These days, it’s not often that I get a chance to go out with my son. Jake has gathered his London ‘tribe’, the size of which ebbs and flows like the fickle tide of fame but I am pleased that his close friends have remained constant throughout. My point is, that in his spare time, he is always busy, friends to meet up with, an event to go to or a party to attend – with a tribe that large there is always something going on. It’s nigh on impossible to do anything on the spur of the moment that includes him. Unless he is grounded, which was the case last week. So I snatched at the opportunity to take him shopping with me (he needed some things too, so don’t go feeling sorry for him at being grounded and dragged round the shops!) at the weekend. We stopped for some much needed fuel at “Pho“, one of a chain of Vietnamese restaurants that seem to have sprung up everywhere. Jake had the Pho Combo which was really tasty – full of aniseed and beefy flavours, but a huge portion as most of these noodle soup bowls are – does anybody actually finish one? I had the green papaya salad with peanuts and chicken which was absolutely gorgeous – fresh, crunchy and light. Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice how many bottles of Sriracha Sauce they had lining the shelves, as well as on every table. No wonder there is a dearth of them in the shops for us mere consumers! It was really lovely to spend a few hours with Jake, outside of the house (aka the battlefield) and just hang out like old times.
I adore Vietnamese food – really fresh flavours with mint and coriander, bone broths (Pho), noodles and lots of salads – quite easy to eat well and healthily. I’ve heard so much about bánh mì sandwiches – French bread sandwiches stuffed with all manner of glorious fillings and also known in New Orleans as a Vietnamese Po’ boy. I had fried seafood sandwiches on my mind when I received some packets of Whitby Seafood to review.
Whitby is an independent family business, founded in 1985 by Graham Whittle who has now been joined at the helm by his daughter and sons – isn’t that just such a wonderful thing in these days of giant omnipresent, multinational, community destroying, food businesses? They have rebranded themselves – rather wonderfully in my opinion – with packaging that is modern, relevant and eye-catching and a website that is so easy to navigate and read. Whitby Whole Scampi (langoustine), fished in British waters, is one of their best sellers and has been awarded a Great Taste 2014 Star too. Funnily enough, I was chatting to a friend earlier today and she had just bought a couple of packets in Morrisons – they are on sale – 2 for £4 and I would recommend snapping up a few packs – you won’t regret it!
So, I made a toastie version of a Po’ boy, with Whitby’s Whole Scampi, spicy homemade mayonnaise and that wonderful Barber’s 1833 Farmhouse Vintage Reserve Cheddar, which comes from another independent food producer, who are in fact the the oldest cheese makers in England. I have written about Barber’s previously here. I didn’t realise that Jake was going to be home this morning and for lunch (he is on study leave/writing exams) so I was really pleased that he was here to try my Spicy Po’ boy Toastie. After claiming that he wasn’t hungry, he scoffed the lot, saying between mouthfuls “this is really good” and “can you make this again”.
Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside bread, crunchy coated, tender scampi, spicy, smoky, creamy mayonnaise and gooey melted cheese – with a few cornichons or pickles to add sharpness – simply divine. I’m not going to lie – this is utter comfort food and with the wild weather we have been having, seemed like the perfect thing to eat.
They are really easy to make. While the scampi are cooking in the oven, mix up the spicy mayo, grate the cheese and generously butter the bread. Then, once the scampi are cooked. put a frying pan on a low heat, place one slice of bread in it, buttered side down, spread with the spicy mayo, then top with the scampi and cheese. Place the second slice of bread on top with the buttered side up, cover and gently sizzle for a minute or two – just keep checking the underside. When it’s a nice golden colour, flip it over, press down gently and let it cook for another minute or so. I find covering the pan heats everything through and makes the cheese melt more evenly. Use soft butter on the bread – it will tear otherwise and the mayo and cheese will leak out into the pan.
Disclaimer – I was sent the products to review but the opinions expressed are my own.
Spicy Po' boy Toastie
- 1 x 225g package of Whitby Whole Scampi
- 4 tsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp smoky paprika
- pinch of chilli flakes
- a few drops of hot sauce
- soft butter
- 80g Barber’s 1833 Farmhouse Vintage Reserve Cheddar
- 4 slices of bread
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F and cook the Whitby Whole Scampi for 15 minutes or a couple of minutes less than directions on the package.
- In the mean time, mix the mayonnaise with the smokey paprika, the chilli flakes and a few drops of hot sauce (I used 4 drops) and set aside.
- Generously butter two slices of bread – this will be the outside of the toastie.
- Coarsely grate the Barbers Vintage Reserve Cheddar Cheese.
- When the scampi is ready, place a non-stick frying pan on a low heat and place one (or two, depending on the size of your pan) slice of bread, buttered side down in it. Spread the unbuttered side which should be facing you, with half the spicy mayonnaise mixture, then top with about 7 or 8 pieces of scampi and half the grated cheese. Top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up and cover the pan with a lid. Check the underside after 1 ½ minutes – it should be golden brown. If not leave for a few more seconds.
- Using a spatula, lift the toastie out of the pan and flip it over and put it back in the pan. Press down gently and cook for another minute or until the underside is golden and the cheese has melted.
- Serve with a side of cornichons or pickles and lots of napkins!