Monday, 11 January 2010

[Food] Masterchef :: The Toasted Sandwich

This week’s post is brought to you by Cookware for, your virtual one-stop shop for all your cast-iron and stainless steel kitchen-based needs.

I reckon, just a few short years ago, when I was housebound and moribund and near catatonic, a Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker would have been just what the doctor ordered. In fact, if I’d had a reasonably-priced and easy-to-use machine with which to prepare quality toasted sandwiches, I honestly don’t think I would have become depressed at all. And I almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up eating cat food. At least not raw cat food. On closer consideration, I think it’s safe to say, the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker is the ideal gift for your least stable, most mentally dyspeptic friend. You know, the one you never hear from. Everybody has one. At least one.

The last time I had access to a toasted sandwich maker - about ten years ago I think - I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't particularly adventurous. Cheese. Beans. That was about it. This time around, at least for the sake of this review, I decided I should probably be a little more ambitious where my fillings are concerned. After all, the internet, much like a toasted sandwich, is not worth a fig without decent content.

However, rather than just prepare some outlandish sandwiches in the kitchen by myself, like a saddo, I had a word with my agent. Oh, yes, I have an agent, you know. Turns out he’s a good friend of Gregg Wallace’s cosmetic guy. This is the guy who had to mend Wallace’s face after another, less skilled surgeon tried to knock a couple of years off his cheeks and left him looking permanenently rictal. Like this:

So I got my agent to pull a few strings and before you know it - bish bash bosh - there’s a film crew in my kitchen and Gregg Wallace and John Torode are passing judgement on my toasted sandwiches. I was pretty stoked, I can tell you.

The show itself won’t be screened till the summer, and even though it's already been cut together, I’m contractually obliged to keep a lid on it till after the show’s aired. However, what no one can stop me doing - I don't believe - is sitting here and transcribing some of the best bits for you. So here you go.


Brief collage of STAN painstakingly preparing the ingredients coupled with cute voiceover by Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Round One...

...Cheese & Ham

JOHN ‘TOAD’ TORODE (cutting a square of toastie and forking it delicately into his mouth): Mmmm. Lovely distinct flavours. You’ve got the smoky irreverence of that Red Leicester coming through and the mustard tang of the Tesco honey roast ham just setting it off. It’s good, hearty fare, but I’ve got to wonder if it’s interesting enough for this competition, at this level.

GREGG ‘EGG’ WALLACE (breaks the toastie in half and gazes at the insides, drooling slightly): Oh, yes! Gaze upon my succulence, ye mighty, and feast your eyes. Cheese. And ham. Arguably the combination that put the toastie on the map back in the snack frenzy that was the late eighties. Just look at that. It’s got cheese. It’s got ham. Seriously, what more could you ask for? In a toastie. Not cheese or ham, that’s for sure. Unless, of course, you wanted more creamy soft cheese or more pink meaty ham, both of which the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker could handle in a heartbeat. But what does it taste like? That’s the question. Let’s find out. [Takes a mouthful] Mmmm. Answer: it tastes good.

Round Two...

...Cheese & Sardine

TOAD: Straightaway you can see, he’s upped the stakes. He may be sticking with the cheese, but he’s thrown in a fish - specifically a sardine - just to stir things up a bit. He’s saying, ‘Don’t go running away with the idea that it’s all about the cheese because it’s not all about the cheese. It’s mostly about the cheese, for sure, I’ll grant you that. But it’s not all about the cheese.’ And when you bite into it... Boom! It works like a treat, and it’s here to stay.

Serving Suggestion

EGG: Absolutely agree. At first you’re wondering what is this abomination doing in your mouth and then you’re thinking, ‘Hold on a minute. This should be wrong, but somehow it’s oh so right.' It’s imaginative, it’s combative, it’s fish and it's cheese and it puts Stan right back in this competition.

Round Three...

...Banana, Nutella & Peanut Butter

TOAD: Rich. Warming. Spiced chocolate with that cinnamon in there. It’s good. But I have to say, it isn’t great.

EGG (salivating like Caligula): It’s like a lovely, luxurious blanket of sugary sweet goodness washing over your tongue, with the occasional shock of firmness. That’s the banana, like a nipple in your mouth. Suddenly. Like a warning. 'Treat her gentle.' That's good. But at the end of the day, I have to agree with Toad. This is Masterchef after all. This is not kindergarten.

TOAD: Stan’s got to really start pulling out the stops here. He’s got to start thinking with his stomach, and eating - if he can, and I know not everyone can - with his brain.

Round Four...

...Asparagus, Peanut Butter & Red Leicester

TOAD (with great humility): I often say this on Masterchef, and it's definitely true, that here we’re privy to some of the greatest unsung heroes of modern culinary theory and technique. Some of the greatest instinctive cooks – the natural-born innovators. They come on here and we nurture them. Eating this toastie here – I have no doubt, this is one of those moments.

EGG: Whoa. It’s like your palate doesn’t know where to look! There’s the oppressive clagginess of the peanut butter, almost threatening to choke you, then there’s the cleansing, purgative freshness of the asparagus, washing that away the clag and leaving just enough room for the cheese to kind of ooze in and make everything all right.

TOAD: Asparagus. Peanut butter. The cheese creeping up behind you like a grandparent, shuffling into your comfort zone and just giving you a little hug. Nothing sinister. This, my fat friend, is a world class toasted sandwich.

EGG: Traditionally, in a time before this quality brushed stainless steel Cuisnart kitchen product, asparagus would have been eaten in the traditional way...

...parboiled spears laid out on a thick layer of peanut butter on a nest of white bread. Nowadays, why stop there?

TOAD: Nowadays, out comes the cheese, transforming a classic snack into a culinary event.

Round Five...

...Carrot Cake

EGG: This is the second sweet course of the competition and it’s a tricky one. You have to ask yourself… is it a cake? Or is it a toastie? And the answer is, it’s neither, and at the same time, it's both. Make no mistake, this is challenging stuff. My only grizzle would be that it’s too dry. It needs something to lubricate it, just juice it up a little.

TOAD: Yes, maybe a creamy Cointreau custard and just a sprinkling of cocoa powder or something. You’re right, it needs something to lift it. Disappointing.

Round Six...

...Marmite & Nutella

TOAD: Now this is interesting. At the heart of this recipe is of course the stark contrast of tastes. You’ve got the lovely, welcome sweetness of the milk chocolate, and the sharp, salty, unmistakable barb of the yeast extract. The latter comes in, through the window almost, or a hole in the roof, like a sex offender. It shouldn’t work, and it doesn’t, but for me, that’s where the triumph lies. Deliciously inedible.

EGG: Well, I’m very disappointed. And I can see Stan going out of this competition. This is the penultimate round, and he has to be blowing us away at this point. He should be unlocking Pandora's Box, Dr Caligari's Cabinet and the bag with the cat in it. If he has one. The spirit of his imagination needs to be set free. At this stage in the game, I want to be shocked! I want to be amazed! I want to be frightened. All we’ve really got here is an adolescent challenge to our basic gustatory instincts. He needs to let go. He needs to be bold. Or else - I'm sorry to say - he’s finished.

Round Seven...

...Double Gloucester Crêpe Souris

EGG: Wow. I’m lost for words.

TOAD: Well, you did ask him to be bold.

EGG: If I’d known then, what I was letting myself in for, would I still have pushed him? I don’t know that I would.

TOAD: I’m in two minds myself.

EGG: At the moment, Toad, I've got as many minds as I’ve got emotions running wild. Part of me can’t help feeling that, with this dish, Stan has arrived at that taut, frangible, fit-to-burst-with-excitement point where kitchen, gallery and philosopher’s glory-hole all collide and explode. We're at the point where Magical Chaos ensues.

TOAD: This is a toasted sandwich that may actually transcend the form, but what it definitely does, without question, is it tramples on our preconceptions. It tells you to take everything you’ve ever learned about heated snacks, put it in a sack marked ‘OBSOLETE’ and be sick in it. Let's just be clear what we're talking about here. We're talking about Double Gloucester cheese and a toasted mouse. A mouse which has been prepared by being left to decay for about three, maybe four weeks, in a bag of purple wool. Outstanding.

EGG: OK, so we’ve established that conceptually, this is a bit special. But we’re not here to give out arts grants. We’re here to eat food. So let’s find out, what does it taste like? [EGG stuffs an entire half-toastie into his gaping maw and crunches and chews like a mannerless child] Well, texturally it is a conundrum. There’s the stringy, chewy stringiness of the cheese and the sharp, crumbling crunch of decaying mouse bones breaking between your teeth. Then there’s the fur that gets stuck in the back of your throat and… is that nutmeg?

TOAD: Definitely nutmeg. But the interesting thing is that the nutmeg forms part of what tastes like a riot, like a controlled riot of flavours, a riot that’s almost choreographed – there’s dill, there’s chilli, there’s vanilla, there’s black pepper and just a hint of Marmite all moving around one another - and then you’ve got the overriding, overpowering smack of decomposing rodent, tying the whole thing together. Heston Blumenthal must be kicking himself.

EGG: I think it’s safe to say, it’s an acquired taste, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, if this toasted sandwich doesn’t win both the Turner Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for Cooking, then I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

TOAD: Exactly. And whether or not it’s a myth that mice like cheese…

EGG: It is.

TOAD: Well, whether or not that’s true…

EGG: It is.

TOAD: OK, so if mice did like cheese…

EGG: Mice could never like cheese. It's a medical thing. It damages their brains.

TOAD: But what I'm trying to say is, the whole mouse-cheese thing has been turned on its head. This is Masterchef at its most radical and creative. And Kerry Katona is going to have her work cut out in the next round.

EGG: Well done, Stan. Good work.



That was disgusting. And I don’t know why I did it. I felt sick photographing that wretched mouse. I found it in Ben’s knitting bag. His wool is peppered with droppings. I could have just thrown it out but it seemed a shame to waste it.

Please don't tell me I need to get out more. I already know that.

Anyhow, as you can see, the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker toasts sandwiches very well, no matter what you put in them. So, if you want to experience for yourself the exquisite dark magic of toasted foodstuffs, then why not get yourself along to Cookware by CSN, ask to speak to the sweetly pretty girl who answers the phones and emails there...

...and give her merry hell about why CSN no longer stock the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker.

Alternatively, you could always go somewhere else. It definitely pays to shop around with stuff like this and to be honest, even though it was free and everything, CSN did take ages to deliver.

As for the make and model – although I’m sure they’re all pretty much of a muchness – this one does do the job. Wallop. Nice one. Although to be honest, the light that tells you when stuff is done doesn't really work very well.

So there you go.

Next week there will be something beautiful here.

In the meantime, if you would like me to feature your product on my blog, please write to me at this address here and offer me some kind of bribe.

No animals were harmed, inconvenienced or posthumously disrespected in the preparation of this blog post. Except maybe one.

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Nicky said...

Wow, that was gross. And the picture of Egg was unspeakable.

gongman said...

The French are soooo ethnocentric about their cuisine....with no good reason.You could show 'em a thing or two Bête.

Shall I sound the dinner gong for you?

Catofstripes said...

Ha, and maybe ha again. Most amusing, cheri. Bon appetit.

Antipo Déesse said...

I have just run downstairs to throw out my hundreds of cook books.

Jones said...

The ingredients in those fillings are so incongruous that my brain refused to process them as being part of the same recipes. That meant that after seeing the mouse pic I am now both nauseous and hungry. Excellent!

Donna Deluso said...

After photography the poor wee furry mite it would have been even more creative if the you'd skinned the mouse, spatchcock-ed it and then inserted it avec fromage into the sandwich. Imagine the crunchy little bones - giving the sandwich texture and interest - and the "mature" meat giving it a gamey flavour. Tres bon!

Kirses said...

Yep - thanks very much, I now feel quite nauseous... I'm going to try and forget I saw that

justrestingmyeyes said...

Oh, I do like that. And extra bonus points for not doing any sort of "rodents don't get any harder than this" gag, which is where I would have gone first and unoriginally.

True story: friend on mine returned home from an evening of drunken depravity with some associates and they all went on a toast binge, as you do. Around the sixth or seventh round of toast, they noticed a persistent burning smell and that the ping! mechanism was sticking. Much potentially dangerous wiggling around with palate knives later, they fished out
a small
that had presumably climbed into the toaster for some crumby nibblings.

There's probably a moral in this somewhere.

Sam said...

Hello. I must say, You have my undevided attention, for I am a sandwich queen. Your toasted treats have me in a tizzy (hard to do)so I am now your loyal follower. If you have a minute, come see my blog at I'd be honored to have you visit and/or follow or both. Thanks a Million, Keri (a.k.a. Sam)

Lennie Nash said...

Jesus Stan! John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, must be spinning in his grave.

I've heard Heston Blumenthal is quite interested in your sardine recipe though.

All the best,


PS. For more mouse-food horror, click here...although I have to stress that I imagine a rodent was harmed in this one...

PurestGreen said...

Oh my god I thought I would die of laughter. Tears. There are tears in my eyes, and I can't even smell the mouse from here.

I do hope you gave your sandwich maker a good clean before you used it again. Ewwwww...

Anonymous said...

And another thing... I feel traumatised by cheesey, dead Staurt Little, I forgot to ask. Exactly WHAT were you doing fishing around in your flatmate's knitting bag? Looking for some wool to knit Stuart Little a scarf - I HOPE!! After all, he had one in the movie!

A Twitter Friend

It will be a long while before I get over this blogpost

Anonymous said...

Good lord! I don't know whether to be repulsed or despicably intrigued as to the texture and taste of the mousey-cheese toastie.

Gah, the damn thing's burnt into my mind..

marianne said...

Really, truly, completely disgusting. Well done.

amy grace said...

1) Ew
2) Le petit souris was dead when you found it, I hope. Please confirm so that I may sleep tonight.

clumpf said...

Ben has a knitting bag? I have a knitting bag too and I'm a GIRL. Is Ben a bit lavender?

True Lateral said...

Marmite and nutella together? My husband suggested this to me recently too. It sounds disgusting, but I might have to try it now.

Fluffer said...

That was hilarious! you twisted Toastiephile, you.

PS father Christmas brought me your book for xmas, excellent read, I shall give it a glowing review!

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Brilliant. And bilious.


Anonymous said...

You didn't really try toasting Mickey, did you? Please say you didn't... I may never recover from this. You could have at least done the decent thing and used granary. You didn't use Hovis white, did you? Aww...

I think it's high time we staged an intervention. Someone needs to save you. It'll be Oprah-style, with cameras at all angles, a therapist at hand and lots of tears. Now, all we need is your address. So, who's in?!

A Twitter Friend said...

I initially read that as, "a sweaty, pretty girl".

This made me laugh a LOT. Tell me: mouse aside, you did try all of them, didn't you? Just a tiny bit?


Metropolitan Mum said...

You lost me at Nutella and Marmite. As if I had sensed that it all goes down after that.

I used to have a sandwich maker back then. I think I toasted my way out of a depression.

AndrewM said...

You are a sick man.

The toasties were pretty gross too.

Anonymous said...


Ann Anon

Henry North London said...

We have an original Breville toasted sandwich maker, circa 1979

You really toasted that mouse with double gloucester?

Yikes Well at least you sterilised it

Anonymous said...

All the interesting recipes are well and good but how do you put a whole egg in it without it that's a tricky one.I think the picture of the mouse is rather juvenile.

La Bête said...

Oh come on! The whole thing is rather juvenile!