Simply food


Sometimes a hearty bowl of soup and a simple sandwich is enough for a meal, especially when one is dining alone.

There are many soup recipes, all favourites, in my new cookbook Simplifood: Amazing food, simply prepared, and most of them have appeared here on Gentleman’s Portion. If you don’t have the book—an amazing bargain at the simple price of 9.99 in any currency—just enter “soup” in the search bar above to be guided to those entries for free. The great thing about soup is you can make a batch in advance and serve it up in single or portions for two over several days. The great thing about a sandwich is that you can make it on the spot in anything between one minute and 10, depending on its complexity.

London Particular–a particularly good soup

One favourite soup escaped the book. On a recent visit to London, my once upon a time hometown, I was reminded of a Dickensian soup called the London Particular, named for the dense pea soup fogs that used to settle over the city in Charles Dickens’ time and, indeed, during my own childhood. Thankfully, the air is much cleaner now. In any event, the recipe is simple with the flavour of ham enhancing the green split peas. It’s almost a meal in itself.

My pea soup recipe goes with any sandwich, or just a chunk of crusty bread. It goes particularly well with a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich, or its upgraded version, a club sandwich. The classic American club sandwich adds an extra layer of toast, to make it a triple decker, and cold chicken or turkey breast. On countless business trips, this was my go-to room service choice when arriving back in the hotel exhausted after a hard day’s graft. Shoes off, feet up, Scotch to hand and an hour of telly or a book before bed, with comfort food to fill the belly, made all those endless days on the road away from home almost worthwhile.

Toad in the hole–Southern Hemisphere version

On an earlier London visit, my late and much missed friend Paul took me to his exclusive Groucho Club, where he was a founding member of this arts and media establishment in Soho. There, they served a luncheon fried egg sandwich where the yolk poked cheekily up through a hole in the top piece of toast. Chef Mark Hix claims to have first had this sandwich in the Canary Islands, but I believe it has earlier provenance in South Africa and Australia.

There it is called toad-in-the-hole, and is no relation to the Yorkshire dish of batter and bangers. Back in the sixties, when I visited my folks in Johannesburg—my dad was on an assignment there—the cook presented sandwiches similar to this and we all burst out laughing at the fun presentation. Curiously, my folks ended up living in the Canary Islands, and if this dish was popular enough for Hix to notice, it wasn’t in evidence during any of my visits. But the Groucho version is delicious and I am happy to present it here, with a tip of the hat to Hix. The Groucho Club Sandwich is a version of the popular American club sandwich, with the addition of a funny fried egg pop up.


Shopping list

  • 2 L / 8.5 cups chicken stock
  • 450 g / 1 lb dry green split peas (or yellow, the only difference is the colour)
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 225 g / ½ lb ham, cut into cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • Salt and pepper


  • Croutons
  • 2 rashers bacon, fried until crispy
  • Pea sprouts

Preparation and cooking

  1. Remove the tough outer leaves and the roots from a leek stalk, cut in half and then into slices. Wash thoroughly and pat dry. Chop up the onion, then heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the leek and onion and cook over a low heat for 10 mins until tender but not browned.
  2. Rinse the split peas and add to the saucepan, with the stock and a bay leaf. Add the cubed ham and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 1 hr, or until the peas are tender. Check that there’s enough liquid in the pan from time to time and add more, if necessary, as the peas absorb a lot of moisture. The peas and veggies should be quite mushy by this stage, and if necessary, can be further reduced with a stick immersion blender or by simply whisking for a few moments. Remove the bay leaf and any large pieces of green leek that haven’t integrated. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. While the soup is cooking, pan fry some bacon until it is crispy. Cut the crusts off some bread, chop into cubes and fry in the bacon fat. Set both aside to drain on paper kitchen towels.
  4. Serve in individual bowls, with a few croutons, a few bits of crumbled up crispy bacon and a garnish of pea sprouts.


Shopping list

  • 3 slices thin cut white bread (per serving)
  • Mayonnaise, a good dollop
  • Dijon mustard, a dab
  • Several lettuce leaves, Romaine (cos) preferred
  • Several slices of cold cooked turkey, or chicken
  • Strips of crispy bacon
  • Large ripe tomato
  • Salt and pepper


  • Green sprouts
  • Dill pickle

Preparation and cooking

  • If starting from scratch, poach turkey or chicken breasts in chicken stock, drain and allow to cool.
  • Fry the bacon until it is crispy. Drain on a paper kitchen towel and allow to cool.
  • Toast the bread. Stack all the slices together and cut the crusts off, so that all the slices are the same size.
  • To assemble: Spread one slice of bread with mayo and a dab of Dijon mustard, layer on a couple of lettuce leaves, trimming to fit the bread. Add a couple of slices of bacon. Then spread both sides of the next piece of bread with mayo and pile on top. Finish with slices of turkey or chicken and top with slices of tomato. Season well and add the final piece of bread spread with mayo on the downside.
  • To serve: Cut each sandwich into halves or quarters (depending on the size of the bread) and secure each stack with a toothpick.
  • Garnish with green sprouts. Goes very well with a pickle (optional).


Shopping list

  • 1 slices of thick cut bread (per serving)
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation and cooking

  1. Cut a circle from the centre of the bread using a round 2 or 3 in / 5 or 7 cm cookie cutter or a small drinking glass.
  2. Spread both sides of the bread with butter or margarine. Fry one side of the bread until it is golden brown. You can include the circle. No need to waste it and kids love it.
  3. Flip the bread over, fried side up and break an egg into the hole. Cook slowly until the egg whites are set. For those who are fussy about runny yolks, simply flip the whole ensemble over and fry for no more than 1 min.
  4. Season and serve at once.


Thanks to Chef Mark Hix of the Groucho Club, Soho, London, for sharing this recipe.

Shopping list

  • 2 thick cut slices of bread (per serving)
  • 1 egg
  • Mayonnaise, a good dollop
  • Dijon mustard, a dab
  • Several lettuce leaves, Romaine (cos) preferred
  • Several slices of cold cooked chicken breasts
  • Strips of crispy bacon
  • Large ripe tomato
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation and cooking

  1. Cut a hole in one slice of bread, slightly larger than an egg yolk, and toast both slices lightly.
  2. Shred lettuce and dice up the chicken breasts. Mix with a good helping of mayonnaise. Season well.
  3. Fry the egg, sunny side up.
  4. Place a spoonful of the lettuce and chicken mixture on the bottom slice of bread. Add a couple of slices of ripe tomato. Arrange crispy bacon slices on top.
  5. Add the fried egg and top with the piece of toast with the hole so the egg yolk shows through.
  6. Serve immediately.
Featured image: delicious London Particular ham and pea soup (NNA photo)

Simplifood: Amazing food, simply prepared is now available as an eBook well priced at 9.99 in any currency. Click on Amazon for Kindle devices, Barnes and Noble for Nook devices, Kobo for Kobo eReaders, and Lulu Publishing for any other formats, including Apple iPad.

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This is Nigel’s 371st blog on Gentleman’s Portion. The SEARCH function at the top works really well if you want to look back and see some of his previous stories, or check under CATEGORIES.

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