Growing up in Birmingham, England in the 60’s and 70’s money was tight, and we did what so many others did (and, indeed, still do) , eat an awful lots of toast. We put all kinds of stuff on it and served it as a brunch, lunch, dinner, tea, or supper dish. Oddly enough we did not have a toaster growing up- but our stove top like many of its generation, had an eye level grill.
I still often eat things on toast and this raises many eyebrows here in California, where toast is generally either a side dish or used to make sandwiches.
Here are ten of my favorite toppings for my beloved buttered toast.
1. Spaghetti hoops
Spaghetti hoops, those delicious pasta rings in a rich tomato sauce that are purchased in tins. The brilliant Stephen fry recently revealed on QI (The most entertaining show on television in my opinion…) that this is one of his guilty pleasures, stemming from his own childhood memories of this ‘delicacy.’ And who am I to argue with the fabulous and dapper Mr. Fry?
Preferably scrambled, and maybe with a little hot sauce, diced green onion, herbs or grated cheddar cheese. But poached, fried, coddled, or boiled will also work in a pinch.
Rinse them, slice them and sauté them with a little butter or garlic for a quick and nutritious snack that could not be any simpler or tastier. Local farmer markets sell a variety of tasty mushrooms, but take care if you decide to forage for your own.
Be it melted straight on, using the grill, or made into a sauce like Welsh rarebit, or simply sliced with a little Branston Pickle- we are a nation of cheese lovers. And not just cheddar; I love Red Leicester,
Gloucester, and, of, course Wensleydale. In fact, there are over 700 types of cheese produced in the U.K., and many argue it (admittedly fellow Brits or Anglophiles) is the greatest cheese producing country in the world.
Sardines in tomato sauce, in those little cans with the ‘key’ attached. This is a dish my father served me for dinner at least once a week when I was back in school. We also consumed cans of pilchards
and mackerel. Kippers are one of my favorite ways to start the day, which are also available in tins.
A kipper is a smoked (or occasionally pickled,) herring. Find fresh ones if you can, and the best I have ever eaten were in Brixham, Englad.
As their advertising proclaims ‘You ever love it or you hate it.’ Personally I love this yeast extract product- and have done since I was around three.
7. Ginger preserve or Jam
In the U.K, we seem to love our jams and marmalades far much more than here in the States. I still eat toast and jam or marmalade almost every day for breakfast- and generally have half a dozen jars
on hand. Robertsons is my preferred brand, but we usually had the store brand growing up. Ginger tops my list as all-time favorite flavor- and I still consume a jar of it every month.
Marmalade is made from a fruits peel, and jam is made from the actual fruit.
8. Fish paste
As a kid, you could buy a small jar of fish paste for just a few pennies. And by small, I really do mean small, coming in at just 75 grams. You could/can also buy crab paste- which was my favorite, as well
as beef, chicken, and other flavors.
9. Hazelnut chocolate spread
Although peanut butter is popular in the U.K. these days, it wasn’t when I was growing up. But what we did have was Hazelnut chocolate spread. This was always a special treat. Often served with
sliced banana or apple on top, it was a great pick me up for after school. Oddly enough it was not commonly available in this country until a few years back but has since become a staple over here also.
10. Baked Beans.
This has long been a staple for many Brits and does not seem to be losing any popularity, in fact Heinz baked beans have become a bit of an icon. Simple beans in a tomato sauce purchased in a can, and served on toast. (Or with breakfast or as a dinner side dish) A great source of protein for those on a budget, it is also vegetarian. When arriving on these shores the closest I could find was pork and beans in a can- which simply is not the same. So I buy mine, by the case, from my local import store. A staggering 1.5 million cans of Heinz Baked Beans are sold every day in the U.K. alone, on top of all the generic and competitive brands. And that is a lot of beans…
So what are some of your favorite things to serve on toast?