Just bring me something on toast
Sunday supper food must be easy and super-comforting, says Simon Hopkin son
Saturday 28 January 1995
SSF is not necessarily leftovers, especially since Sunday lunch is not the regular affair that it used to be - cold pasta, for instance, is not ideal for recycling later in the day. And there is something about SSF that needs to be comforting, easy and intensely savoury.
Scrambled eggs come to mind immediately. Eggs are most definitely SSF. Scotch woodcock, that essentially British savoury, is now rarely encountered outside grand hotels of a certain period and gentlemen's clubs. lt is the simplest of preparations and only involves scrambling eggs with a little cream and chives, piling on to buttered toast or, even better, fried bread, and draping over some salted anchovies in a criss-cross fashion. I wonder whether the combination of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, that is so popular these days, was adapted from the Scotch woodcock.
But without doubt, the finest combination of smoked fish and eggs is, of course, smoked haddock and a perfect poached egg. (As I write, it is actually 10 minutes to 10 on a Sunday evening, and I am nearing the end of a sojourn at Grayshott Hall, a healthretreat in Surrey. This is the stuff of masochists, I tell you: the thought of smoked haddock and a poached egg right now is very moving.) There is really no point in the dish unless the egg is super-fresh. The fish must be poached gently in milk and I like to serve it in an old-fashioned soup plate with some of the milk sploshing about in the bottom and the pearly poached egg perched on top. Thickly buttered slices of white toast should be close at hand.
There was a wonderful documentary on the life of Alan Bennett on The South Bank Show a few years ago now. He was reminiscing over the menu of a favourite office cafeteria and looking at the dishes subsequently on offer. "Avocado with prawns?" he exclaimed. "You don't want avocado with prawns, you want something on toast!" Too true. It is sad, the demise of "things on toast". A good Welsh rarebit is hard to find; a buck rarebit even harder - that is cheese on toast with a poached egg on top, by the way, usually one of those perfect round ones. And where, may I ask, did creamed mushrooms on toast disappear to? Taken over by the dreaded pizza, I suppose. There is nothing wrong with pizza, but it is hardly SSF. Well, certainly not in my book, anyhow.
Creamed mushrooms on toast is one of my greatest treats. All you need is some of those mushrooms that are a cross between a button mushroom and a large flat one; they are sort of pinky-brown and have slightly open cups. n Slice them thickly and stew in plenty of good butter with salt, pepper and the merest trace of garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes without colouring, but allow any juices that have run out of the mushrooms to evaporate. Now add a squeeze of lemon and some thick double cream. Gently simmeruntil the sauce is velvety and thick like custard from a tin. Throw in some chopped chives and spoon the mixture over thick slices of buttered white toast; brown toast just will not do.
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