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

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine