There’s this idea that, when it comes to food, chefs never take the easy way out. Almost like the words, simple, express, on-the-go, and quick fix don’t exist in our vocabulary. And if they do, they’re filed under swear words. But when you think about it, how long do you normally wait for your food at a restaurant? Ten minutes? Fifteen minutes? Twenty? Chances are, the longer you wait, the more sceptical you become of the restaurant, and the more the experience becomes a game of trying to catch the waiter’s ever-elusive eye. There are so many dishes that are so quick and easy to make. The magic lies in the flavour and texture. So, when all you want over a long, lazy weekend are a few quick-fix options, you’ve got them in spades! And this is one of my favourites.
Growing up in the 80s, especially on a farm without the trend-inspired mod cons of the city, tea time looked a lot different to the flat white, chai latté, macha-fuelled binges of today. No, to the van der Westhuizen clan, tea was served with unpasteurised cow’s milk and coffee took the form of moer coffee. During these mid-afternoon pick-me-ups, a snack was par for the course. And although I’ve always had a sweet tooth, I’d always rummage through the cupboards for a stray can of sardines. And on the days that I’d manage to find one, it felt like I’d won an Easter hunt. They’re still one of my favourite guilty pleasures.
Back then, it felt like very sophisticated cooking. The details are vague, but I can just imagine the show my seven-year-old self might have treated his family to. I might not have known how to julienne a carrot at the time, but I always knew that cooking went hand in hand with a healthy dose of theatre. Whatever your style, there’s no denying that these toasties pack a LOT of punch for something that takes only five minutes to put together.
Preheat the oven to 200 °C. Toast 6 slices of white bread of your choice. Finely grate 100 g mature cheese. Cut the crusts off of the toast and halve each slice. Scatter equal amounts of the cheese over the toast and place them on a baking tray. Carefully drain a 106 g tin of sardines and put one sardine on each slice of toast. Place the tray in the oven for about 6 – 8 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately. This one doesn’t get better with age.