A Ploughman’s Lunch is, historically, a cold meal consisting of bread, cheese and pickles, with the occasional addition of ham, hard boiled egg, or pickled onions. When I want a meal that’s easy, delicious, and affordable, I throw one of these together on a wooden cutting board. The Hubs, never one to pass up a meal that includes bread and cheese, suggested the possibility of such a meal when we were discussing our New Years Eve dinner. We had stopped at our favorite high-quality butcher shop to pick up a ribeye for Christmas dinner, and we couldn’t help but grab some artisan hot Italian sausage. That sausage inspired our New Years Eve Ploughman’s Dinner, but you don’t need fancy meat for this rustic meal. Here are the basics you’ll need to enjoy your own Ploughman’s:
The Hubs made a Papo Secos loaf, the recipe for which he refuses to share. (Feel free to Google one if you wish!) Anything rustic and crusty will work great for this, or even a rich brown bread. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try this Black Bread recipe from SmittenKitchen.com. I’ve made it many times, and it’s a LOT of work, but it’s worth the trouble. And no, I don’t always make bread from scratch for this, that defeats the purpose of a quick and easy meal. If The Hubs hadn’t volunteered to make the bread, I would have picked up one of my favorite crusty Italian loaves from my local Produce Junction (a discount produce market) for $2.50. The bread doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, it just has to be delicious!
Like the bread, you should choose what you like here. My only real suggestion is that it be something firm, like cheddar, as opposed to something spreadable like goat cheese or crumbly like feta. This meal is meant to be portable, so you want cheese that you can just slice up easily. We used cheap grocery store sharp cheddar. In the past I’ve used aged cheddar, smoked gouda, havarti, etc. If you like it, it’s good enough.
So many options! I baked up our artisan Italian sausage in our (*gasp*) toaster oven. You can pre-slice it, for ease, but we each sliced up our own to our liking. I’ve previously used ham, various aged charcuterie such as salami, capicola, or summer sausage, Portuguese chourico or linguica, marinated and broiled minute steaks, grilled shrimp, etc. The sky’s the limit. Heck, even pepperoni will do.
Any kind, type, style will do! We used tiny gherkins, because it’s what we had. I also like bread and butter pickles. The Hubs prefers dills. You can use cornichons, too. In the summer I sometimes make a quick homemade refrigerator pickle. Seriously, you cannot screw this up.
I threw a few extras on the cutting board as condiments: roasted red pepper strips (I made my own by charring a red pepper right on the burner of my gas stove, but you can use your broiler if you prefer), dry-roasted almonds and dried apricots. Dried fruit of any kind goes great with a nice sharp cheese, as do salted nuts. In the summer, we often use fresh cherries or grapes or even grape tomatoes. Real butter is also a wonderful addition, particularly if your bread is homemade and still a little warm. Chutney would be amazing, as well as veggie crudite.
The lesson here is, this is a quick meal that can be thrown together in less than ten minutes. It’s usually made with stuff you have lying around the house, and can be used to feed a crowd if necessary. It’s even a great option for a last minute dinner party, just add cocktails! If you’ve made this before or plan to make it soon, drop me a note in the comments and let me know your favorite things to include in your Ploughman’s lunch. Enjoy!