#73 Lady Shaftesbury’s Toasted Cheese

I thought that I’d completely run out of vegetarian recipes until I spotted a whole section in the ‘Cheese and Egg Dishes’ chapter of English Food. This is a dish that I know was popular in Victorian/Edwardian times in Gentleman’s Clubs and the like; it’s essentially a rarebit, but ‘deconstructed’, as trendy chefs would say nowadays. You get a pot of melted cheese and toast soldiers to dip in it. Be warned: this dish comes with a warning from Jane Grigson herself, ‘The quantities seem tiny, but this kind of dish should be eaten in small quantities; unless your family have stomachs of iron, toasted cheese can cause indigestion and nightmares.’ Whatever Griggers. The recipe is supposed to serve 6, but me, Greg and Joff ate the lot.

I do have to warn you, you DO get nightmares: I had totally trippy repetitive dreams all night and hardly got a wink of sleep, and Greg said he had nightmares and anxiety dreams, yet I heard him laughing in his sleep! Weird. I think I’ll conduct a scientific experiment in the future – there’s about six more of this kind of recipe; I’ll get people round, we’ll eat them all, score them, and then keep a dream diary. Thus proving the old wives’ tale as rock-solid fact!

Anyway, here’s the recipe. Divide it between however many people you want. Monitor your dream s though! And don’t eat if prone to sleepwalking.

In a saucepan, gently melt 2 ounces of butter, then, keeping the heat quite low, mix in 7 ounces of good grated Farmhouse Cheddar cheese, 6 tablespoons of cream, 2 large egg yolks, plus salt and pepper. Whilst stirring, get the grill nice and hot and toast a slice of brown bread, which should be buttered afterwards and cut into soldiers. When all the cheese has melted into a thick gloop, pour into ramekins and grill until the tops are browned. Serve immediately with the toast.

#73 Lady Shaftesbury’s Toasted Cheese: 8/10. Really delicious and simple to do. Although, by Jane’s standard, we have iron stomachs, a third is still only a little bit, but and is definitely enough to fill you up. I daren’t work out the amount of calories and saturated fat in this. Oh well, I’ll double my efforts at the gym.

I know what you are thinking, but it’s a glandular problem.

I can see you there, judging me. I my have piled on the pounds but it’s my glands, you see, my glands. There’s nothing I can do. It has nothing to with the huge selection of meat and cake I’ve scoffed both in France and coming back, or that I’ve not been to the gym for nearly a month. Ok, I sort of is. Ok it is! It will all change however now that I’m back at the gym and on a low-calorie diet for a bit. I must get back to the svelte chap I was before the field trip. Therefore all Grigsons are to be low-or-no-fat, contain loads of fresh fruit and veg, and/or be high protein. If she can’t provide, then I will have to temporarily look elsewhere. I’m sure I won’t though. Flicking through the book there’s light salads, fish dishes and summery soups.

I shall be thin, I shall!

Manchester, so much to answer for

Sorry for not adding an entry for a while…

I got back from the beautiful St Auban last Saturday evening and haven’t quite got back into my routine, which means I haven’t done any cooking – at least not proper cooking – since I got back. I’ve done lots of stir-fries and eaten several pizzas. This is not good. I reckon I’ve put on at least half a stone (I dare not weigh myself). This is, in part, due to the field trip. I managed to do no exercise, eat two three-course meals a day and drink every night. The food was all home-cooked and very nice indeed.

St Auban is about 30 miles north of Nice and resides in the Alps; it was once a ski resort in the winter, but due to climate change this no longer happens, although there is evidence of it’s past in the rusting ski-lifts that run up the mountainside. The place is beautiful, there is the most amazing geology – layers of buckled meandering limestone, caverns, canyons and crevices. There is wonderful wildlife – after all that’s why we were there – wild boar, red deer, chamois, red squirrels, golden eagles, crested tits, Bonelli’s warblers and my favourite bird, the nightjar. Many of these animals can be seen in Britain, of course, but you have to go to Reserves or the Scottish Highlands to see them. The other great thing about the mountain habitats is the smell – walking through the wandering, purple thyme creates a floral mist around you, plus there are lavender plants and juniper berries to crush between your fingers. Ahh…

…and then there’s Manchester. Since returning, there’s been nothing but rain and thunder storms. The temperatures have been similar to what we had in January, for God’s sake. I should be excited as all my favourite foods are in season now, but I feel like it’s all passing me by.

It’s my birthday on Thursday, so I think I’ll get back into the swing of things by treating myself by making some kind of pudding containing all those lovely summer ingredients I’ve been thinking of – raspberries, gooseberries, cherries and the like. Hopefully they’ll give me some pep…