Putting things on toast in restaurants seems to be catching on. We started it as a kind of experiment a few years ago at The Rivington in east London and now I see it cropping up in new British restaurants everywhere. I think it's like a revival of the classic savoury dish. In a restaurant, the "on toast" section suggests to diners that they don't have to eat a full-blown meal, and if they just fancy Welsh rabbit or devilled lambs' kidneys and a glass of wine, then that's fine.
That's what restaurants should be all about – eating what you want and when you want. By the way, please don't send letters saying that I've misspelt Welsh rabbit. We've been through this before and, if you remember, Dorothy Hartley in her Fifties classic Food in England spelt it the same way that I do. And much further back, the great cook Hannah Glass in her book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy in 1747 refers to this cheese on toast concoction as "rabbit", so save your ink, please.
Most people have bread in their kitchen, and with any luck a good selection of ingredients that will top it nicely. I did an "on toast" column a couple of years ago, but like sandwiches, there are always innovations on the snack front to tempt the taste buds.
Carpaccio on toast
These days, the word carpaccio seems to have become a catch-all phrase for anything that is thinly sliced – swordfish, tuna, you name it. But the original carpaccio – made with thinly sliced beef fillet – was named for its colour and not its thickness, at Harry's Bar in Venice in 1950. The rich, red colour of the meat was said to be reminiscent of the colours used by the great Venetian painter Vittorio Carpaccio.
4 large round slices of white bread, cut about 1/2cm thick
150-200g trimmed centre-cut very fresh beef fillet
A few leaves of rocket
For the sauce
1 egg yolk
1tsp white wine vinegar
1/2tsp dry mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
80-100ml vegetable oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 or 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce to taste
Milk to adjust the consistency if necessary
First, make the sauce. Put the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard and seasoning into a bowl and whisk well. Whisk in the oil a drop or so at a time until the oil is all used up and the sauce is thick. Add the Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to taste. The sauce should be a thick pouring consistency, if not, whisk in a little milk.
Put the beef into the freezer for about 30-40 minutes to firm up, but don't let it freeze. Slice the beef as thinly as possible with a razor-sharp knife. Put the slices between two sheets of clingfilm and bash it a little with your hand without breaking it.
Lightly toast the bread on both sides then spread with a little of the sauce and lay a few leaves of rocket on each piece. Arrange the beef slices on top then season with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle more sauce on top.
You will probably have a little sauce left over, which you can keep in the fridge.
Borlotti beans on toast
Last year we received a puzzling gift from Jason Lowe and his wife Lori; I think they were getting us back for the Bauhaus cocktail shaker we bought for their wedding. The strange gift turned out to be a glass pot for cooking dried beans, called a fiasco, which cooks them in the dying embers of a wood-fired oven. We were ready to decant wine into it and would still be doing so if Jason hadn't tipped us off.
If you have a good greengrocer's, they may have fresh borlotti, cannellini or other fresh white beans, which you can boil for 20-25 minutes; otherwise use dried.
100-150g dried borlotti or cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water, or 250-300g weight of fresh beans in their pods
1 onion peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
2-3 slices of thickly sliced pancetta or streaky bacon, diced or buy ready diced
100ml olive oil
2-3 sprigs of rosemary
1ltr vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of white country-style bread cut about 1cm thick
2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
Gently cook the onion, garlic and pancetta in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes until softened. Drain and rinse the beans and put into the saucepan adding the rosemary and chicken stock. Season, bring to the boil and simmer for about 1-1 hours until tender, topping up with water if the beans are getting dry. Once the beans are tender, turn the heat up and let the liquid evaporate, stirring the beans every so often until the oily liquid is just coating the beans, then stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.
Toast the bread on both sides then spoon on the beans. Take a small sharp knife and shave the Parmesan over the beans.
Revueltos with prawns and broad beans
This is a perfect lunchtime snack or miniature tapas-style dish. I had a similar dish in Spain with tiny spears of wild asparagus, washed down with a glass of fino – delicious. I've used broad beans here as our native asparagus season is coming to an end and broad beans should be plentiful at the moment.
The secret is to just briefly scramble the egg, so it remains a little runny; and another tip is not to use too much egg in proportion to the main ingredients.
A dozen eggs (three per person)
4 slices of white bloomer or country-style bread
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300g podded weight of young broad beans; if they are large you may need to shell them, so you will need a little extra
30-40 good quality, peeled, cooked prawns
1tbsp chopped chives
Cook the broad beans in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender, then drain. If the beans are large you may want to remove the outer skins. Briefly beat the eggs and season. Toast the bread and drizzle with a little olive oil. Meanwhile melt the butter in a thick-bottomed frying pan, heat up the vegetables and then add the eggs, cooking them a little and stirring occasionally to break them up so that you end up with something between a soft omelette and scrambled eggs. When the eggs are done, stir in the prawns and chives and spoon over the bread.
Pain perdu with peaches and vanilla
Pain perdu or "lost bread" was originally conceived by the French as an ingenious way of using up leftover bread or brioche. It's also known as French toast or eggy bread, or tostado in Spain. This version is more sophisticated, the brioche almost turns into a custard-like fried slice.
4 slices of brioche, cut about 2cm thick, crusts off
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar
200ml single cream
A few drops of vanilla essence
A couple of good knobs of butter (about 90g)
For the peaches
2 large ripe peaches
A couple good knobs of butter (about 90g)
1tbsp caster sugar
The seeds from half a vanilla pod
100ml single cream
The night before, whisk the yolks, sugar, vanilla and cream together, place the slices of brioche in a dish and pour the mixture over. Turn the brioche a couple of times then clingfilm the dish and refrigerate overnight or for 4-6 hours until the brioche has absorbed the mixture.
Keep the slices of brioche whole or half them if it's a large brioche. Melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the slices until crisp and golden.
Halve the peaches and remove stones, then cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges. Melt the butter in a pan, add the sugar and the vanilla seeds, and stir until melted. Then cook the peaches on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until they soften, add the cream and simmer for a minute or so. Spoon the peaches over the bread.
Due to a printing error, one page of Mark Hix's recipes did not appear in last week's magazine. The correct recipes can be seen in the Food & Drink section at www.independent.co.uk. Our apologiesReuse content