Italians can sometimes be a bit weird. For example, they simply do not seem to grasp the concept of having lunch whenever you want. In Italy, one has lunch at 1 pm. One does not have lunch at any other time. One is hungry at 12? Tough. Lunch break starts at 13:00h, and not a minute earlier!
When I told my love I had an exam scheduled from 1 to 3 pm, his immediate reaction was: “That can’t be right, that’s lunch time!” No, it’s not. Not in the UK, at least.
In Italy it definitely is, though. A very annoying consequence of this commandment is that everything in Italy is closed between 1 and, well, you can never be sure until when. But it’ll more than likely be 1 to 3:30pm, especially if you’re desperate to get something done from some bank or office. Karma knows.
However, the definite perk of this lunch business is that you can go home or to some fantastic but undoubtedly cheap establishment and stuff your face with warm food. And this, I may have to admit, outweighs everything else.
Because having a hot meal during the day, people, is the cure for many things, most importantly obesity and depression. 12 o’clock: have a meagre sandwich, stay hungry all day, stuff face with biscuits until dinner time. Then have massive meal, sit down on sofa, don’t use up spare calories. No, instead of that imagine what could be! 1 pm: have a glorious meal, feel full, stay active and use up all added calories. Go home for light meal, rest easy all night. It would be perfect! Away with bread, in with the pasta! We need stir fries, soup, stews! The pale, grumpy Scots will turn into healthy, blushing, fearless warriors against the cold. Warm food could keep us warm and cheerful all day.
But in Scotland lunchtime isn’t from 1 to eternity, it’s probably from any time to half an hour later so things have to be a lot quicker around here. So we shall settle for a compromise: warm bread!
If you have a panini press then that would be very helpful. If you don’t have one, buy one now. What with the crisis and all that, your money could be worthless before spring. But then you’d still have a panini press! You can get them for as little as 27 quid on amazon.
I realise this is essentially a recipe for toasties, so I’m publishing two, so that it seems more impressive.
First: cheddar and shallot toastie. You shall need:
- some bread of your choosing, I use a normal white loaf, sliced by myself
- some mature cheddar
- a shallot
- black pepper
- ploughman’s pickle (or for those who cannot be bothered with that: brown sauce)
- wee bit of olive oil or chilli oil
Plug in your panini press, if you have one. Slice thick slices of bread and very thin slices of shallot. Take some olive oil (or even better, some chilli oil!) and sprinkle over the shallots. Put both slices of bread and your shallot rings in the panini press, close it, leave for a while, until the onion is soft.
Put enough cheddar on a slice of bread, top with the onion, sprinkle over a generous amount of pepper, top with the other slice of bread and roast until the cheese melts. Serve with ploughman’s pickle or something similar.
Then, the better one: goats’ cheese and pepper baguette. You will need:
- a baguette
- three colours of bell pepper
- soft goat’s cheese
- olive oil
For those of you who don’t have a panini press: stick the onion/peppers in a frying pan for a little while, on low or medium heat. Then put the bread under the grill for a while.