Lancashire Spreads

Spread toasts were a popular Elizabethan dish. The spread was originally served directly on to trenchers, which were made of rather coarse bread and were sometimes eaten and sometimes treated only as plates. In great houses, fine white manchet bread was toasted for the spread and the whole placed on a trencher or a platter.

The earliest spreads were made of chopped veal kidney or sweetbreads mixed with egg yolks, spices, sugar and rosewater. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, savoury toasts were preferred and scrambled or poached eggs, ham, bacon and anchovies were all served, as were various forms of cheese toasts. This one is peculiar to Lancashire.

Ingredients

  • ½ lb (240 g) Lancashire cheese (Cheddar will do), finely grated (makes 2 cups)
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped and lightly fried
  • 4 slices streaky bacon, finely chopped and lightly fried
  • 4 fairly thick slices of white bread, crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) softened butter
  • Pepper

Method

Work the onion, bacon and pepper into the cheese with the blade of a knife, until they have blended into a paste. If Cheddar cheese is used, a little butter must be added to help the blending. Ten minutes before the toasts are to be served, toast the bread on one side only. Lightly spread the untoasted side with the butter and then with the prepared spread. Place under the grill but not too close to the heat, which should be turned low. Grill for 5 minutes. Serve at once.

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