The Tip Jar #4 - B.C.T. 'Best Cheese Toastie' = 'Bermondsey Cheese Toastie'

In this edition of The Tip Jar, we wanted to raise our hats to the brilliant producers we are so blessed to be surrounded by here at Spa Terminus.
I often like glancing out of our shutter doors as the sun begins to set thinking, I really am surrounded by the best. To my right I see Lucocoa, London's first craft chocolate maker (I'm currently obsessed with their Haitian Hot Chocolate), and on my left I see The Kernel, perhaps one of London's most influential craft breweries and a pioneer behind London's most convenient pub crawl: The Bermondsey Mile
Now while oodles of melting cheese is just as wonderful followed by lots of chocolate; and while, of course, a Welsh Rarebit is best served with a pint of fresh beer, the main event for this edition of The Tip Jar is centred around the ever-reliable trinity of delectable divinity. Cheese. Bread. Wine.
So here goes. Our Ultimate Cheese Toastie. With a little help from our friends The Little Bread Pedlar , Kappacasein and Dynamic Vines.
There are many articles, extracts, books, Twitter threads, YouTube videos, TikTok's (the list goes on) detailing what makes the perfect cheese toastie. What they seem to miss, however, is that a cheese toastie is circumstantial. Its level of decadence depends on the time, the place and the company (or lack thereof). 
While delicately warming a mustardy béchamel, smearing it onto slices of freshly baked poilâne sourdough with thin slices of Teifi, and crisping it up in rendered pork fat is breathtakingly good when you have an evening to impress your partner (or yourself, of course), there is nothing quite like coming home from the pub, grating a load of whatever cheese you have in the fridge, stacking it between two slices of soft white bread and melting it all together with lots of butter. You get the point, right?
So, while we're not allowed to go to the pub at work, we did allow ourselves two glasses of wine (for research and photographic purposes only) and proceeded to each develop a cheese toastie. Our toasties were made with occasions in mind, seeking inspiration from the times we have found delight in this simple yet timeless dish. 
 
Our ingredients:

All washed down with a bottle of Emmanuel Giboulot 2018, Bourgogne Blanc from Dynamic Vines

 

 Here's what we made

Jack (marketing): "A regular toastie maker during my university days, my fondest memories of cheese toasties centre around eating them straight from the pan, incinerating the roof of my mouth with excessive amounts of melted cheddar after returning from a few pints at the pub. I like my toasties to be as spicy as they are cheesy."
Ingredients:
  • Two slices of wholegrain sourdough
  • 60g of grated Bermondsey Hard Pressed 
  • A generous layer of Spicy Tomato Relish 
  • Butter

Method:

  1. Cut the sourdough into (roughly) 1cm slices. Spread a generous amount of tomato relish onto each slice, and place the grated cheese onto the bread. Close it up.
  2. Bring a cast iron skillet to a medium heat. Meanwhile, butter the outside of one side of the sandwich. Cut in half. 
  3. When the pan is hot, place the buttered side down and butter the side facing you. Place a weight over your bread and cook for 4 minutes. Flip and repeat until the bread is golden brown and crispy and the cheese is gloriously melted. Serve with pickles.

Verdict: "Undeniably tasty. If I had spent more time finessing the precise details of my sandwich, I would have been doing a disservice to my happiest memories of eating cheese toasties. This would have been nicer at midnight. I'm sure of that."

 

Sky (co-director): "Like so many, to me the cheese toastie is something that felt like a meal we could put together as children when home alone. There was a stage as a teenager where my output may have come close to Bill’s. I exaggerate. But I remember one summer, boding about at home with my brothers while our parents were at work, my younger brother’s friends would hang out at our house, playing football in the garden until the lawn was bear. At lunch time I would set up a production line all focused on the Breville toastie maker to feed them all.

I have great fondness for the memory and have spent many lunchtimes making toasties for my own kids. When my daughter was young, it tended towards a quesadilla or grilled cheese on toast with lots of Worcestershire Sauce. Then on to toasties made with sourdough in our cast iron skillet with a weight on top. We once had a summer garden party where we made rounds and rounds of cheese toasties, much to everyone’s delights. It may have been this, and also Simon Hopkins devotion to the pre-dinner nibbles where he serves toasted pain de mie and anchovies, that has moved cheese toasties to cocktail hour for me. Friends over for a drink but not the faff of an actual meal; the toastie seems to satisfyingly fill the space. An uncomplicated mise en bouche that leaves room for the conversation and negronis to flow."

Ingredients:

  • Two slices of Pan de Mie
  • 35g grated Bermondsey Hard Pressed
  • 25g thinly sliced London Raclette 
  • Red Onion Marmalade
  • English Mustard
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Mayonaise 

Method:

  1. Cut the Pain de Mie into equal slices (about 1cm thick). Spread Red Onion Marmalade on one slice and English Mustard on the other. 
  2. Place the grated Bermondsey Hard pressed on to one of the slices of bread, then layer the thin slices of Raclette. 
  3. Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper on top if the cheese and close the sandwich. This adds a lovely kick.
  4. Spread mayonaise on the exterior of the sandwich and place on the cast iron over medium heat. It forms a wonderful golden crust as it has a higher smoke point than butter. I used a plate and a jar of pickles as a weight. 
  5. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until it is crispy on the outside and oozing in the middle.
  6. Remove, then slice into small pieces ready for sharing. 

Verdict: "Serve this as a canapé the next time you have friends over for drinks. It is hassle-free and truly delicious."

 

 

Hamish (production): "When first exposed to a toastie maker (around 13 years old), I salivated at the thought of great opportunity. But after two weeks of excessive experimentation, I was spent. Once every two years I return to the George Foreman to live out my childhood fantasies yet again. However, I have never quite had the opportunity to use such fantastic ingredients before." 

Ingredients:

  • Two slices of Pain de Mie
  • About 60g of thinly sliced raclette 
  • Red Onion Marmalade
  • English Mustard 
  • Maison Marc - Extra Fins cornichon
  • Butter

Method:

  1. Again, cut the Pan de Mie into equal slices (we reckon 1cm is perfect for structural integrity but also allowing the cheese to melt).
  2. Spread a thin layer of Red Onion Marmalade on one slice of bread to add sweetness. Add an even layer of English Mustard to other slice for gentle heat and sharpness.
  3. Layer the cheese on top of the red onion marmalade.
  4. Finely dice the cornichon and scatter on top of the cheese. Close the sandwich.
  5. Melt a good amount of butter into the pan and place the sandwich down. Place a lid of the pan to help the cheese melt.
  6. Flip after 4 minutes and repeat. Slice (diagonally only) and enjoy. 

Verdict: "While they may seem like obvious choices to fill a toastie, it is the quality of the ingredients that made this my finest (toasted) achievement. Raclette truly is the finest of cheeses to put in a toastie. It's melted qualities seep into every corner of the Pain de Mie allowing for a funky yet robust flavour to engulf your pallet. Then the sweet punch of the cornichon breaks through. Glorious." 

 

 

 Jack & Hamish (after the bottle had been finished): in the words of Hamish as he sliced the raclette, "I want to make this one really rich. Let's go overboard."

Ingredients:

  • Two slices of Pan die Mie
  • LOTS of grated Bermondsey Hard Pressed
  • LOTS of thinly sliced raclette 
  • Pear, Date & Ale Chutney
  • Maison Marc - Extra Fins cornichon 
  • Mayonaise
  • Butter

Method:

  1. There's no need to ask what measurement of cheese was used here. The answer is simple. A lot.
  2. Generously spread each slice of bread with mayonaise and generously cover one slice with Pear, Date & Ale chutney.
  3. Heap the cheese onto the bread and then scatter the cheese with your diced cornichon.
  4. Melt a tablespoon of butter into the pan and place the sandwich within. Cover and cook for 4 minutes. Flip and repeat.
  5. Once golden brown and oozing, slice and serve with more pickles. Yum.

Verdict: "Gloriously cheesy but found it curiously difficult to get much work done in the afternoon." says Hamish. Hmm. Jack adds, "This is how tasty I imagined my first attempt would be. Maybe I should have had more wine before starting? Either that or I concede that Hamish is in production for a reason... and I am not for a reason. Who knows."

Final Verdict:

While each toastie excels in their own circumstance, there has to be a winner. The champion of the experiment. What is Bermondsey's best cheese toastie? 

The answer? Hamish's Raclette, mustard & Cornichon toastie. 

Pain de Mie, we concluded, works best for a toastie. It crisps up perfectly on the outside, yet remains soft on the inside. 

Raclette, as Hamish rightfully explains, is the finest of cheeses to put in a toastie. It melts so beautifully.

Red onion marmalade is wonderfully sweet but tangy.

The mustard adds gentle heat and sharpness and, along with the diced cornichon, elevates the toastie to another level. 

It is worth noting that this sandwich, in a truly peculiar way, reminded us all of eating a sandwich from a rather famous hamburger joint. Golden arches? A scary clown? Better, of course, much better. But the sweetness from the pickles, the tangy mustard, and the oozy melted cheese felt strangely familiar. 

Hey, Hamish did say he returns to the cheese toastie to relive childhood fantasies. Maybe this was the plan all along?

 

 

 

Thanks for reading, folks.

Life is great great. Cheese makes it better - Avery Adams, The long Quiche Goodbye

We hope you have enjoyed our takes on cheese toasties. As the title of this blog suggests, the best cheese toastie is the Bermondsey cheese toastie. As we conclude, cheese toasties are circumstantial. We think our little jam factory, tucked under a railway arch in Bermondsey, is the best place in the world to make a cheese toastie. Because we have the best friends. They can be your friends too.

Here's Little Bread Pedlar

Here's Kappacasein

Here's Dynamic Vines

And here's everyone else at Spa Terminus

 See you next time! Best wishes, Sky, Kai & the England Preserves team