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Is there anything you can't stuff?

I dived down a bit of a TikTok rabbit hole here. I'll explain how I got there, but above is a recent TIkTok viral trend for Custard toast. What you do is make a depression in a slice of soft bread. Fill the depression with a mix of yoghurt and egg flavoured with whatever you fancy - the demonstration I saw used cinnamon and vanilla - top with fruit and grill. Probably quite yummy. It was suggested breakfast and snack food. Could even be mildly healthy I guess if you don't add sugar. I think the version I saw added maple syrup and/or honey. And I'm guessing from the right-hand picture you can do savoury versions too - Welsh rarebit kind of stuff. Not stuffed in the sense that the stuffing is enclosed, but stuffed in the sense that something has been pushed into something else.

I cannot quite remember why I thought of this particular topic but I did. I started by wondering why we stuffed things, worked my way through all the things I could think of and then started wondering what else you could stuff.

Nobody really knows when people started stuffing things, although the Romans certainly did. And when I say stuffed I mean everything, from a stuffed vegetable through stuffed meats and fish, to, sandwiches, sushi, hamburgers, pies et al.

When you start thinking about the concept of stuffing things, you pretty soon realise that you run the entire gamut from extremely frugal - bits of offal and other unnamed things piled into more offal (sausages) to extraordinarily elaborate and expensive banquet centrepieces in which you had one animal after another stuffed into each other - if you see what I mean. Or at the other end of the extravagant and fussy spectrum tiny things stuffed with expensive stuff.

Stuffing indeed is a symbol of human ingenuity - both in a way of making something from nothing or almost nothing, and by pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of food - both of which extremes continue today from foraging and using leftovers to TikTok and haute cuisine.

Before I come to TikTok I'll take you through my thinking on the what can you stuff front. We all know a huge number of things you can stuff, sweet, and savoury, vegetable, meat, fish and grain based. I focussed on vegetables though, ignoring dessert, first of all running through all the things that we all know about - those Mediterranean vegetables that we can't afford at the moment - leaves of all kinds, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, pumpkin, and - the most beautiful of all - zucchini flowers.

Then I started thinking about what I thought you couldn't stuff. Carrots, thought I - too hard - I mean literally hard in texture. But no - of course you can stuff them. They seem to be a Middle Eastern thing and I found one recipe that looked tempting Armenian stuffed carrots from Food Republic and a couple of others. But a bit of a faff - you have to core the carrots. I can see all sorts of things going wrong there.

One cook obviously thought a better idea was to slice them lengthways and then core - much easier, and somebody then stuffed the stuffed carrots inside kataifi pastry. Stuffing things inside other stuffed things is obviously a concept that is still with us.

What else in the hard and the roots? Parsnips? Yes although this was made easier in this particular example by roasting them first before scooping out the centre and stuffing. Beetroots? Yes. Celeriac - ditto - lots of these. Swedes, and turnips must surely all be possible. Why would you? Well why not? Fun to mess around with what you could put in the stuffing and frugal too because it would be a good way to use up odds and ends from the fridge.

Leaves? I didn't even bother to investigate really because I knew you could stuff cabbage, so why not any other leaf. I did check lettuce and kale, and of course you can. Those Asian things - yes them too. Ingenious isn't it?

So what was left? Beans and peas. Surely you can't stuff them? But I had forgotten about sugar snap peas hadn't I and long beans?:

Now I was getting a bit desperate, if that's the right word. Surely there was something you couldn't stuff.

Enter TikTok. For I started thinking of bread and cake things - literally thousands that we all know about. And then I thought - crumpets. Surely you can't stuff crumpets. Oh yes you can and it's a TikTok sensation. This is just one that I found. David's immediate reaction was that it looked revolting. Well yes I guess. What you have here is a stack of sliced crumpets that have been spread with Nutella I think. Nutella seems to be the TikTok favourite, then fried - possibly in an air fryer and topped with banana. Now admittedly I'm guessing a bit, because this was just a picture.

But here's another one. Well I don't know what the filling is, but it doesn't look healthy. I think the crumpet is then encased in egg and breadcrumbs and fried. Mmm.

There were savoury versions too, which looked even more revolting - baked beans? But now I was in the TikTok rabbit hole which is where I found that toast at the top of the page. There were heaps more things, but perhaps the most innovative was Snickers stuffed pickles. Shown below. Yes, split a largish pickled cucumber lengthways and put a snickers bar in the middle - a mini one. One commenatator said it was surprisingly tasty - sweet and sour I suppose. And having now been introduced to the concept of stuffed pickles I found a whole lot more, most of which looked eminently more tempting. And I supposed that I shouldn't have been so surprised by them because we do after all have stuffed olives, and stuffed roast peppers and chilli in jars.

TikTok, however had more. Pasta. Not lasagne, which is sort of stuffed pasta, or ravioli, etc. but stuffed individual pasta shells and what they called honeycomb lasagne. Fun I guess, but what a faff. Not for the busy housewife - more for the millennial with nothing to do.

Yes lots of these TikTok things, and Instagram too I have no doubt, are really over the top, but I have to give these enthusiastic young things top marks for invention, innovation and enterprise. So it might not work to put a chocolate bar inside a pickle and eat it, but then again it might be sensational. I'm not nearly as inventive in my kitchen.

So I think the answer to my question is that if you think laterally you can probably stuff just about anything that you can eat. If you can be bothered. Because most stuffed things involve a lot of work. I think somebody once said that life is too short to stuff things.

There is so much more you can say about stuffing things, but I'll leave it at that for today. So much fun to be had on Tiktok.


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