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  • Toast: The Cookbook

    Toast is the ultimate comfort food – and we love nothing better than a slice on its own drenched in butter. However more recently the ‘posh toast’ trend has elevated the simple grilled piece of bread into a much more indulgent dish...

    Food writer Raquel Pelzel’s ode to the malleable snack, 'Toast: The Cookbook', is full of enticing recipe ideas for mid-week dinner inspiration and she has been kind enough to share three of her favourite recipes with us - ideal for celebrating National Toast Day this February 22nd!

    Roasted Beets on Toast with Labneh and Saffron Honey

    "Labneh is a Lebanese strained yogurt that is quite rich and tastes almost like a sour cream /crème fraîche hybrid. It comes fresh in a tub, like yogurt, or as balls preserved in a jar of olive oil, almost like cheese. Here, I use the creamy version spooned over toast and paired with stunning roasted beets (beetroots) and saffron-infused honey. Toasted pistachios and chopped fresh mint add a pretty bright color and nice crunch."

    Serves 4 

    I N G R E D I E N T S

    For the Saffron Honey and Roasted Beets:
    ½ teaspoon saffron threads
    ½ cup (120 ml) honey
    ½ teaspoon plus a pinch of kosher (coarse) salt
    3 medium beets (beetroots), ends trimmed
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
    Freshly ground black pepper

    For the Toast:
    Four ½-inch (2 cm) thick slices country-style bread
    Extra-virgin olive oil, for the bread
    Kosher (coarse) salt, for the bread
    1 cup (240 ml) labneh (Lebanese-style) yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
    4 tablespoons (½ cup) toasted and roughly chopped pistachios
    Flaky salt

    M E T H O D 

    1. Make the saffron honey: Toast the saffron in a small skillet (frying pan) over medium heat, shaking the pan often, until the saffron is fragrant, 30 seconds–1 minute. Transfer the saffron to a small dish and use the back of a teaspoon to crush it into a fine powder. Add the honey to the skillet and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the saffron and a pinch of salt, remove from the heat, and set aside.

    2. Roast the beets: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C/Gas Mark 5). Set each beet in a large square of foil and drizzle 1 teaspoon of the oil over the top of each beet. Wrap the beets in the foil, place them on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast until a paring knife easily slides into the center of the largest beet, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and set aside for 20 minutes before unwrapping. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel them and chop into bite-size pieces. Toss the beets with 1 tablespoon of the oil, the mint leaves, ½ teaspoon of salt, and the pepper and set aside.

    3. Make the toast (If using a grill, it’s best to butter or drizzle the bread with oil before toasting; however, if using a traditional toaster, definitely wait until after the bread is toasted to butter or oil it). Let the toasts cool for a few minutes before topping. To serve, spread each toast with labneh. Top with beets, pistachios, a generous drizzle of saffron honey, and flaky salt.

    Sweet Shrimp and Fava Smash Toast

    "Sweet and intensely verdant fava beans are the absolute essence of spring. True, they are a bit of work to shell and peel, but sometimes the best things in life require just a smidge of elbow grease. The sweetness of the smash is beautifully accented by sweet butter-poached shrimp (prawns) and licorice-tinged tarragon, though fresh mint works beautifully too. For a shortcut, try making the smash with frozen or fresh peas—no shelling required!"

    Serves 4

    I N G R E D I E N T S

    For the Tarragon Butter and Favas:
    4 tablespoons (60 g) unsalted butter, softened
    1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
    1½ teaspoons plus a pinch of kosher (coarse) salt
    8 ounces (225 g) shelled fava beans (from 2–2½ pounds/910 g–1.1 kg favas in the pod)
    1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    ½ sweet onion (such as a Vidalia), finely chopped
    2 tablespoons heavy (double) cream

    For the Toast:
    1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted butter
    ½ pound (225 g) large shrimp (prawns), shelled, deveined, and halved lengthwise
    Kosher (coarse) salt
    Juice of ½ lemon
    Four ½-inch (2 cm) thick slices country-style bread
    Flaky salt
    A few handfuls of watercress or baby spinach

    M E T H O D

    1. Make the tarragon butter: In a small bowl, mix together the butter, tarragon, and a pinch of kosher salt. Set aside.

    2. Make the favas: Fill a small bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the fava beans and blanch the favas for 1 minute. Drain and shock favas in the ice water. Once the favas are cool, use your finger and thumb to pinch and slip off the skins. Place the skinned favas in a small bowl. (If using peas instead of favas, skip this step entirely.)

    3. In a medium skillet (frying pan), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and . teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 5–6 minutes. Stir in the fava beans and cook until they are tender, 3–5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, add the cream, 1 tablespoon of the tarragon butter, and the remaining . teaspoon salt, and process until smooth.

    4. Make the toast: In a medium skillet (frying pan), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shrimp and cook slowly, spooning the butter over the shrimp, until they start to curl, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt, turn the shrimp over and cook on the other side until they are cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a medium bowl and toss with the lemon juice.

    5. Spread the bread slices with the remaining tarragon butter and sprinkle with flaky salt, then toast. If using a grill, it’s best to butter or drizzle the bread with oil before toasting; however, if using a traditional toaster, definitely wait until after the bread is toasted to butter or oil it. To serve, top each toast with a generous amount of fava smash. Add the cress to the shrimp and toss to combine, then spoon it over the fava smash. Sprinkle with flaky salt.

    Best Cinnamon Toast

    "My mother is not a great cook. That said, cinnamon toast is hard to mess up, and it truly is one of her best “home cooked” dishes, so it owns a small corner of my heart. Here, I take the toast a couple of steps further: I soak buttered and toasted bread in cinnamon sugar syrup, which gives the toast an almost custardy quality. Then I press the sticky side of the bread into cinnamon sugar and fry the bread in butter so the sugar caramelizes around the edges and becomes almost candy-like."

    Serves 4

    For the Cinnamon Syrup: 

    ½ cup (100 g) sugar
    3 cinnamon sticks

    For the Toast:
    Four ½-inch (2 cm) thick slices Pullman loaf or whole wheat bread
    6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, softened
    3 tablespoons sugar
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    Confectioners’ (icing) sugar (optional)

    M E T H O D 

    1. Make the cinnamon syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cinnamon sticks, and . cup (120 ml) water and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the cinnamon is very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool (the syrup can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks).

    2. Make the toast: Using 3–4 tablespoons of the butter, coat both sides of each piece of bread. Set the bread on a foil-lined baking sheet and grill until golden brown, about 2–3 minutes. Flip the bread slices and toast the other side until golden brown, another 1–2 minutes. Brush a generous amount of cinnamon syrup over one side of each slice (add enough syrup to saturate the bread without making it soggy).

    3. In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon until combined, then transfer all but 2 teaspoons of it to a plate. Dip each piece of toast, syrup side down, in the cinnamon sugar.

    4. In a large skillet (frying pan), melt the remaining 2–3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and place the toast,sugared side down, in the skillet. Set a large heatsafe plate on top of the toast to press it down (place one or two cans of beans on top to weight it down). Cook until the edges of the bread are caramelised and the sugar is completely melted and glistening across the surface of the bread, 3–4 minutes.

    5. Serve each slice of toast caramelised side up and sprinkled with some of the reserved cinnamon sugar and, if desired, confectioners’ sugar

    Recipes from 'Toast: The Cookbook' by Raquel Pelzel, published by Phaidon.