Cheese on toast with a twist: 7 takes on the humble supper dish that are out of this world

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.

cheese on toast Manchego and membrillo with patron peppers
Chris Alack

SERVES 4

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.

Sherried roquefort with roast onions
Chris Alack

SERVES 4

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
sea salt
120g roquefort
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. 

cheese on toast Red leicester rarebits with picked cucumber
Chris Alack

SERVES 6

6 large or 12 small slices sourdough 

RAREBIT MIXTURE

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. 

Pickled cucumber

1 cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthways, deseeded and thinly sliced
sea salt
50ml water
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. 

Quesadillas and guacamole
Chris Alack

SERVES 2

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. 

Guacamole

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
sea salt
cayenne pepper

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. 

cheese on toast Feta and dill toasts with beetroot salad
Chris Alack

SERVES 4

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
150g feta
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. 

Toasted goat's cheese with garlic spinach
Chris Alack

SERVES 4

500g spinach
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. 

Scarmorza pittas with poached eggs
Chris Alack

SERVES 4

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.

For more recipe ideas go to anniebell.net and @anniebellcook