Grilled cheese sandwich with speck

  • Time: 12 mins
  • Serves: 1
  • Level: easy

‘For Dad this classic snack is not just about quick food on a plate, it’s about the story of the ingredients… Dad explains that just adding basil can change what country you lift your hat to…’

Leo Williamson
'This is more than just a quick sandwich, turn this SOS basic into your own art form by trying out different ingredients...'

What you need

Slices of good crusty bread – preferably sourdough or ciabatta

Slices of thin mild cheese – such as havarti, mozzarella, Jarlsberg, Emental, Edam or Gouda or mild cheddar

Thin slices of good quality and fresh speck (or Bavarian ham, English smoked ham, or prosciutto/Parma Ham)

Fresh basil (optional)

Butter



Dad's Recipe Tales

The gastronomic treasures of Soho

I used to work on Frith Street. After work, I often made short detours to pick-up something for home. I was spoiled with myriad specialist shops: Madame Bertaux and Patisserie Valerie for sweet treats and cakes; I Camisa & Son and Lina Stores for Italian delicacies and fresh pasta; Bar Italia or the Algerian Coffee Centre for espresso coffee grounds; Chinatown for roast duck and pork, fresh fish and groceries.

Nowadays, when I’m in Soho I’m instinctively drawn to these stores. Recently I found myself in Lina Stores. The cured meats looked wonderful and the cheese high quality and varied. I bought some sliced speck and soft pecorino. I cut a piece of pecorino with my pocket knife and enjoyed it in the street. The speck was used in a radicchio and pasta dish and a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.

At each of these meals I paused to savour the flavour of the speck and how it complimented the other ingredients. Is this pure hedonism, or a celebration of the provenance of a special ingredient?

An Italian favourite from the Austrian Alps

I made my sandwich two ways: half with added fresh basil and half plain. It’s extraordinary how the basil changes the character of the sandwich. When eating from one side of the plate you could be in a wooden cabin in Innsbruck and the from the other side, a chic street café in Milan. If you’re using other stronger hams, increase the strength of the cheese and add mustard, in which case – to continue the metaphor – you could be in Munich…

How Dad Cooked It

This is a variation on a basic grilled cheese sandwich. One of the best sandwiches it is possible to make.

  1. As with all grilled cheese sandwiches, butter the outside of the sandwich bread. Then open up the sandwich and build a couple thin layers of cheese and speck for the inside. (Place a few leaves of basil on one half – see story below.)
  2. Pre-heat a small non-stick pan to medium.
  3. Put the sandwich in the pan. After about 5 minutes turn the sandwich over – it should be lightly browned – cook for further 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Press occasionally to speed up the cooking and melt the cheese. If necessary increase the heat for a darker finish to the bread.

NB: the biggest danger is burning the bread before the cheese has melted. Fry the sandwich on a lower heat and increase the cooking time to ensure the cheese melts.

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