When I was around 20 or 21, I went to the UK for the summer. My boyfriend’s English friends left almost straight after my arrival for France on a camping holiday leaving us, the dreadfully poor, sitting in a 2-bedroom flat in London, chain smoking and bored (Ah, youth). My boyfriend suggested that we go to Northern Ireland for the Summer. It’s cheap to live and we can make some money working there and then naturally we’ll go on holiday too—maybe France or even Amsterdam! His suggested oasis of money making was the small university town of Portrush. This was a really stupid plan. I agreed immediately.
This was a stupid plan for many reasons, the most obvious being that the average wage for a barmaid (my only skill at the time) was 2 pounds an hour. In London (where we WERE) it was much more than that.
Off we went!
If I remember correctly (oh, it was so long ago), we took a train to the west coast, then a ferry in the middle of the night to Dublin. We landed in Dublin early morning, stopped for a pint somewhere and then hitchhiked the rest of the way North to Portrush. It took us all day and about 4 different drivers. At last we arrived in a charming seaside town (although I didn’t notice its charm at the time) with a sweet little marina, narrow stony terraced houses, outrageously dramatic cliffs and angry waves. We each had a hiking bag on our backs and were exhausted from walking, standing, walking and waiting by the sides of roads. My boyfriend led the way to the small house he shared with other students–most of whom were away for the summer. But one housemate happened to be in, a tall Irish fellow named Fergal who, as far as I can tell, hated me on sight. But even so he took the time to make us a cup of tea and a toastie.
A toastie? What the hell is that?
Two pieces of bread, filled with something nice and smushed together in a metal contraption until cooked and crispy. Kind of like grilled cheese taken to the next level. Fergal served me a ham and cheese toastie and I did something very strange for my 21-year old self (my young self who survived on cigarettes, coffee and packets of crisps). I ate the whole dang thing. Because it was fricking delicious and because I was hungry. Really hungry.
And if you find yourself in such a state, when you need food—hot, substantial, easy, cheap, scrummy food—than a toastie is the way to go. Or something much like a toastie. Which is how I like to think of my newly discovered favorite (of the moment) street food: the bombay sandwich. To me, it’s an exotic toastie. The nice thing about it is it is not anywhere near as heavy as it sounds. Potato and bread? Yes, but thinly sliced potato, also beets, tomato, cucumber, onion and fresh zingy knock you out mint chutney. It’s actually more like a salad than a sandwich, even with some freshly grated cheese just melting over the top.
Homemade green chutney
1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
3 green chilies, deseeded (unless you want the extra spice)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 tsp chopped nuts (peanuts or cashews)
salt and pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
1) Put all in a blender or food processor and blend until liquified and smooth. If using a blender, you may need to add a dash of water but this will make the chutney watered down.
Ingredients for one awesome Bombay sandwich
2 slices completely unpretentious bread (white or brown)
homemade green mint chutney–not optional!
1/2 cooked potato, sliced thinly
1/2 tomato sliced
thin slices of cucumber
1/8 thinly sliced onion
4-5 slices of cooked beet
grated mild cheese such as cheddar or jack
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground cumin
1/2 tsp chaat masala
1) Butter two slices of bread and spread generously with the homemade chutney.
2) Layer the vegetables on one slice of bread: cucumber, tomato, beets, onion and potato.
3) Sprinkle the spices over the vegetables and then cover with the other slice of bread.
4) If you do not have a toastie maker: Butter the outside of the sandwich and then fry in a frying pan with a weight on the sandwich. Fry on med low for 2 or 3 minutes. Melt more butter in the frying pan and carefully flip the sandwich to fry the other side in the butter, taking care not to let the fillings spill out. Add weight to the top of the sandwich to press down.
5) If you do have a toastie maker, butter both sides of the outside sandwich and cook as normal.
6) When the sandwich is done, serve with extra chutney slathered on top and fresh grated cheese over it. Enjoy!