Researching the perfect recipe for Davidstow cheese on toast was not as easy as you may think. Furthermore, there now seems to be an exact science to many of our more simple pleasures. Apparently the perfect piece of toast should be buttered within two minutes of being catapulted out of the toaster and optimum toasting time is 216 seconds at a temperature of at least 120°C. Felicity Cloake recently dedicated 1,500 words to baking the perfect potato (it’s all in the crispy skin apparently) and according to the University of Northumbria, the perfect cuppa requires a bag, boiling water, two minutes brew time, 10ml of milk and six minutes cooling time.
I may digress briefly but life’s all about the simple things: cheese on toast, a cup of tea, a baked potato, beans on toast; do it right and the quotidian, the banal, can be lifted into the sublime. Only after 2, 000 pieces of toast, three months and £10,000 was the ultimate toast formula delivered.
After the recent furore over the Alex James Presents range at Asda, which includes a bag of cubed pouring cheese, Cheddar & Ketchup and Cheddar Tikka Masala, it was a relief to receive a brown paper-bound chunk of three-year-old matured Davidstow cheddar in the post. Alas readers, this particular heady version is unavailable in the shops but the Davidstow Cornish Crackler (matured for at least 19 months) and the Davidstow Cornish Classic (matured for 14 months) both are.
This upstart three-year-old hits the tongue with an initial nutty complexity, developing into fruits and finishing with a definite nod towards its more aristocratic cousin, parmeggiano reggiano. My instinct with such a bourgeois chunk was to leave well alone. Store at room temperature, eat alone with crackers or Baker Tom’s sourdough bread and keep the cling film at bay. But after a bumper crop of apples and therefore copious jars of apple chutney, the marriage was pre-arranged.
Impressed and just a little in awe of Felicity Cloake’s dedication to the pursuit of perfection in our more humble dishes, I experimented with her ultimate Welsh rarebit using the three-year-old Davidstow instead of Lancashire and added a blanket of apple chutney beneath.
Davidstow Welsh rarebit (serves two):
- 1 tsp English mustard powder
- 3 tbsp stout
- 30g butter
- Worcestershire sauce, to taste
- 175g Davidstow matured cheddar
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 slices bread
1. Mix the mustard powder with a little stout in the bottom of a small pan to make a paste, then stir in the rest of the stout and add the butter and about 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce – you can always add more later if you like. Heat gently until the butter has melted.
2. Tip in the cheese and stir to melt, but do not let the mixture boil. Once smooth, taste for seasoning, then take off the heat and allow to cool until just slightly warm, being careful it doesn’t solidify.
3. Pre-heat the grill to medium-high, and toast the bread on both sides. Beat the yolks into the warm cheese until smooth, and then spoon on to the toast and cook until bubbling and golden. Serve immediately.
All-in-one apple chutney
- 3lbs sliced cooking apples
- 1 ½ lbs chopped onions
- 1 ½ lbs demerara sugar
- 1tbsp salt
- 1tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1lb sultanas
- 1 pint vinegar
Put everything together in a large pan, bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes approx. Pour into seven or eight sterile jam jars. Spread liberally onto lightly-toasted sourdough, cover with the Welsh rarebit mixture, grill and settle down in your favourite corner of the garden in some autumnal sunshine with the perfect cup of tea. I was joined by a rather portly ginger cat, à la Simon’s Cat, stalking falling leaves, punctuated with little sprint gallops.
Share your comments and tips on making the perfect ‘simple thing’ below. Loose leaf or bags? To prick or not to prick your tatties? Toast hot or cold before applying butter? Marmite under your baked beans?