Stylish Weekends | March 9, 2016 | Food
inventive toppings to transform the brunch staple
Exotic cuisines, complex dishes and elegant nibbles are all well and good but there are times when all you want is a good, hearty slice of toast.
Often made and eaten with barely a thought – in fact, toast is the perfect base for an exciting variety of toppings. And then there’s the bread itself; think sourdough, spelt and rye, all bringing their own crunch and flavour to the party.
New book Posh Toast (Quadrille £12.99) explores all these options, taking a trend that originated in San Francisco and adapting it for European toast fans, with more than 70 recipes for every palate and time of day.
We’ve picked our five favourite recipes from the book to inspire you to turn your toast from plain to posh. (Photography: Louise Hagger)
Peaches and cream
Supermarkets stock excellent ripe peaches but coating them in honey and baking until the edges scorch heightens and intensifies the flavour.
- 2 large peaches or nectarines
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- 2 tbsp light brown muscovado sugar
- 4 slices brioche
- butter for spreading
- 2 heaped tbsp clotted cream
- 1 heaped tbsp pistachios, roughly chopped
- Heat the oven to 180°C fan/350°F/gas 6. Cut the peaches into quarters, removing the stone as you do. Place in a shallow baking tin lined with baking parchment. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle over the sugar.
- Bake for 15–20 minutes or until softened and slightly tinged at the edges, then leave to cool a little.
- Toast the bread then butter generously. Top with the peach quarters and drizzle over their cooking juices. Dollop on a spoonful of clotted cream, then scatter over the pistachios.
Our match: Highlight the delicate colour of the pistachios by serving on a Jasper Conran Chinoiserie green plate.
Blue cheese, figs and parma ham
Ripe figs have a unique sweetness. Paired with the salt tang of the ham and the creamy body of the cheese, they are a sublime match. Rye bread can sometimes feel unforgivingly virtuous but it yields well to this seductive topping.
- 10 baby figs
- 1⁄2 tsp demerara sugar
- 2 tsp runny honey
- drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 slices rye bread
- 140g soft blue cheese, like St Agur or Roquefort, sliced
- 4 slices parma ham
- 1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/315°F/gas 4. Cut the figs in half through the stalk and place cut-side up onto a lipped baking tray lined with baking parchment. Sprinkle over the sugar, drizzle with the honey and oil, and roast for 20 minutes, until juicy and sticky.
- Once the figs are ready, toast the bread then drizzle with some of the juices from the roasting tray. Top with the slices of blue cheese and parma ham, then divide the figs between the toast. Drizzle over any remaining figgy juices and lastly the balsamic vinegar.
Our match: Let the vibrant colours and textures of the food do the talking by serving on Jasper Conran white.
Lemon, peas & smoked mackerel pâté
Smoked mackerel is such a supermarket staple these days that we rarely bother dressing it up. Blanched peas, however, give a surprising fruity top-note to the smoky fish.
Makes 24 canapés
- 200g smoked mackerel
- 125g full-fat cream cheese
- 3 tbsp Greek-style yoghurt
- 2 tbsp creamed horseradish
- zest and juice 1/2 lemon
- 25g frozen peas
- 24 small slices soda bread
- handful pea shoots
- 24 edible flowers, such as violas
- (optional) salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a small pan of water to the boil. Remove the skin from the smoked mackerel, discard any bones, flake the flesh and set aside. In a bowl, beat the cream cheese, yoghurt, horseradish and lemon juice until smooth. Season with pepper and a little salt, then fold through the flaked mackerel.
- Blanch the peas in a pan of boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunge into ice-cold water. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the grill. Place the bread on a baking tray and toast both sides under the grill. Leave to cool, then top generously with the pâté. Scatter over the drained peas, some pea shoots, a little grated lemon zest and ground black pepper. Finally, top with an edible flower, if using one.
Our match: The delicate look of this dish demands a delicate table setting such as Jasper Conran’s Chinoiserie range in white.
Warm hummus & spiced lamb
In Lebanon, flatbread topped with hummus and spiced ground lamb is called lahmacun and is served as a popular street food. Use good-quality shop-bought hummus if you’re feeling lazy.
- 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- zest 1⁄2 lemon and juice 1 small lemon
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp pine nut
- large knob butter
- 400g minced (ground) lamb
- 11/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 slices wholemeal bread
- 1/2 tsp chilli (hot pepper) flakes (use Aleppo or Turkish chilli flakes if you can find them)
- large handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/315°F/gas 4.Place the chickpeas, tahini, 1 garlic clove, the lemon zest and juice, cumin, yoghurt, 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp cold water into a food processor. Season, then blend for about 5 minutes until completely smooth.
- Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Heat a frying pan and add the pine nuts, tossing until they start to colour. Add the butter and let it melt and turn golden. Pour the buttery mixture over the hummus and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in the same frying pan over a high heat. Add the lamb and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring, until the lamb is browned and crisp and any liquid evaporated. Stir through the remaining garlic, allspice, cinnamon, season, and cook for 2 minutes.
- Toast the bread. Spoon the warm hummus over the toast. Scoop up the spiced lamb with a slotted spoon and divide between the slices of toast. Top with a sprinkling of chilli flakes and some parsley.
Our match: Laid-back menus call for laid-back tableware – Tisbury should be the perfect match.
Berries & Mascarpone
Brioche is a sweet, egg-enriched bread, ideal for French toast; it pairs well with smooth cream cheese.
Such a rich and creamy base can handle tartness in the fruit compote, so don’t overdo the sugar.
- 6 slices brioche, halved diagonally
- 3 large eggs
- 100ml milk
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 300g mixed berries such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries
- 1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra to dust
- 50g butter
- 100g caster (granulated) sugar
- 4 tbsp mascarpone
- 4 tbsp maple syrup
- pinch of salt
- Lay the brioche slices on a tray. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the bread slices and leave to soak for 5 minutes on each side.
- Meanwhile, tip half of the berries into a saucepan, sprinkle over the 1 tbsp icing sugar and add a splash of water. Set over a low heat and cook for 4 minutes or until the berries have released their juices. Use a fork to mash the softened berries, then stir through the remaining berries and set aside.
- Place half the butter in a frying pan and set over a medium heat. Sprinkle six of the soaked brioche slices generously with caster sugar and flip, sugar- side-down, into the frying pan. Cook for 2 –3 minutes, or until golden brown. Sprinkle the other side generously with caster sugar and flip over again. Cook for a further 2 –3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining brioche slices. Pile three triangles of French toast onto each plate, top with some of the berry compote and a scoop of mascarpone. Drizzle over the maple syrup, then dust with icing sugar.
Our match: What better tableware for berries on brioche than the iconic Wild Strawberry range?