Amateur sandwich artist Leonie Hayden on how to get the most out of everyone’s favourite lockdown lunch.
If your lockdowns have been anything like mine, you’re staring down the barrel of another week of cheese toasties.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s in my top five favourite foods. I’m what the kids call “obsessed“. The humble toastie, made in a pan, a flat press or a toastie machine, is manna from the gods – possibly the greatest modern invention, after lint shavers and Beyonce. A great toastie should be the perfect synergy of crunchy and gooey, and ideally be eaten alongside something tangy, sweet and spicy. I celebrate classic fillings like sweet corn and canned spaghetti but to me a simple cheese number is a little parcel of pure perfection (check out our ranking of non-dairy cheeses for the best cow-free options).
If you’re from the beautiful Tāmaki Herenga Waka, however, you’ve just gone into lockdown for the fourth time and, like the fourth season of anything, it’s going to take some surprise twists to keep us interested.
This one is less about the contents of the toastie, and all about the sides. The humble pickle (more commonly known in New Zealand as a gherkin) dates back as far as 2030 BC when cucumbers from their native India were pickled in the Tigris Valley. Telling you to have pickle with your toastie is telling you to sucks eggs, obviously, but serving a whole one with your toastie alongside a big pile of potato chips is one of life’s greatest pleasures. They’re a standard side to a sandwich in American diners, and probably the US’s best contribution to the world if we’re honest. Take hearty bites of the pickle between mouthfuls of your perfect toastie, alternating with the crispy, saltiness of the chips, for a buffet of textures.
The dessert toastie
Necessity = invention. When I invented this in my early 20s the necessity was having the munchies and no money. And look, I know plenty of people had probably tried this before me but at the time, to a flat full of red-eyed, hungry idiots, it really felt like the food revolution had come to our door.
Take any canned fruit, my preference is peaches. Drain well so your sandwich doesn’t get too soggy. Then take any chocolate – leftover cooking chocolate, a nice block of Whittakers, Nutella, hell, cut up one of the kids’ fun size Snickers – and lay it on top of the fruit. I believe at the time I used someone’s sad leftover Easter eggs. Add chopped nuts, peanut butter, banana, custard, whatever your sweet tooth desires! Cheese doesn’t need to be left out of the equation – cream cheese, brie, goats cheese or ricotta would rule with any fruit.
Then the pièce de résistance: butter your bread as usual, then sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon. When cooked buttered side down in your toastie machine, this makes the most delicious, sweet crispy shell around your gooey filling, like a mini pie. Serve it with ice cream for a contrast of hot and cold.
Historical side note: I’m devastated to report that the toastie machine was in fact invented by an Australian and patented as a “jaffle iron”, which is why to this day Australians call this type of toastie a “jaffle”. Let us unite as one nation to agree that name is nonsensical and wrong.
The TikTok egg sandwich
So named for its popularity on the world’s best comedy platform, this is a 2020 viral hit/five-minute craft type deal that’s a pretty safe “recipe” for kids (or bored adults) and just a good way to kill time.
It involves whisking up a couple of eggs (don’t forget to season) and pouring straight into a hot, buttered pan. Take your slices of bread and coat in the egg on one side, then flip them over and lay them other side down on the egg mixture. When the egg has set, you flip the whole lot over so the bread is on the bottom; a little French toast moment, if you will. Add your cheese and fillings on top (I like kimchi or sauerkraut, anything sharp), fold the egg edges in, then fold the bread together into sandwich form and continue to toast on each side til cooked to perfection.
Here, I’ll let the internet explain.
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The naan bread toastie
While the bagged white loaf will always reign supreme, you can of course swap out sliced bread with anything you like – wraps, tortilla, bagels, donuts, pages of the TV Guide. But may I also draw your attention to the humble naan. Available at supermarkets and many dairies, the dense bread holds ingredients super well, and as the dough is made with ghee, it creates a deliciously crispy outside while still retaining its fluffy, chewy interior. Also a great way to eat leftover naan and curry.
The pizza toastie
Fairly straight forward; if you’ve got cheese and some kind of tomato (canned, paste or fresh) then everything else depends on your taste in pizza toppings. Add fresh herbs, meat, pineapple if you’re a criminal (or use leftover bolognese and ricotta for a lasagne toastie). The twist, as with the dessert toastie, is not in the filling but on the outside.
Crush a clove of garlic, add to a small dish with two tablespoons of butter or oil and microwave in 10 second increments until melted and the garlic is fragrant. Add finely chopped parsley for authenticity if you fancy. Brush all over the outside of your bread before toasting.
This quick pickle, also known in my household as a quickle, is probably my favourite toastie side. It’s incredibly easy to make and looks cool thanks to its vivid pink colour.
Halve and slice a red onion and place in a small bowl or jar. Heat up a few tablespoons of vinegar in a pot, add a teaspoon of sugar and season with salt, pepper, bay leaf (whatever herbs and spices you like). When the vinegar solution is nearly at a boil, pour over the onions and leave for five minutes.
After the onions have sat in the hot vinegar, I top the bowl up with ice (it needs dilution or the vinegar is too strong) and pop it in the fridge. This will melt in the residual heat and means you don’t have to wait as long for them to cool down.
Et voilà, they should be ready to eat in half an hour! Note: these are meant to be eaten within a couple of days and won’t last as long as properly pickled veges in sterilised containers.
Happy toastie-ing everyone and please tag me in your toastie creations on Instgram @leonie_hayden.
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