Friday, 13 April 2012

Margreet's Pumpkin Soup and Cheese Rolls

Pumpkin Soup and Cheese Rolls from the Mainland

The best pumpkin soup I have ever tasted arrived in my mailbox recently, from my sister
Margreet. It comes from Omakau; near the Otago Central Rail Trail.To make it you need a whole pumpkin.

You simply make a few cuts into it with a knife to make sure it doesn’t explode, and then cook it for 15 minutes in the microwave which softens it, making it easier to peel and chop.
In the meantime fry an onion with garlic and ginger, and then add the chopped pumpkin and all the other ingredients except for the coconut cream. The chili sauce adds a little sweetness and heat, the ginger some zing, red pepper adds to the warm colour, and the orange juice gives it a fresh fruity flavour. Bring it to the boil and then let it simmer for 30 minutes before using a stick blender to make it smooth. It makes an ambrosial soup, enriched by a swirl of coconut cream at the end.
If you wish, and I usually do, you can leave it simmering in a slow cooker instead for about 6 hours, which fills the house with the homely smell of good soup and gives the flavours time to mellow.
At the bottom of her recipe there was a note: Serve with cheese rolls. Cheese rolls? Never heard of them! It seems unbelievable now but it’s true that on several trips to the South Island I had failed to come across them.

No less a source than Wikipedia gives them a mention as one of a very small number of recipes which are specific to only one of New Zealand’s main islands.

This culinary icon has been around for a long time. It was first recorded in a National Newspaper called Truth in 1935 which apart from much scurrilous gossip also published some good recipes. Originally they were called rat traps, probably because of their rotund little bodies and to distinguish them from mouse traps.

They really took off in the 1950’s when commercially sliced bread came on the market, making it easier to prepare them.

Then they hit the headlines last week when the winner of a Mainland Cheese roll competition held as part of the New Zealand International Science Festival was announced in Dunedin. It was a truly scientific quest in which no less than 81 entries were rigorously scrutinized for taste, texture, appearance, nutrition and the all important ooze factor.
The Mainland’s winning cheese roll or the Cheese Rolls Royce as the Southland Times aptly called it was made by Joy Jones from Dunedin. She learnt the recipe from her Mum and now makes them for Robbie’s Bar and Grill in South Dunedin.
In the traditional mainland style it had a substantial amount of cheesy filling, and was made with onion soup mix and evaporated milk.
Professor Phil Bremer described them as flavoursome, thick cohesive and smooth with a full bodied texture that delivered a rich mouth feel. In addition the fact that .the ingredients were heated in the microwave ensured a homogeneous easily spreadable filling that did not separate or go greasy when the cheese roll was heated.
Why cheese rolls have failed to cross Cook Strait, head North and become a cafĂ© staple up here, remains a bit of a mystery. Maybe we’ve been so slow to catch on because we were too busy grazing on ciabatta, pita bread, bagels, naan and croissants to fully appreciate just how special this regional comfort food is.

But now that the humble cheese roll has climbed the ladder of fame it seemed a good time to go local rather than global. So I decided to give them a go

My sister kindly emailed me her family recipe for cheese rolls .Unlike the winning recipe it does not contain cream so a little less dangerous for the waistline! And so convenient, if not eaten straight away you can pop them into the freezer and they can go straight from there under the oven grill. She keeps a constant supply of them.

For these cheese rolls simply simmer a cup of milk with a packet of onion soup and stir till it thickens, then melt in lots of Cheddar Cheese (might as well use Mainland!) Use this mixture to spread on pieces of sandwich sliced white bread and roll them into a cylindrical shape. It takes three folds. No need to cut off the crusts. Put under the grill until a golden brown on both sides, then spread generously with butter.

Being an Aucklander I was tempted to tamper with the recipe, to add a dash of sherry, a little mustard, a few chopped up sundried tomatoes or olives but in the end I did it her way, and there were no regrets. This was real comfort food, tasty but simple. We dunked them into our pumpkin soup.

The one mistake I had made was to spread the cheese filling on too thinly, so it failed to ooze out as it should. It still tasted good but thicker would have been better.

Next time we have overseas visitors who want to taste some real kiwiana, I might well serve them cheese rolls with pumpkin soup, followed by roast lamb and a pavlova with canned peaches for afters.

The fact that Wikipedia named the cheese roll as one of a number of very small recipes which are specific to the Mainland continues to intrigue me. Having developed a taste for them I am now on a small mission to discover what these other recipes might be. I’ll just have to invest in some more merino woolies, a balaclava and Ugg boots and cross over Cook Straight on the ferry. Then onto on a voyage of discovery to ferret them out.

The Recipes:

Margreet’s Pumpkin Soup: (which I have slightly adapted from her original recipe)


1 whole pumpkin
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger
1 red pepper      
2 tablespoons of Thai Chili Sauce                                           
600 mls chicken stock
500 mls water
Juice of half an orange
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup of coconut cream
2 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander
Make a few cuts into the pumpkin (to prevent it from exploding) before putting it in the microwave for 15 minutes. This will make it much easier to peel and cut up.
Sauté onion, ginger and garlic until the onion has softened but not browned.
Put these in the slow cooker with the chopped up pumpkin and all the other ingredients except the coconut cream and coriander.
Bring to boil in a saucepan, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Process with blending stick or in food processor
Pour into bowls and into each swirl a tablespoon of coconut cream.
Sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Cheese Roll Filling
1 packet of onion soup
1 cup of milk
About 350 gm of tasty cheese
Put onion soup and milk in a saucepan.
Heat over a moderate heat until the mixture thickens. 
Stir in  grated tasty cheese until it is quite a thick mixture (about 350gms)
Spread on Sandwich sliced bread and roll up (no need to take the crusts off)
Grill on both sides till golden brown and the cheese has melted.
Slather the rolls with butter

1 comment:

  1. Your cheese rolls are so much better than mine - I must try to do some again soon. cheers