Taking advantage of some excellent fare from the market that runs daily in Cambridge’s (UK) city center and a budget for an event I ran for the University to splurge on said fare, I made a shockingly satisfying meal out of outreach activity leftovers. This is less of a recipe than a suggested menu for simple refreshments while entertaining, and a strategy for “upcycling” leftovers from the entertainment.
The Ploughman’s Lunch is officially (i.e. according to Wikipedia) composed of bread, cheese, a raw onion or some sort of pickle/relish component, and butter at a minimum, with optional embellishment using salad, fresh fruit, pâté, and the like. This filling but possibly scurvy-inducing meal is rumored (by Wikipedia) to find its etymological roots with English winter ploughing practices, traditionally done alone and without the luxury of Mexican hothouse tomatoes. For this updated version (adapted for a grad student weathering English winter researching practices), virtually everything on this plate was leftover from the previous night’s reception, which goes to show how the experience of food can change just from assemblage and bite pairings (i.e. brie + fig + sesame cracker, cheddar + cherry + wheaten cracker). Try this recipe as a rough guide for a shopping list for next time you have money to blow on classy party food with the possibility of leftovers.
Your choice of cheese, fresh fruit, dried fruit, bread or crackers.
Here’s what I used:
Brie (French; the cheesemonger told me the English don’t make a good Brie)
Cheddar (English; the cheesemonger told me the French don’t make a good cheddar)
Smoked Cheddar (English)
Fresh cherries (English; much smaller and more tart than the Californian big mommas)
Dried Calimyrna figs (Turkish. Don’t get the powdered kind if you can help it.)
Carrot Cake (locally made by a Caribbean family; you can probably find a similar loaf in a health food store)—I remember seeing a cartoon fairy tale as a child about giants in the English woods. The evil one ate cake like it was bread for his lunch. I never understood how that wasn’t a disgusting waste of cake until I encountered this Caribbean-influenced puppy—its consistency was dense and chewy, it wasn’t very buttery, the flavor was mellow though more spiced than sweet, and it lacked nuts and icing. Overall, it was an oddity by American carrot cake standards, but it worked wonders against the smoked cheddar. I’ll never forget those English giants. At least, I think the story was about English giants. But then again, memory is a fickle, fickle imp.
Wheaten Crackers (Marks & Spencer, a “posh” UK supermarket chain. Damned good crackers—gloriously melt-in-your-mouth because of the surprising presence of powdered milk. I’m sure you could find something similar wherever you are. I believe in you.)
Sesame and Flaked Salt Crackers (Marks & Spencer again. Again, very tasty. The magic’s in the flaked salt.)
Throw a gentle party at an awkward time for eating to ensure leftovers. Forget to put out a pack of figs and half of the cherries for good measure. The next day, arrange your leftovers on a rustic-looking plate or board to create an aesthetically and nutritionally balanced lunch. Supplement with greens if you’ve got ‘em.
Quick –> minimal time commitment.
Simple –> minimal ingredients list.
Cold –> minimal CO2 emission.