When it comes to cheese, Cheddar is King. I feel some intakes of breath and raised eyebrows so let me explain. I love cheese, absolutely adore the stuff. Blue cheese, soft cheese, smelly cheese, holey cheese, hard cheese – you name it, it works for me. If however and God forbid, I had to choose just one cheese then it would have to be cheddar and this is why.
Parmesan is fabulous – strong, salty and perfect grated on pasta, shaved over salads or in chunks after dinner with a perfect pear – but I don’t want it in a cheese and pickle sandwich. Gorgonzola in a warm salad with mushrooms or melted over my onion tart tatin is splendid but I wouldn’t want it in my cauliflower cheese. Sharp white feta – just the ticket in a Greek salad or my Feta and Spinach parcels but honestly has no place in a wobbly, fluffy cheese souffle. Do you see where I am going with this? All cheeses have their perfect place, some can even adapt to a couple of occasions but there is only one contender for the main prize, one that can do everything, the supreme all rounder – the mighty cheddar.
Sweet, tangy, nutty, salty it is just divine and a regular in my fridge. In fact since I first set out into the big wide world and had to fend for myself I don’t think my shopping basket has ever been without it. First few weeks in London – cheese on toast with Worcester sauce to remind me of Yorkshire Saturdays in front of the wrestling. Studying for my city exams – cheese and pickle sandwiches for a week so as to have no cooking distraction. Oh and when I say cheese in both these cases I do of course mean cheddar.
It is a saviour when I need to rustle up a packed lunch from a skeleton fridge or for a snack and I’m sure barely a week goes by without it being the main feature – cheese souffle, cauliflower cheese, Welsh rarebit, cheesy leeks on toast, a grand Saturday ploughmans or my daughters favourite, plain pasta with butter and cheese.
This then, is a new best friend. A love child if you will from a grilled cheese sandwich and a steak sarnie. The melty cheddar forms an alliance between the savoury, meaty juices and the sweet onion relish that has to be tasted to be believed. That it is all incased in toasty, crisp bread is simply gilding the lily. It is superb, it is supreme. Just try it.
Barbers 1833 Cheddar and Steak Sandwich with Quick Onion Relish
You might want to add a handful of rocket or watercress to the sandwich for a little peppery bite, not that it needs it but you might like the greenery.
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion (snooker ball size), chopped
1 heaped teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 steak, approx 250g
2 thick slices of good, rustic bread – a sourdough or similar
50g good strong cheddar, I used Barbers 1833, thinly sliced
Melt the butter and oil in a small frying pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook slowly until soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar, balsamic and a teaspoon of water and cook for another 15 minutes by which time you should have a sticky relish, taste it as you may need a drop or two more of balsamic. Cook your steak how you like but rare to medium rare works best for this, then sprinkle with salt and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes. Whilst it is resting preheat your grill to high, toast the bread and then divide the cheese between the two slices of toast and put under the grill until the cheese is melting. Place your rested steak onto one slice of cheesy toast, spread over the onion relish and top with the remaining slice. Cut in half and tuck in.
I recently attended the BBC Good Food Fair as a guest of Barbers1833 who kindly gave me some of their delicious cheddar which I used for this and several other recipes. I was already a fan of their cheddar and regularly buy it from my local farmshop. By the way, I have previously made my Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt (December 2013) which rely on a belting cheddar, with Barbers1833 and they were amazing.