A ploughman's lunch
doesn't have to be something that's only done in England. Because really, shouldn't making cheese the centerpiece of a meal be a universal concept? Think of it as a deconstructed sandwich.
A ploughman's lunch is a simple template: pair cheese with some bread, chutney, and maybe some meat or pickles or hard-boiled egg, and call it a lunch. But what about getting a little creative with it? Here are five new takes, showing how easy it is to switch it up. I love the thought of bringing separate components like this to work. The DIY-ness of the dish brings not only a picnic-like quality to your meal, it guards against the potential of a soggy (or even worse, insipid) sandwich. And it's easy to put together in the morning before work, because there's no assembly required. Just throw the separate components in a bag and go.
Classicly, you'll see a ploughman's lunch consisting of an English cheese (think cheddar, Stilton, Wensleydale, or Double Glouchester), some crusty bread or baguette, plus a simple chutney or Marmite jam, a hard boiled egg, pickles, and/or some meat.
You'll be well-equipped to devise your own combinations if you simply think of the construction like this: Cheese + Bread + Spread/Vegetable + Meat/Protein.
Take these ideas and run with them:
1. Stinky n' Sweet
- Cheese: Taleggio or Fontina
- Bread: Baguette
- Spread/Vegetable: Honey
- Meat/Protein: Prosciutto
2. Breakfast for Lunch
- Cheese: Fresh Goat Cheese (Think Coupole, Bucheron, or Fresh Crottin) or Cream Cheese
- Bread: Dark Rye
- Spread/Vegetable: Chopped Cornichons or Capers
- Meat/Protein: Smoked Salmon
3. Blue Meets Bread
- Cheese: Blue Cheese (think Stilton, Fourme D'Ambert, Roaring 40's, or Bayley Hazen)
- Bread: Pugliese or Ciabatta
- Spread/Vegetable: Olives or Tapenade
- Meat/Protein: Spicy Soppresata or Salami
4. Turkey Sandwich, with a Twist
- Cheese: Cheddar
- Bread: Whole Wheat Roll
- Spread/Vegetable: Fig Jam and Pesto (the combination is stellar)
- Meat/Protein: Turkey
5. Hearty Cheese + Sweet Pickles
- Cheese: Mountain Cheese (think Gruyere, Appenzeller, Comte, Hoch Ybrig, Jarlsberg)
- Bread: Sourdough
- Spread/Vegetable: Grainy Mustard and Bread and Butter Pickles
- Meat/Protein: Hard-Boiled Egg
Think of these options as starting points and get inspired to create your own flavor combinations!
And one other component, nearly always included in a Plougman's Lunch? Beer. Consider it optional, though recommended.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and recipe developer in New York.
Related: Treat Yourself to a Plougman's Lunch!
(Image: Lisovskaya Natalia via Shutterstock.)