“It has been well said that a hungry man is more interested in four sandwiches than four freedoms.” – Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
The toasted sandwich is the student’s ultimate culinary salvation bar none. Nothing can rival the cocooning feeling of warmth derived from tucking into a grilled cheese, a croque-monsieur, or its less well known but equally delicious cousin, the croque Boum-Boum (I ask you, what could be more comforting than a toastie filled with Bolognese?). To tuck into a toastie is to retreat into a stress-free world which bolsters with the promise of hot, crisp bread and melting chewing-gum cheese.
The rewards for the cash-strapped student are multiple: the toasted sandwich is an economical shortcut to a sustaining yet nourishing meal, can be made in a matter of greed-induced moments, and is a small assertion of a student’s independence and self-sufficiency in its simplicity. And that is not to mention its versatility – a toastie is your friend, to fill with all manner of wondrous things (think cold meats, sautéed vegetables or even peanut butter and banana à la Elvis Presley). Here are my top three toasties that you’ll find in my gyp on the regular.
Mozzarella in Carrozza
When you think of Italian toasties, the first word to come to mind is the panini (or panino – as an MML student, incorrect plurals provoke the pedantic in me!). Mozzarella in Carrozza is a far cry from your Caffè Nero classic – this Neapolitan mozzarella toastie, or mozzarella ‘in a carriage’, is unctuously gooey, cheap as chips, and my student stalwart. Originally stemming from a need for the Neapolitans to use up leftover bread and mozzarella in the 18th Century, this sandwich is sold by a multitude of vendors lining the streets of Naples and is a firm favourite across the length and breadth of Italy.
Simply make sandwiches with sliced mozzarella and white sliced bread. The fantastic thing about this toastie is that it demands the cheapest ingredients possible – the mozzarella should be the cheapest you can find (an expensive mozzarella di bufala just wouldn’t cut it in the stringiness stakes), and the bread used ought to be the much maligned white sliced loaf, whose pappiness is crucial in allowing you to squidge the mozzarella into its carb-fuelled vehicle. Forming the sandwiches is satisfying work; simply work your way around the edges of the slices of bread, making sure that the mozzarella is sealed in. Don’t be too fastidious though: This is meant to be quick food, and a little ooze in the pan is not altogether unwanted. Next, dredge the sandwiches in a mixture of beaten egg and milk, being careful not to allow the bread to become too sodden. To cook, fry in a little oil or butter for a couple of minutes a side, until the outside is golden, and the inside is molten and stringy. This is great with soup, marinara sauce, or even a generous drizzle of fiery Sriracha.
This meaty offering from Argentina is the Latin American spin on a British sausage sandwich. Across Argentina, choripanes are often served as appetisers during the legendary asado barbecue, however it is also served at football grounds where it is their version of pie and mash. It is staggeringly easy to make: fry chopped coins of chorizo for a couple of minutes until slightly crisp and exuding their paprika-spiced juices. Stuff this into a grilled baguette. Make sure to spoon some of the oil that comes out of the chorizo onto the bread – it will be soaked up by the bread’s crumb to much lip-smacking delight.
To make this sandwich extra special, whip up a quick chimichurri sauce by mixing together finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, chilli flakes, and white or red wine vinegar. Dollop this sauce into the sandwich and you too will be transported to the bustling streets of Buenos Aires.
This is the most delicious omelette sandwich eaten across the Malay Peninsula. Roti John came about following its development by a Malay who lived in Singapore during the years of British colonial rule. Roti is translated in Malay as bread, and the ‘john’ part of its name is said to derive from the baguette, the bread of choice for this sandwich, and its western roots. To prepare this Southeast Asian sensation, simply pour an egg and chopped onion mixture into a frying pan as for an ordinary omelette (2 to 3 eggs per person is advisable, depending on appetite) and then press short baguette rolls into the mixture. Once the egg is set, flip the whole roll over and toast the other side. To serve, this sandwich must be liberally slathered with hot chilli sauce and mayonnaise.
N.B. The restorative qualities of these toasties are of great importance – part of their salvific power comes from their ability to soak up the excesses of one too many trips to Fez.