Pyjama picnics: Late-night snackers reveal their favourite nocturnal feasts

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Fergus Henderson's Sardines on Toast in Bed

This sensory midnight feast was taught to me by a wise old chef: sardines on toast eaten in bed in the dark. My earliest memory of late-night eating is of working my way through a sack of pistachio nuts late into the night as the parents jollied away. Now I would enjoy sitting on a rock in the Hebrides with Margot, my wife, eating Fruit and Nut, drinking malt whisky and being blown about by the wind. Also, it's strange how appealing mini bars of Toblerone can become between the hours of 12 midnight and 3am.

Ingredients

a few slices of brown bread
butter as desired
tin of sardines
half a lemon

Method

Toast your brown bread, butter liberally and then squidge the tinned sardines onto your bread with a fork. Add a healthy squeeze of lemon, turn the light off and get into bed and eat.

Serves 1

Samantha Clark's Chorizo with Sherry

My memories of eating late at night begin with summer holidays in France when I was young. Nowadays any late-night moments are spent with my husband Samuel in our garden, listening to Damien Rice. We had several midnight feasts at my school. My children also love the idea of a midnight feast – but always sleep through till the morning.

Ingredients

200g chorizo, suitable for cooking
olive oil
75ml fino sherry

Method

Cut the chorizo into little bite-sized pieces. Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a few drops of olive oil. You don't need much, as the chorizo will release its own oil.

When the pan begins to smoke, add the chorizo and fry, turning quickly when one side is coloured.

When both sides are crispy, add the sherry, watch out for the hissing, and leave for a few seconds to burn off the alcohol. Transfer to a dish and enjoy immediately.

You can grill this chorizo just as easily, but omit the sherry.

Serves 2

Mark Hix's Welsh Rabbit Crumpets

My grandmother used to leave out a tin of Dorset knob biscuits and a big lump of blue vinney cheese. I'd normally been out to the local club and the crumbs were everywhere the next day.

Nowadays, I normally crash out when I get home, although we often invite friends spontaneously and get through several bottles of wine or partida tequila, and snacks from

the fridge (like my home-smoked salmon or cured meats). I have a bad music collection, so we normally end up with Santana. Another reason for eating late would be night-fishing for sea trout with a headlamp – that normally gets a bit of an appetite going!

I'm not one for messing with the classics, but I do love toasted crumpets with this cheese topping. I've burrowed into the rabbit versus rarebit debate before, and I'm sticking to rabbit, the term used as far back as Hannah Glasse's day in the 18th century. She gives recipes for Scotch Rabbit, two for English Rabbit and one for Welch, yes Welch, rabbit. Whatever you call your poshed-up cheese on toast – or crumpets – it's delicious, and you can spice it up as much as you like.

Ingredients

8 crumpets, toasted
250g Caerphilly or
Cheddar cheese, grated
2 egg yolks
3 teaspoons Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon English mustard
40ml double cream
salt and pepper

Method

Mix the cheese, egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and double cream together, and season. Toast the crumpets on both sides, spread the cheese mixture on top, about 1cm thick, and to the edges to avoid burning, and grill on a medium heat until nicely browned.

Serves 4

Prue Leith's Muscovado Heaven

At boarding schools all over Africa, the midnight feast was tinned sardines with sweetened condensed milk. Could there be anything more disgusting? Yet we ate it, with relish. But here's a recipe that would be easy to assemble on a dormitory floor.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons condensed milk or custard
1 tablespoon dark muscovado sugar

Method

Tip two inches of plain yoghurt into each person's tooth-mug. Add an inch of double cream or custard and mix. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of dark muscovado sugar. Put the mugs aside while you eat everything else. By the time you get to the pud, the sugar will be half treacly sauce and half delicious crunch. (p.s. only dark muscovado gives the right flavour!)

Serves 1

Sophie Conran's Late-Night Salad

When I was a child, we had amazing eggs from our own chickens, as well as milk that I would collect in a pail from a local farm. Midnight feasts generally involved fried eggs and bacon on toast, and hot chocolate. My friend Gemma would come and stay the night and we would sneak downstairs together. I lived in a large house and it was a long way from the bedroom to the kitchen.

We would make hot chocolate using Cadbury's cocoa powder with heated milk, whipped cream and fresh chocolate grated on top – our idea of heaven. Hot chocolate and a fry-up make an amazing midnight feast, but nowadays I tend to have a midnight feast due to working late and forgetting to eat. My last midnight feast was a rather tasty salad, thrown together from the bits and bobs in the fridge.

Ingredients

large handful of herby salad
drizzle of home-made mayonnaise
1 smoked mackerel fillet, cut into chunks
various veg (eg parsnip, sweet potato and acorn squash, roasted in olive oil and a teaspoon of garam masala)
a sprinkling of fresh chopped tarragon and a grind of black pepper

Method

Mix ingredients together in a bowl.

Wash down with chamomile tea.

Serves 1

Daisy de Villeneuve's Plum Conserve

My favourite late-night food is taken from a Sesame Street cookbook that I had when I was little, and I continue to enjoy eating it. The recipe is yoghurt, crushed-up digestives, honey and banana. I like to eat it in exotic locations, maybe on the beach with a boyfriend or a very good friend, listening to something Seventies. When I was about eight on the Brownie Pack Holiday we had a midnight feast and it was very exciting, even though I don't remember what we ate. But my chosen recipe dates back to a time when I was about three years old. I used to help my mother pick plums from the orchard next door to where we lived in Kent. She'd then make jam.

Ingredients

peeled rind of 2 oranges and 1 lemon, finely chopped
juice and pulp of 3 oranges and 1 lemon
550g finely chopped raisins
1.8kg sugar
2.5kg plums, pitted and chopped
4 peaches, pitted and chopped
225g chopped walnuts

Method

Cook on a low setting of your hob until thick, stirring frequently. Add chopped walnuts. Simmer another 10 minutes until set. Pour into clean, warm glass jars with metal lids. Store in a cool, dry place. Makes about 20 jars. Serve on warm toast with melted butter, straight out of the oven. Perfect with a cup of tea.

Sir Arnold Wesker's Potato Pat

When I think about midnight feasts it's with a new girlfriend to the sound of Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain. Bach, though, reminds me most of midnight, because of midnight mass. My memory of eating midnight feasts takes me back to camp in the Wye Valley, aged about 14. Everyone would have brought something with them from home, and come midnight we'd share what we had, spreading everything out in the middle of the tent and picnicking on a blanket: hardboiled eggs, matzos, bridge rolls, cheese, salami, fruit cake and bars of chocolate.

Ingredients

2 medium-sized potatoes
1 medium-sized onion
2 cloves of garlic
225g of mozzarella cheese
50g butter
olive oil

Method

Dice the potatoes, slice the onion and the cloves of garlic. Boil the diced potatoes. Meanwhile lightly fry the onion and garlic in olive oil. Strain the potatoes, and return them to saucepan. Gently fold the fried onion and garlic into potatoes. Don't make a mash of them, let the potatoes remain a little solid. Fry the mozzarella until it's soft. Fold into the mix of potato, onion and garlic. Season to taste. Take it out of saucepan and, when cool enough, pat it into two circles, like thick pancakes. Fry the two pats in butter until each side is brown and crisp. Serve on its own or as a vegetable with roast lamb or grilled steak. You may need to fry the pats separately, in which case, you might need extra butter.

Serves 1

Gillian Anderson's Peanut Butter & Banana

Here's a midnight snack that requires a little bit of forethought.

Ingredients

1 banana
2 tablespoons peanut butter

Method

Take the banana and slice it end-to-end down the middle. Take some peanut butter – smooth or crunchy, your choice – and lather it down one side of the banana, as thick as your taste desires. Place the other half of the banana on top like a sandwich.

Then slice two, three or four times, depending on the size of your banana, creating little individual peanut butter banana sandwiches. Wrap each section individually in tin foil and place the whole lot of them in a plastic container in the freezer. Then, in the middle of the night, open the freezer, grab a ball of tin foil, unwrap it, and find a surprisingly delicious snack just waiting for your enjoyment.

Serves 1

Rose Prince's Split Mealy Pudding, Scrambled Eggs & Cress

English children so often go to bed before daylight ends in summer. My brothers, sisters and I would lie in bed while the adults ate separately from us, and we could hear the tinkle of glasses, wine being poured, and the clink of knives and forks as we fell asleep. But when we visited my grandmother who lived in France, it was different.

We became French children and sat up with her and her friends. We ate what they ate and drank water with a drop of wine in it. It was so grown-up and civilised. After pudding, the watery wine would perform the intended trick and we'd sleepily slope off to bed, just around midnight.

My grandmother hated nostalgia and always bought albums (vinyl) of her favourite bands. It was the Seventies and the Rolling Stones and David Bowie were her favourites. We sat up for what seemed like hours, nibbling chocolate, listening to music and cracking very silly "in" jokes, teasing each other.

My grandmother used to drink Four Roses Bourbon on the rocks. She died in 1993; I wish I could bring her back, and those nights.

If I do plan a midnight feast, it's breakfast: scrambled eggs, grilled bacon and kidneys, toast and marmalade. Try it after a long night of partying and you will feel all the better for it next day. Mealy pudding consists of a natural sausage skin, about 30cm long, filled with oatmeal and meat juices. Sliced and fried, it is ready to be put on a plate with some creamy scrambled eggs.The cress greens it all up a little, but just to serve. Serve with brown toast.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 mealy puddings, sliced into 2cm chunks
9 eggs, lightly beaten
55g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons double cream
2 punnets of mustard and cress
sea salt

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the mealy puddings over a gentle heat until golden on both sides. While they cook, scramble the eggs. Season the beaten eggs with salt, then melt the butter in a saucepan. Pour in the eggs and cook over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the egg begins to thicken on the base of the pan. Scrape at the base with the spoon and continue to cook until the egg is thick and creamy. Do not allow it to get too solid – before this happens, remove from the heat, add the cream and stir. The mealy pudding should be ready by now. Serve it on warmed plates with a pool of scrambled egg and the toast, mustard and cress on the side.

Serves 4

Midnight Feasts: An Anthology of Late-Night Munchies selected by Charmain Ponnuthuraiis (Delirium £12.99). All profits go to the children’s dyslexia charity Springboard. To order a copy for the special price of £11.69 (free P&P) call Independent Books Direct on 08430 600 030, or visit www.independentbooksdirect.co.uk

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