A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Taste and learn about cheese in the comfort of your home
I recently participated in a Cheese Talk, one of a monthly series hosted by RIPE Cheese. By way of background, RIPE Cheese is co-owned and fronted by Singapore-born cheesemonger Hakim Halim. Conveniently located in the Queen Victoria Market, RIPE stocks Australian cheeses only, and is committed to ensuring cheese continues to be made from Australian milk, supporting Australia's dairy industry and family-owned, artisan cheesemakers.
RIPE Cheese runs monthly sessions where participants can learn about Australian cheeses. (Image from RIPE Cheese's Facebook page.)
The Cheese Talk session I participated in covered how to make a RIPE toastie. You would be forgiven for wondering whether there is enough involved in making a cheese toastie to justify a whole session on it - but that's only if you are unfamiliar with the classic RIPE cheese toastie. RIPE has taken the art of constructing a cheese toastie to a whole other level. It is a triple-cheese toastie, involving mozzarella, tasty vintage cheddar, a smear of blue and caramelised champagne leeks on sourdough bread. These toasties are in hot demand by customers purchasing directly from RIPE, but, as it's a small store, they only make a small number of toasties each day. So, rather than missing out, the toastie session gave participants most of the secrets that would allow us to make and recreate these luscious toasties at home.
As is the current way of things, the session was conducted virtually, via ZOOM. The timing of the session - 5-6pm on a Friday - worked well, an easy way to get into the weekend.
All ingredients needed for the session were delivered ahead of time.
Two days earlier, all the ingredients needed for the toastie had been delivered to my home - not just the three cheeses, but also butter, finely diced leeks, and sourdough bread - in a handy re-useable bag. Each ingredient was labelled with a letter, and there was a written ingredient list and set of instructions, making it super simple. Oh, and there were also four cans of beer from Brick Lane Brewing: two of their Base Lager and two Red Hoppy Ales, selected as a match by The Beer and Cheese Theory.
The ingredients are accompanied by detailed notes and cooking instructions
It was up to session participants whether or not they cooked along with Hakim as he prepared the cheese toastie, or simply observed during the session and cooked in their own time. We elected to cook along to see if we could match the results achieved by Hakim.
Hakim delivers the cooking instructions via Zoom.
First up, we sautéed the leeks, adding the 'champagne mix' once the leeks had gone a light brown. The ingredients of the champagne mix are a tightly held secret - but suffice to say it smelled acidic, and helped to caramelise the leeks. Leaving the leeks to cool a little, we then buttered the bread - 'right out to the edges', instructed Hakim. (It's buttered side out when the toastie is cooking, to be clear.) Turning to the construction of the sandwich, we layered the three cheeses and a dollop of the leeks. I won't be more specific than that, as I would like to encourage readers to support RIPE and learn the secrets for themselves.
Our sandwiches assembled, Hakim demonstrated cooking the sandwiches in a sandwich press as well as in a frying pan on the stovetop. We tried both methods - and both worked well. A good tip from Hakim regarding cooking the toastie in the pan was to cover it with baking paper, then rest another frying pan on top of the sandwich, replicating the action of a sandwich press. The sandwich is ready when the cheese is melted and oozing, and the bread is crispy and brown.
Toastie cooked in the frying pan... looking good!
So how did it taste? Delicious! It is indulgent, but what a great way to kick off a weekend! Serve the sandwich cut in half, with a cold beer, and a side of cornichons (also supplied).
Ready to eat!
The one-hour session, plus enough ingredients to make four toasties and four beers, cost $70 - very reasonable if split between four friends or family members. Delivery was free for addresses within 20km of Queen Victoria Market, or $20 for addresses within 20-40km. (No delivery available beyond 40kms.)
If this article has got you hankering for a RIPE cheese toastie, you can satisfy the craving by ordering a toastie pack online, ($20 for a twin pack, available for delivery within 10km of Queen Victoria Market only). There is also a truffle and cheese toastie available for a limited time.
Overall this was a fun session, that was well organised, included a generous quantity of ingredients, and had carefully considered notes and instructions. Hakim is a warm and friendly host, and his enthusiasm shone through the session. So grab a few friends and give it a try!
Except where indicated, the photos in this article were taken by the writer.