Who you gonna call for cheese on toast with a twist? Annie Bell, of course. Her takes on the humble supper dish are out of this world.
Manchego and membrillo with patron peppers
This classic Spanish trio of scented membrillo (also called quince paste), slightly chalky manchego cheese and toasted mini peppers takes in sweet, sour, hot and salty flavours. As a cheese on toast scenario it wants for nothing.
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
250g padron peppers
sea salt and black pepper
4 slices thin white bread
120g very finely sliced manchego
1 tbsp membrillo or quince jelly
1. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over a high heat, trickle a couple of teaspoons of oil over the base, then fry the peppers for 5-10 minutes, stirring and turning them almost constantly until they blister and turn golden, seasoning with salt towards the end.
2. Meanwhile, toast the bread then pile with the cheese, drizzling the slivers with oil as you go, before dropping a thin slice or teaspoon of membrillo in the centre. Serve the cheese toasts accompanied with the padron peppers and a sprinkling of ground black pepper.
Sherried roquefort with roast onions
The sweetness of the onions is the perfect match for the salty cheese and the little boost of sherry.
600g red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tsp sherry vinegar or lemon juice
1 tbsp dry sherry
4 slices walnut or wholemeal bread
1-2 heaped tbsp finely chopped walnuts, toasted
1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Spread the onions in a thin layer on a nonstick baking sheet, breaking them into rings as far as possible. Drizzle over a tablespoon of oil and toss to coat. Roast for about 35 minutes, stirring halfway through to ensure they caramelise evenly. Place them in a medium bowl and toss with a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice and a little salt. Leave to cool.
2. Meanwhile crumble the roquefort into a medium bowl, drizzle over the sherry and gently combine without mashing the cheese to a paste. Toast the bread and loosely spread the cheese over the toast, pile with onions, scatter with toasted walnuts and drizzle with a little more oil.
Red leicester rarebits with picked cucumber
Red leicester makes for an especially appetising deep ombre rarebit that spars here with a sweet and sour relish of cucumber and apple. This keeps for days in the fridge.
6 large or 12 small slices sourdough
30g sourdough (excluding crusts)
250g red leicester, cut into chunks
30g unsalted butter
3 tbsp stout, eg Guinness
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 medium eggsea salt and black pepper
1. Place the bread for the rarebit mixture in the bowl of a food processor and whiz to crumbs. Add all the remaining ingredients for the mixture and blend to a paste. You can make this well in advance, in which case transfer it to a bowl, cover and chill it.
2. Toast the bread, then spread thickly with the rarebit mixture. Place on a low shelf under a grill to cook the inside of the mixture, either medium heat for 5 minutes or low heat for 5-7 minutes, turning it up to brown the top. Serve piled with the relish (below) and season to taste.
1 cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthways, deseeded and thinly sliced
50ml cider vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 eating apple, quartered and cored
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Season the cucumber with salt in a large bowl, set aside for 30 minutes then rinse in a colander. Bring the water and vinegar to the boil with the sugar in a small saucepan, pour over the cucumber and leave to cool. Drain the cucumber in a sieve and dry on a double thickness of kitchen paper. Slice the apple the same size as the cucumber; combine them in a bowl. Toss with the oil and stir in the parsley.
Quesadillas and guacamole
Dipping the gooey little pockets of quesadilla into a slushy guacamole is one of the great cheese on toast combinations, and it’s made for sharing. This may make a little more guacamole than you need, but you can find other uses for any leftovers.
4 small tortillas
120g (eg 6 thin slices) leerdamer cheese
100g thinly sliced roast chicken
2 tsp chilli jam
1 spring onion, trimmed and thinly sliced
3-4 slices parma ham
1. Heat a frying pan over a medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes. Lay the tortillas on a board and cover with the cheese. Scatter the chicken over two tortillas, drizzle over the chilli jam then scatter with the spring onion. Lay the ham over the remaining two, then carefully turn this over on top of the other tortillas to make quesadillas, and gently press down.
2. Transfer one of the quesadillas to the hot pan and place under the grill for 3-4 minutes until lightly golden on top. Remove from the pan on to a board, then repeat for the other quesadilla. Cut into eight slices and serve with the guacamole (below).
TIP These can be made in advance on the day, then wrapped in clingfilm and chilled until required.
flesh of 2 ripe avocados
1 level tbsp coarsely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp finely chopped medium-hot red chilli
1 tbsp coarsely chopped coriander
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1. Mash the avocado using a fork, then stir in the onion, chilli, coriander, lemon or lime juice, a tablespoon of oil and sea salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill for up to half a day. Drizzle with a little olive oil and dust with cayenne pepper to serve.
Feta and dill toasts with beetroot salad
These little toasts are great for handing round at a gathering, or to accompany a bowl of soup. A selection of toasted seeds would also be good instead of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and black pepper
approx 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cooked and peeled beetroot (unvinegared, around 200g-250g), cut into 1cm dice
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
2 large wholemeal or white pittas
4 handfuls of watercress sprigs, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1. To make the salad, whisk the balsamic vinegar with a little seasoning in a medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then stir in the beetroot.
2. Mash the feta in a medium bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil and the dill.
3. Slice the pittas in half and lightly toast them on either side under a grill. Cut each piece into three or four strips. Pile the cheese on top, arrange on a nonstick baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Toast under the grill until the cheese is soft and starting to colour. Sprinkle with a few sprigs of watercress.
4. Place a pile of watercress on 4 plates, then spoon the dressed beetroot over and scatter with the seeds. Serve with the cheesy pittas.
Toasted goat’s cheese with garlic spinach
Another cheese on toast favourite is to bake the cheese in the oven and then dollop it on to crisp slices of toast. Goat’s cheese works especially well here.
around 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed to a paste
sea salt and black pepper
2 x approx 150g medium-mature goat’s cheeses, eg Kidderton Ash
1 tbsp thyme leaves (optional)
a squeeze of lemon juice
8 thin slices of ciabatta
1. Wash the spinach thoroughly in a sink of cold water. Shake the leaves dry and place them in a large saucepan, cramming them down to get it all in. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the spinach has completely wilted, pressing it down halfway through.
2. Drain into a sieve and press out as much liquid as possible. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the saucepan with the garlic over a medium heat, until it sizzles and turns fragrant, then add the spinach and some seasoning and stir to coat it.
3. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7, and arrange the goat’s cheeses in a small baking dish. Scatter over the thyme if using, trickle a teaspoon of oil over each one and bake for 10 minutes until honeyed in patches. The cheese should retain its shape while being molten inside. Heat the spinach through and season with a squeeze of lemon. Toast the bread and serve with the cheese and spinach
Scarmorza pittas with poached eggs
Once you discover the joys of this smoked mozzarella-style cheese toasted in a frying pan, there is no looking back. It turns divinely golden on the outside and melts to a river within. Use two eggs per person if you are extra hungry.
a slug of white wine vinegar
4 large eggs
300g fine asparagus spears, trimmed
a knob of salted butter
2 wholemeal or white pittas
1 x 200g scamorza cheese, sliced 1cm thick
1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add a slug of vinegar. Keeping it at a trembling simmer, break in the eggs one at a time (or do this into a teacup first). After about 2 minutes they will rise to the surface; cook for 2 minutes longer and then remove them to a bowl using a slotted spoon, trimming off the tendrils of white against the side of the saucepan.
2. Meanwhile, arrange the asparagus tips in a steamer and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with a little butter.
3. Toast the pittas and slit in half. For the cheese, heat a large nonstick frying pan over a medium heat and fry the slices for about 1 minute either side until golden.
4. Scoop the cheese slices on to the warm halves of toasted pitta bread, arrange the asparagus on top and then the eggs.
Recipes by Annie Bell. Food styling by Clare Lewis. Styling by Sue Radcliffe.