6 WARMING TOASTIES FOR THE WINTER MONTHS

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There’s something very satisfying about a toasted sandwich. So warming and comforting, and yet really rather simple. It only takes a few ingredients to make a good toastie, butter and cheese being the glue that holds most together, resulting in a perfectly charred crust, and mouth-watering ‘cheese pull’ – it’s got over 175k tags on Instagram.

Anyone can make a toasted sandwich, and in fact, they’re a rather common item on many menus, but making a good one; one that’s talked about; one that people come back for, now that’s quite an art.

First, let’s start with good bread. Sourdough is my personal favourite but you could get away with a thick white or even granary. Next, we need to layer on the flavour. Cheese and ham is a classic but you can elevate this with a little mustard, a chilli jam, or by mixing two or three cheeses. They’re also a great way to use up leftovers. Got a few slices of roast beef leftover from Sunday lunch? Make a beef sandwich, with cheese and horseradish (melt them together in a pan first), and top with some caramelized onions.

If you like to add a garnish to your plate, make sure it’s something that adds to the dish and not something that’s pushed to the side. Think pickles, a rocket and parmesan salad, a homemade coleslaw, or even a few salted kettle chips are quite a nice addition.

With winter just around the corner, now’s the time to start thinking about adding a few toasties to your menu. From a veggie delight to an indulgent mac & cheese grill, these warming toasties are sure to be a hit.


Croque Madame

You’ve heard of the Croque Monsieur, but have you heard of the Croque Madame? The recipe is much the same but the ‘female’ version gets finished with an oozing fried egg 

Ingredients:

  • 2 chunky slices of bread, like sourdough
  • 2 slices of ham
  • 50g of Gruyère cheese or cheddar – grated
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 22g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 90ml whole milk
  • A small pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 egg

Method:

  1. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a pan, then add the flour and stir for a couple of minutes to make a paste – make sure you cook out the flour well, so you don’t taste it in the dish.
  2. Gradually stir in the milk until you have a thick, smooth sauce.
  3. Finish by adding in the mustard, freshly grated nutmeg and some seasoning.
  4. Preheat the grill to medium-high or alternatively use a pan.
  5. Brush both sides of your bread with a little melted butter then top one slice of bread with a ham slice, some grated cheese and a generous spoonful of the béchamel sauce, then place the other slice on top.
  6. Place under the grill and cook until golden (or fry in a pan).
  7. Remove from the grill and add another spoonful of the bechamel then return until slightly golden on top. 
  8. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan. Crack in the egg and fry.
  9. Serve the sandwich with the fried egg on top.

Charred Vegetable, Mozzarella and Pesto Toasted Sandwich

A pretty classic combination but one that never gets old. Prep the veggies ahead of time and keep some vegan cheese and pesto on hand, so you can easily adapt this to a vegan version.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 2 slices of grilled courgette (lengthways)
  • 1/2 of grilled red pepper, sliced
  • 2 slices of grilled aubergine (lengthways)
  • 1 tbsp pesto
  • ½ ball of mozzarella
  • 1 tbsp butter

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high, or alternatively use a pan.
  2. Brush both sides of your bread with a little melted butter and grill lightly on one side.
  3. Spread the pesto on the grilled side of your two pieces of bread.
  4. Layer one side of bread with the grilled vegetables and top with mozzarella.
  5. Place the other slice of bread on top.
  6. Place under the grill or into the pan and cook under golden and the cheese has melted.

Mac & Cheese Grilled Sandwich

An indulgent sandwich if there ever was one, but our research in the US shows that this is a meal that is only growing in popularity, especially in the winter months when ‘comfort food’ becomes the go-to.

If you already have a mac and cheese on the menu, use this as your filling. If not, make it ahead of time but why not make it really indulgent with a mixture of cheese like cheddar, stilton, ricotta, taleggio, or parmesan. For a spicy hit, stir through some soft nduja sausage.

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high or alternatively use a pan.
  2. Brush one side of your bread with a little melted butter and grill lightly on one side.
  3. Generously pile your mac and cheese onto the grilled side, then place the other piece on top.
  4. Brush the outside of the sandwich with butter and place under the grill or in a pan.
  5. You could sprinkle over some bacon bits for a crunchy, salty edge.

Tuna Melt

Here, we have the recipe for a classic or vegan ‘tuna’ melt. In the vegan one we use dairy-free mayo, and chickpeas instead of tuna – it’s big on taste and won’t disappoint.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of thick white or granary bread
  • Half a can of tuna or 100g chickpeas, mashed
  • 20g mayonnaise
  • ½ a thinly sliced spring onion
  • 2 tsps of finely chopped pickles or gherkins
  • 2 tbsp of butter or vegan alternative
  • 40g cheddar cheese or vegan alternative – grated
  • 1 tbsp butter

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high, or alternatively use a pan.
  2. Brush one side of your bread with a little melted butter and grill lightly on one side.
  3. Meanwhile, combine your tuna (or chickpeas) with the mayonnaise, pickles, and spring onion, and season well.
  4. Pile your filling onto the grilled side, add the grated cheese, then place the other piece on top.
  5. Brush the outside of the sandwich with butter and place under the grill or in a pan and heat through until the cheese is melted.

Bacon, Blue Cheese, Cranberry and Rocket Toastie

This one’s a little bit Christmassy, but it’s only a few weeks away after all. Start with this classic, but if you’re daring, why not swap the rocket for finely sliced sautéed Brussel sprouts? Serve with a rocket and walnut salad – remove the bacon to make this veggie.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 30g blue cheese
  • 1 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • 3 rashes of cooked bacon
  • 1 handful of rocket
  • 1 tbsp butter

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high or alternatively use a pan.
  2. Brush one side of your bread with a little melted butter and grill lightly on one side.
  3. Coat the bread in the cranberry sauce, add the slices of cooked bacon, followed by the crumbled blue cheese.
  4. Place under the grill to melt the cheese, with the other piece of bread (but don’t put this on top, just grill it).
  5. Once the cheese has melted, add in the rocket then put the other slice on top and serve.

Wild Mushroom, Thyme and Cheddar Toastie

Using a little thyme and a mixture of wild mushrooms takes this from an average mushroom toastie to one your customers will keep coming back for.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sourdough
  • 50g mixed mushrooms, chopped (shiitake, oyster, chestnut)
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 clove of grated garlic
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 50g grated cheddar, Comte, taleggio or soft goats cheese

Method:

  1. In a pan, add a tablespoon of butter, followed by your minced garlic, chopped mushrooms and sprig of thyme.
  2. Cook on a high heat so they don’t release too much water and just before they’re ready, season to taste (remember to remove the sprig of thyme).
  3. Now, in a clean pan, add a little butter and place in your bread and toast on one side only.
  4. Remove the bread from the pan and generously pile on the mushrooms, followed by some cheese, grated.
  5. Add the other slice of bread on top.
  6. Before putting the sandwich back into the pan, sprinkle a little cheese directly onto it then place the sandwich on top of the cheese.
  7. Toast well, turning when required, or until the cheese on the inside is melted and the cheese on the outside is nicely browned.
  8. Serve with a rocket and parmesan salad.
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