Although much of our focus tends to be on the joys of eating out, there is often equal pleasure to be found from dining at home. There are caveats around this statement, of course, and the most obvious one is to state that the food is only part of the overall experience.
You might cook the world’s finest meal but, if the company isn’t up to scratch, then the occasion may still end up being disappointing. There’s a flip-side to this comment, however: if you have great company, then the food needn’t be complex. You’ll all enjoy being together and a simple, wholesome meal can form a happy part of the event.
Like many people, I have children and they aren’t always thrilled by what might be termed gourmet cooking. In fact, simplicity is often the way to go when it comes to midweek cooking. When discussing the production of great food in the home, I believe that any such cooking must be practical in nature. If it takes many hours and involves dozens of ingredients (some of which may be difficult to source), then it’s unlikely to represent a sensible, realistic option. That’s why I’d like to explore meals that can be produced quickly and easily with the humble toaster.
Choosing the right toaster
How difficult is it to choose the right toaster for your needs? Well, surprisingly so is the answer! Of course, it’s simple enough to pick up a basic toaster off the shelf of a local retail store, but we’re looking to create great, simple meals here. This means that we’ll need to ensure that our toaster is up to the job.
So where should we begin? My own research on the subject of toasters and grilling has been pretty extensive, starting out with the most obvious consideration of size and hence toasting capacity. This presents the decision between the two most popular options on the market at present: two-slice toasters and four-slice toasters. Which should you opt for? Is bigger always better?
In practical terms, the underlying consideration here is likely to surround the size of your family and the amount of available space on your kitchen sides. There’s little point opting for a larger toaster, if it’s going to leave you with very little food preparation space in the kitchen. Similarly, you’ll need to think about how frequently you would need to toast four slices of bread simultaneously.
After size, the next thought should undoubtedly be about toaster ability. How evenly will it toast and how long will it last for? These can be difficult questions to answer when buying a new toaster and I used number67.co.uk for guidance on this subject, although other websites are evidently available. Quite a number of different brands are theoretically up to the job, although I narrowed down to a shortlist including Bosch, Kenwood, Sage and Russell Hobbs toasters. This really came down to personal choice.
The final step is what I would like to call the “bells and whistles”. These are the additional toaster functions, such as countdown timers and defrost options. Nice to have, but not (in my opinion) essential.
Ultimately, you need to select a toaster that is right for you. Then what? Where do you start with creating a great meal? I’d recommend perfecting simple options, but then adding flavour twists. So I’d start with:
- Bruschetta, with lashings of olive oil, basil and thinly sliced red onion
- Classic cheese on toast. Try adding Worcestershire source and experimenting with different cheese varieties. Going beyond cheddar takes you into some interesting areas
- Muffins with egg and chives, maybe served with a rasher of bacon. My mouth is watering, just thinking about it
Most of all, have fun experimenting with your cooking and let us know how you get on!