1. Toast sandwich is UK’s ‘cheapest meal’

    We heard about the Toast Sandwich at Great British Chefs a few days ago and collectively rolled our eyes about it. At first I thought it was yet another supermarket trying to lamely get publicity for rolling out a “wacky” pre-packaged sandwich in an attempt to make it look good (remember the Lasagne Sandwich - sadly I do).  But on further investigation we discovered through our strategic advisor Matthew Fort, that it was the resurrection of a …..err…. recipe by “none other than Mrs Isabella Beeton, the woman who gave us Collared Pig’s Face and Aunt Nelly’s Pudding.”

    Photograph: Sarah Lee for The Guardian

    The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), as an anniversary feature for its website, decided to “revive, the neglected mid-Victorian Sandwich to help the country through hard times”.

    Dr John Emsley, of the RSC, said: “We could have gone for one of the thousands of recipes that Mrs Beeton employed, most of them being table-groaning creations full of meats. 

    "But, given the stern days we are yet to experience, we decided to go for an unknown dish that requires little money and little time, and which she devised to cater for less well-off people. 

    "You simply put a piece of dry toast between two slices of bread and butter, with salt and pepper to taste. I’ve tried it and it’s surprisingly nice to eat and quite filling.  I would emphasise that toast sandwiches are also good at saving you calories as well as money, provided you only have one toast sandwich for lunch and nothing else.

    "The RSC decided to promote Mrs Beeton’s toast sandwich because it might just be what we need to get us through the harsh economic times that are forecast.”

    Quite frankly RSC I think you decided to do this because you knew that people like me would be screaming at their computer screen thinking, “Oh my God, how could people possibly eat a Toast Sandwich" and then emailing your article to all their friends.

    I love the part that says “toast sandwiches are good at saving you calories …… provided you only have one toast sandwich for lunch and nothing else”.  It’s genius.  A piece of bread spread with lard is also quite good at saving you calories provided that’s the only thing you eat all day.

    RSC employee Jon Edwards said: “In my student days I thought a meal of ‘9p noodles’ from Tesco was the epitome of thrift - but a toast sandwich is tastier, quicker, has more calories and comes in at just 7.5p. 

    Maybe more students should turn to Mrs Beeton for meals on the cheap.”

    Hopefully they will discover better recipes than toast sandwiches.  

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve eaten crisp sandwiches and chip butties (Nigel Slater loves chip butties too, so please don’t judge me), but I wouldn’t claim they had any nutritional value or were both good at saving you calories and had more calories than value noodles (slightly confused why both are a good idea).

    Chip Butty

    If you’ve got to this stage of the blog post & still want to try Mrs Beeton’s recipe, it’s here at your own risk, with nutritional values provided by the RSC

    Mrs Beeton’s Toast Sandwich

    Toast a thin slice of bread.

    Butter two slices of bread and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. 

    Place the slice of toast between the 2 slices of bread-and-butter to form a sandwich. 

    Nutrition: 3 slices of white bread = 240 Calories. Butter = 10 g = 90 Calories

    Total  =  330 Calories
    Toast sandwich nutrients
    Protein = 9.5 g
    Fat = 12 g
    Carbohydrate = 55 g
    Fibre = 4.5 grams
    Calcium = 120 mg
    Iron = 2 mg
    Vitamin A = 90 mcg
    Vitamin B1 = 0.25 mg
    Vitamin B2 = 80 mcg
    Vitamin B3 = 4 mg
    Vitamin D = 0.08 mcg

    I love how our friends from across the pond “Chow” have gleefully leapt upon this story to come up with their own list of 5 “Meals” even cheaper than the Toast Sandwich - including Cheerios on a Half Bagel and Dandelion Salad with Rainwater “Vinaigrette” Pick some wet dandelion leaves. Tah-dah!  

    We would love to have your thoughts. Particularly on the many, many other somewhat healthier austerity recipes they could have used to prove the same point.  Do you think it’s irresponsible to tout the “nutritional” values of eating three slices of cheap white bread with butter just because you want a bit of PR?  We’ll be discussing this over on Great British Chefs’ Facebook Page.

    Blog post by Mecca Ibrahim, Great British Chefs' Head of Social Media

  2. What Austerity or “Wartime” Foods have you eaten?

    Photo of Bryan Webb’s  Pigs’ Trotters with beetroot chutney & salad leaves from Great British Chefs

    As Remembrance Day and Veterans’ Day events take place this weekend, we wanted to look back to times when food wasn’t in such great supply.

    Ration for one week

    This case shows the weekly food ration for one person in 1940 - Imperial War Museum.

    In wartime in the UK, food was being rationed & people ate cheap cuts of food. There’s now a move back to “austerity” cooking, as we discover inventive ways to make offal or little used cuts of meat really tasty. We love Bryan Webb’s version of Pigs’ Trotters 

    Slow cooking helps to turn cheaper cuts of meat into things of beauty.  Pork Belly is on the menu at most gourmet restaurants now, but there was a time when pork belly was considered a “rough meat” and it was featured in The Imperial War Museum’s “Ministry of Food” exhibition.

    Robert Thompson’s slow cooked Island pork belly is cheap enough for you to blow out on the lobster it’s served with.

    Our, CEO, Ollie is a big fan of cooking odd cuts of meat. At Great British Chefs our stomachs collectively churned when he excitedly put a message on Facebook saying that he’d bought a load of pigs’ ears and was going to cook them the next day. They were enormous but only 50p an ear! Following Pascal Aussignac's recipe he boiled them in salted water & then cut them into strips.

    Cut up Pig's Ears waiting to be fried

    On Facebook our fans were incredulous and said “you’re not seriously going to eat these”.  But once they were deep fried in batches, they were absolutely delicious and tasted like crackling!  Opinions from fans on Facebook were divided but the general opinion was “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”.

    Fried Pigs' Ears

    Spam was popular in wartime and even today, spam fritters make a tasty supper.

    Spam ... it's what's for dinner!

    From a 1940’s Woman’s Day magazine by Wandering Magpie


    Best bit about this photo isn’t the banana/spam combination (anyone tried it?) but the fact that the Spam in the picture on the tin is blue! Nice. Imperial War Museum

    Moving on from savoury dishes, don’t forget that even yummy treats like carrot cakes originated from when fruit was in low supply.

    Food for sale at Aldwych

    Dishes such as Lardy Cake (great post & recipe below from our strategic advisor & guest blogger Matthew Fort), Bread Pudding, Gingerbread, Suet Pudding and Treacle Tart all came about when butter, sugar and eggs were in short supply.

    Lardy cake

    2 oz lard; 2 oz currants; 12 oz white bread dough, risen; 2 oz caster sugar; pinch of nutmeg; drizzle of honey

    Roll out the dough to an oblong. Spread on lard and sprinkle with sugar, nutmeg and currants. Roll up like a swiss roll and place in a greased shallow baking tin. Cover and leave to rise for about 15 minutes. Brush lightly with honey and bake at gas mark five, 190C (375F) for 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot with butter.

    Matthew added: “Just warm a piece of lardy cake (yes, even in the microwave) and load it with a compote of blackberries and a dollop of clotted cream, and tell me you don’t feel nearer to heaven than with a spoonful of pannacotta or tiramisu”.

    Shaun Rankin's - Treacle Tart from Great British Chefs

    Josh Eggleton's - Caramel Panna cotta with homemade Gingerbread - from Great British Chefs

    We hope this look at austerity cooking has given you some ideas for inexpensive but delicious meals to try.  What “wartime” dishes have you eaten or cooked? We’re discussing this over on the Great British Chefs Facebook page.