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
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own