Ham and Egg Toasts

A nineteenth-century farmhouse supper dish from Devizes. The gammon slices would, of course, have been cut by the farmer’s wife from a flitch of her own curing; the toast would have been made from her own bread and the eggs would have come from the poultry yard. The butter and cheese would have been home-made, too. Scrambled eggs, sometimes called buttered eggs, were served on toast from Elizabethan times, when what were called “spread toasts” first became popular as savouries. They derive directly from food served on a “trencher” of bread. The earliest spreads seem usually to have been made from chopped chicken or sweetbreads, sweetened with sugar, raisins, currants or honey, and flavoured with rosewater, orange-flower water or spices. The ingredients must all be prepared ahead, cooked and combined very quickly and eaten at once.

Ingredients

  • 4 gammon slices
  • sticks (150 g) butter
  • 4 large slices of bread, white or brown according to taste
  • 8 eggs, well beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Prepared English mustard
  • ½ cup (60 g) very finely grated Cheddar cheese
  • Sprigs of watercress or 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Method

Fry the gammon slices lightly on both sides in a large pan using ½ stick (60 g) of the butter. They should be slightly brown on both sides and soft right through when pricked with a fork. Keep the gammon hot while you lightly toast the bread. Butter the toast and put a gammon slice on each piece. Keep hot in the oven.

Melt the remaining butter, and stir in the beaten eggs. Stir over very low heat, always moving the mixture from the bottom of the pan so that it does not stick. As the egg begins to thicken, set it aside for a minute. Take the toast and gammon from the oven, spread the gammon with a very little mustard and turn the gammon slices over, so that the mustard is between the toast and the gammon.

Quickly pile equal quantities of the scrambled egg on each gammon slice, sprinkle with cheese and then with the watercress or parsley. Serve and eat immediately.

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