises a question: is this simply a daft metropolitan pretention? "Foodie-ism" taken to absurd lengths? Perhaps you are sitting there thinking, "yes, to all of the above," but, on balance, I find myself disagreeing. Like the "gourmet toast" trend, which garnered much sniggering – and perhaps fair enough with sourdough toast at £6 a go – I think this is actually the sign of a healthy, sensible gastro-culture.

Why? Because by concentrating on the simple and inexpensive, and ladling the same care and creativity on them as we would on the scallops and crispy ducks of this world, we are giving the lie to the notion that true culinary innovation is only found on the starry peaks of the restaurant landscape.

Gourmet toasties may seem a bit daft, but they are something everyone can afford to eat – and that is the sort of culinary recasting no one should complain about.

Now, if you need me, I will be at my parents' house, heaving down that toastie machine.

Bastille Day

The French National day on 14 July has always had a special place in my heart – and my stomach – as it happens to be my birthday. This year I intend to celebrate in the best way I can think of: by eating as many of Pierre Herme's fruity new Veloutes macarons as I can. £1.90 a macaron, pierreherme.com

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album