Southern comfort – New Zealand’s mighty cheese roll
The Southland Cheese Roll is a homely treat found all over hospitable southern New Zealand.
You've heard about the luscious Kiwi pavlova but what about the mighty cheese roll?
No visit to New Zealand’s dairy-rich southernmost regions would be complete without a tasty encounter with a unique regional delicacy known as the Southland Cheese Roll.
Simple and cheesy, sometimes referred to as ‘southern sushi’, the basic ingredients are reminiscent of a French croque monsieur or Welsh rarebit.
The cheese roll is old-style fast food, comfort food from the past, whipped up at home with standard household ingredients, and served up as satisfying snacks to hungry families and their guests. These days it’s also standard fare in local cafés so no one misses out.
In its classic form, the cheese roll is a slice of white bread, filled with a gooey cheese mixture, rolled and then grilled, before being rubbed with a generous smear of butter. Delicious!
It’s the perfect accompaniment to have with soup. It’s perfect for afternoon tea. It’s perfect for morning tea. Many would even argue it’s perfect for breakfast. It’s great for dinner – or post-dinner, in fact.
Amazingly, this delicacy is virtually unknown outside the southern South Island – think anywhere from Invercargill and Stewart Island up to Dunedin and Oamaru. In fact, to this day the cheese roll is almost unheard of in the North Island, despite having been a mainstay of southern cuisine for more than half a century.
The roll has its origins in the 1930s and by the 1950s, the cheese roll was commonplace around the south. New Zealand's Deep South was colonised by Scottish Presbyterians whose legendary love of thrift may have something to do with the popularisation of this budget-friendly family dish. Later still they added chopped onion and by the 1970s, a version using grated cheese, evaporated milk and powdered onion soup had appeared.
In the days when you might be required to whip out something for visitors, most hospitable southern housewives had a tray in the freezer, ready to go under the grill at a moment’s notice to feed hungry shearing gangs and sports teams. They were also commonly donated to raise money for charity.
RECIPE: Make your own Southland Cheese Rolls