Melba Toast – how to make it:
There are certain things which I firmly believe should be passed down through the generations. The making of Melba Toasts is one of those things – tiny sophisticated triangles of biscuity bread which pair perfectly with pates and dips and which look so much better than a bowl of nachos. They are, after all, homemade.
Lovely as my mother was, she didn’t know about Melba toast. She bought those rather unpleasant and nothing like the real thing packets of Melba toasts from the local grocer. She’d top them with pate, homemade salmon, mackerel or chicken liver terrine. And garnish with whatever (usually lumpfish roe for the fish versions and sprigs of parsley for the meat. I didn’t particularly like them. Homemade sausage rolls or mushroom vol-au-vent were a much better idea in my opinion. Then I met Ivy.
Ivy was an octogenarian cellist who had originally trained as a musician but then got caught up in the war and joined the WRAC – the army catering corp, where she learnt to cook military dishes during the war when rationing was in full swing. I met her in the local orchestra I played with and she decided that I should come for lunch every Sunday before rehearsals. When I found myself a boyfriend he too was invited for lunch and we were treated each week to a three-course meal which owed much to her military training. I remember a kind of Bakewell tart where the almonds were substituted for gently dried ground broad beans. And beef olives – a way of stretching small quantities of not such good steak by stuffing it and serving it with a rich gravy. Her food was remarkably good. And one of her favourite starters for us was a chicken liver pate accompanied by Melba toasts.
I learnt that to make Melba toast you just needed stale sliced bread. But somehow, with the crusts cut off and the bread carefully prepared the end result resembles more of a posh cracker than a cheap piece of white bread.
Here’s how you can make Melba toast for yourself. As I said, it’s a piece of cake…or should that be a slice of bread?
- 2 thick slices
- Toast the Bread in your Toaster - or on both sides under the grill
- Cut the crusts off the bread and then with a very sharp knife, cut through the depth of the bread to make four thin slices
- Heat your grill or oven
- Cut each slice of bread in half to make triangles and press down to remove any lumps of bread
- Put the triangles uncooked side up under the grill or in the oven and cook till golden brown. You should find they curl up a little
- Serve with soup, cheese, pate or dips. They will keep in an airtight tin for a few days. The crusts can be used to make breadcrumbs.
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