Wish dish: What is a cheese roll and where to find it




You may not associate New Zealand with intensely regional cuisine, with a dish that's served in just one small area, population 250,000 – but then, maybe you aren't familiar with the cheese roll. A delicacy that finds its home in chilly Southland, a cheese roll is a thing of simple beauty, a student-friendly snack that takes its cues from Welsh rarebit and, shall we say, rolls with it. You begin with a slice of dodgy white bread, spread it with a melted mix of grated cheddar, evaporated milk and onion soup powder, roll it up, butter it and stick it under the grill until it reaches toasty golden perfection. Sweet as.


Though it seems safe to assume cheese rolls were invented by members of Dunedin's vast student population after a few too many Speight's Gold Medal Ales, the history of this dish dates to the 1930s – the earliest printed recipe appearing in a Kiwi newspaper in 1935. The now much-loved "southern sushi" gained real popularity in the 1950s, around the same time sliced bread became widely available, though even now it's rare to find one outside the South Island.


Most bakeries in the likes of Invercargill and Dunedin will do a good cheese roll, though The Batch Cafe (facebook.com/batchcafe) in the former, and Hungry Hobos (hungryhobos.co.nz) in the latter are eternally popular.


You were paying attention above, obviously, so you already understand there's nowhere in Sydney or Melbourne to order a proper Southland cheese roll. Our advice: search online for a recipe, buy a few ingredients, and get grilling.


Though the very basic cheese roll recipe is mentioned above, there are plenty of Southland cooks tinkering around the edges. Diced onion is a frequent cheese roll invader these days, while other gourmands add mayonnaise, parsley, garlic, and even crayfish or chorizo.

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