“One of the most satisfying ways to celebrate freshly baked bread is to sandwich it around world-class ingredients. And then to toast it. Cheese is obligatory; ideally a combination of one that melts well and another that packs a powerful punch,” explains food writer Ed Smith. “But that dairy needs another savoury item to provide interest beyond the first bite. This could be a cured or cooked meat, or a thinly sliced but still punchy vegetable, like onions, leeks or fennel.
“Condiments are essential, be it a piquant or sweet pickle or conserve, or something hot and spicy from Pimento Hill or Time for Kimchi. Finally, the toastie must be cooked with care – compressed from time to time, and fried at a pace that ensures the outside is crisp and golden, and the centre molten.”
Cheese and ham toastie
- 2 1–2cm-thick slices of sourdough bread
- 60 g cheese, ideally a 50/50 combination of melting and strong both coarsely grated
- 20 g sliced ham or cured meat, or 40g sliced cooked meat
- 15 g onions, spring onions or leeks finely sliced
- Condiment of choice (optional)
- Butter what will become the external sides of each piece of bread. Build the sandwich, with a sprinkle of cheese on the base first, then onions or the meat, followed by the remaining cheese, then add pickles or spread the condiment onto the inside of the top slice, finally pressing that on top.
- Place a heavy-based frying pan over a low-to-medium heat and allow it to warm up for a minute.
- Transfer the sandwich to the frying pan and cook very gently, regularly pushing down on the sandwich with a fish slice or palette knife. After two minutes, some but not all of the cheese will have melted, and the base of the bread will be browning. Carefully flip the toastie over and repeat the gentle frying and pressing for two minutes more.
- Repeat, frying both sides for another two minutes each so that the cheese and fats are oozing out of the sandwich and the bread is golden and crisp.
- Remove from the heat and leave to cool for one to two minutes before eating – the centre will be hotter than the sun.
- Stilton (or other strong blue), Fontina and kimchi
- Nduja, honey and mozzarella
- Cooked ham, raclette, comté and mustard
- Cheddar, Ogleshield, leeks and chutney
- Soft-rind white cheese, turkey and cranberry sauce
- Bresaola, tapenade and Emmental on rye bread
- Fennel salami, Ubriaco (drunken cheese) and dill pickles
- Tallegio, roast peppers, spring onions and chives
The Borough Market Cookbook by Ed Smith is published by Hodder & Stoughton. Photographs by Issy Croker.
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