Spectator competitions winners: W.S. Gilbert makes a ham sandwich

2 October 2021

9:00 AM

2 October 2021

9:00 AM

In Competition No. 3218, you were invited to supply a recipe as it might have been written by the author of your choice.

I tip my hat to Mark Crick’s Kafka’s Soup, which gave me the idea for this excellent challenge. In it you’ll find such delights as John Steinbeck’s mushroom risotto, Virginia Woolf’s clafoutis grand mère and cheese on toast à la Harold Pinter. Nick MacKinnon, Moray McGowan and G.M. Southgate were worthy runners-up in an exceptional field. The six who made the final cut earn £25 each.

Take plump apples of beech-leaf green, ripened in a cuckoo-calling summer. Score a line around their bounteous girths. Plunge a silver knife into their crisp white hearts, then stuff them with currants, sugar as tawny as a girl’s tanned arms, a dripping spoonful of wild honey from the comb, and dust with cinnamon. Place in an oven, heated to the intensity of cheek-burning midday, when dust rises from wagon paths and sets butterflies drifting like petals. Bake until the hot, tender flesh is overrun with cidery stickiness, scented like boozy honeysuckle, and dotted with the tiny stars of burnt currants. Over the apples pour cool, soothing buttercup custard, glazing the hot skins, melding with the juice of ancient orchards. Then serve, baptised by that first taste, never to be forgotten, heady as the wine of wildflowers, cool as dew-wet woods, and hazy as the song of the shimmering hills.
Janine Beacham/Laurie Lee

and so Bygmeester Finnegan diverts himself of his favoured receptacle for a brokefeast eggfest. He scurries at first sparrowtweet down the back gardai to the clucking hatch-hutch to fetch a still featherbottomwarm white cacklefruit, ei, ei, that’s quite an oeuf for the saucy pan already waitressing on the hot hob. He places the pallid ovoid with dewy relevance into the kettleblack pot and fires flames till the point of wetbubbling rolling bile. Time is now of the excrescence and so he says aloud and allowed prayercisely three Patterned Nostrums and one Whole Merlot Full of Grape, and then depans the egg in its cups before it is trepanned by a sharp spoonerism on its shite well. The white album men will be firmest and the yellow joke will be running. Now the tossed breadsheets can all be militarily de-racked and chopped to dip tail-tip up in the gold, ah now
Brian Murdoch/James Joyce

Today we have glazing of tarts. Yesterday
We had preparing the pastry and the filling,
With the flour, butter, egg yolk, water, sugar, apples. Tomorrow
We have getting the oven temperature right. But today,
Today we have glazing of tarts. Outside
The other guests are relaxing by the pool,
Not having enrolled on the homebaking course. But inside —
Inside, this is the maple syrup, and this —
This is the pastry brush, whose use you will see
When you apply the syrup
To create a thin, even coating. And please,
Please do not let me see anyone using his fingers.
Outside, the other guests are using their fingers
To apply the sun cream to create a glazed, even suntan
Which in your case you have not got,
For today, you have glazing of tarts.
David Silverman/Henry Reed

I remember I had a pile of flour, and a brace of eggs, and some clean fresh milk, which you needed to add slowly, very slowly indeed. After a good deal of beating, these three combined until as smooth as butter. By this time I was ferociously hungry. Here I added eight sausages to a dish, together with some well-cut onions, and a drizzle of oil, and these fellows were roasted for a full quarter of an hour, inside the stove. A fellow needs great fortitude at this stage, for the bubbling and meaty fragrance delights the nostrils. Notwithstanding the utterly damnable temptation, I poured the mixture over the sausages, and returned the whole to the oven. There it lay a further half-hour, until the batter was as gold as a meadow, and as crisp as a leaf in autumn. Great Scot! Toad-in-the-hole! I set to it like a vulture.
Bill Greenwell/John Buchan

First select a loaf of bread that’s notable for crustiness.
And let this loaf be very fresh — you want no hint of fustiness.

Then wield the bread knife bravely; you should slice with generosity,
Ignoring voices hinting bread may lead to adiposity.

Spread butter on the slices, rich and gold and thick as anything;
For none must say your sandwich is a measly grudge-a-penny thing.

Pick up your trusty carving knife and let it work with vigour now,
You’ve made big sandwiches before, but let this one be bigger now.

Be free with mustard of a type your tongue will find all tinglish
(And need I say avoid the French? — the hottest is the English.)

Share this with a friend and your reception will be rapturous;
You’ll be acclaimed the doyen of all sandwich manufacturers.
George Simmers/W.S. Gilbert

Oats are the things whose measures
Bring comfort in a bowl —
The warmth a simple paean of praise
To cheer — the morning Soul —

A cup of pinhead oatmeal — soaked —
Cold water in the pan —
The stirring slow — the Spirit calm —
A gentle half-hour’s span —

What needs the porage more — for Me
The smallest pinch — of salt —
A little milk is all it asks
Before it sings — Exalt.
D.A. Prince/Emily Dickinson

No. 3221: one for the ode

You are invited to supply an ode to the Marble Arch Mound. Please email entries (maximum 16 lines) to by midday on 13 October.

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