I invented the mashed potato sandwich, or at least my version of the mashed potato sandwich, after suffering a debilitating attack of jaundice. After my grandmother’s death, my mother went into a period of depression and stopped cooking. To my unbridled joy this meant restaurant food almost every day. (We ate out, or ordered in, only when we had guests. Occasionally, while walking home from Mass, I’d cajole my parents into buying me a chicken Frankie for the princely sum of Rs 6 at Aga Brothers.)
And for three months I ate wildly and recklessly. But no good deed goes unpunished.
Despite feeling a bit weak, I spent an evening playing football on the street – something you could do at the time – since we were flying to Sri Lanka later in the night to join my father who was working there. On board I ordered lamb and a glass of red wine (I had good taste even when I was 13) for dinner. I was later to discover I did the three things I absolutely shouldn’t have – exerted, ate red meat and drank alcohol. The next morning I was throwing up violently but was so weak my father had to carry me to the washroom to throw up.
At the hospital, I was put on saline and my parents were told to put me on a no fat, no meat, exclusively sugar and carb diet.
But there was no way in hell I was going to live on congee.
Potatoes were good, white bread was good. I just put two and two together and came up with the mashed potato, lettuce and tomato sandwich or the PLT. Carbonated drinks were allowed. So I happily switched to a diet of PLT’s and a bottle of Coke four times a day. I’m possibly the only person to put on weight after suffering from jaundice!
When I fully recovered, I embellished the PLT with fried bacon. Sri Lankan company Keells makes the best bacon and ham in South Asia. I used to go through so much bacon and ham my father bought a separate freezer just for Keells products.
I never returned to the BPLT after returning to India, mostly because I didn’t have a compliant maid who’d happily go through the trouble of boiling, peeling and mashing the potatoes the way I wanted it. I was too lazy.
A few weeks ago I was in Jaipur for work; I had spent the morning sight-seeing and didn’t have time for a leisurely meal so we popped into a popular café. On a whim, I decided to try their mashed potato and bacon sandwich. The mashed potato was light, fluffy and creamy – exactly how it should be when served on the side of a steak or chops. In a sandwich, it lacked the heft of a primary ingredient.
I decided it was time to resurrect my PLT sandwich but, in keeping with the times, gentrify it a bit with sliced apples and the fried cheese which also add crunch to crisp.
100 gm potato
3-4 rashers (actually, as many as you want. No such thing as too much bacon) streaky or back bacon
2 slices multi-grain bread
1 tsp milk, yoghurt or cream
pinch of mustard powder
pinch of red chilli powder
½ tsp tartare sauce
4-5 apple slices
2 lollo rosso leaves
50 gm red Cheddar cheese, grated
50 gm processed cheese, grated
¼ tsp finely chopped garlic
a pinch of caper salt, optional
salt and pepper to taste
Dijon mustard or kashundi to taste
Mix the two cheeses with the chopped garlic and caper salt.
Prick the potato and boil in salted water till done. Peel.
Mash the potatoes roughly with a fork; it shouldn’t be perfectly smooth and creamy. You want to feel a few lumps.
Mix in the milk, yoghurt or cream and mustard and chilli powders. (Yoghurt adds a pleasing tart undertone).
While you’re mashing the potatoes, fry the bacon. Once crisp, remove, and keep aside. Don’t discard the rendered fat in the pan.
Toast the bread lightly.
Heat the frying pan with the fat on a medium-high flame. Add the grated cheese. Some of the cheese will spread, push it together with a spatula and shape into a square roughly the size of the bread. Lower the flame and continue to fry.
Spread the mashed potato on both slices of toasted bread. On the bottom half spread the tartare sauce.
Place the lollo rosso over. Arrange the bacon on top.
Spread Dijon/ kashundi on the top slice.
Check if the cheese is cooked. It’s done when can be easily lifted from the pan in one piece. Flip over.
Raise the heat to high for about 10-15 seconds and then cook on a low flame for about half a minute.
Place the cheese on top of the bacon.
Arrange the apple slices over and top with the second slice of bread.
Serve with tartare sauce or mayo.
Preparation Time: 25 minutes