...there were two roast sliced chestnuts which they would eat like toast with butter and a cold boiled chestnut which Pod would cut like bread; there was a plate of hot dried currants, well plumped before the fire; there were cinnamon breadcrumbs, crispy golden, and lightly dredged with sugar, and in front of each plate, oh, delight of delights, a single potted shrimp.
The Borrowers, Mary Norton
My mum is an expert with leftovers. She has a gift - she can open a fridge, spend a minute picking up odds and ends (we call this 'reading the refrigerator', and we were banned from it during hot Queensland summers) and whip up something delicious. Alongside the fresh ingredients, we were never without various tupperware containers filled with leftover salads, some form of carbohydrate, or slices of roast meat. And so, regardless of what time mum arrived home (she has always worked long hours) we always ate very well.
When I moved to the UK, I started to spend my holidays with my second family in Gloucestershire. I have written before of their extraordinary generosity, and the wonderful relationship that we have. Whenever I am there, it is inevitably with some or all of my adopted siblings, and a fridge that is bursting at the seams with food. After Swedish Christmas, English Christmas and Boxing Day, we take it in turns to hunt out leftovers and turn them into something new. We have our staples (roasts find their way into pies and risottos, root veg is mashed or diced to provide some sort of breakfast fodder), but more often than not, we will organise a 'hotch potch', where we pull everything out of the fridge and assemble it in the middle of the table. This meal in The Borrowers feels just like a 'hotch potch' dinner. Some chestnuts, a handful of raisins, crumbs of cinnamon toast and a single potted shrimp - food that doesn't quite go together, but that a hungry family would make short work of.
I have been through a lot of ingredients in the past week - while cooking over 50 recipes from my forthcoming book, I've bought kilograms of butter, over 100 eggs and 10 litres of milk. In the past couple of days, after the last of the leftover ingredients and dishes were slowly put to good use, I opened the fridge to discover that I was down to the bare minimum: eggs, milk, butter and bread. I could have reverted to my standby: scrambled eggs on toast, but I have been dreaming about cinnamon toast since re-reading The Borrowers earlier this year, and quickly latched onto that idea.
Traditional cinnamon toast (the one I remember from childhood) is heavily buttered white toast, sprinkled liberally with sugar and cinnamon. This one is a little more substantial, slightly more grown up and - most importantly - used up what I had left in the fridge.
Cinnamon French Toast
2 large slices bread
1/2tsp icing sugar
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1. In the flat dish, whisk the eggs, salt and milk together. Push the slices of bread into the mixture, leaving them for around a minute before turning them over. The time here is really down to how robust your bread is - sourdough can take a minute a side (it would be fine if you forgot about it for a good few minutes, actually), softer bread will need less time.
2. Melt the butter in the frying pan over a medium heat until it is frothing, then lay the bread in the pan. Cook for around two minutes, until golden underneath. Flip over and cook the other side for two minutes too. The butter will brown during this time – if you’d rather it didn’t, you can use clarified butter, but I quite like the nutty flavor that brown butter lends.
3. Remove the toast from the pan, then sprinkle with the icing sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Serve immediately.