On homesickness and cheese rolls.

Oh, hey there!
You might have noticed that I’ve been a bit slack lately, and haven’t been posting much. I’m in my last year of Uni and between classes, assignments, my internship, and running a fledgling business, I haven’t had a lot of spare time! In fact, I’ve been running myself ragged, and getting stressed about little things. Normally in this situation, I’d just put my life on hold for a few days and go home to see my family, but I just don’t have the time or money for a trip to Dunedin right now, so I’ve had to get creative.

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Home, in all it’s wintery glory!

Last weekend I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by my workload, so I decided to take a few hours to make some dinner and watch a movie. It was cold, and I was feeling a bit miserable, but I had a secret weapon, in the form of every southern kid’s number one winter comfort food – Cheese Rolls. They don’t seem like much – cheese and onion paste rolled up in white bread – but they are a true southern staple.
Community groups, sports teams, P.T.A’s and scout troops are always fundraising, and back home they do that by selling frozen cheese rolls by the dozen. You stock up, and then when it’s cold and you’re a bit lazy, you just pop a few under the grill for 10 minutes and slather with butter, and you have the ultimate winter snack.

I didn’t know until I moved to Auckland that cheese rolls are a regional thing. It seems bizarre – New Zealand isn’t really big enough for regional cuisines (not that I’d call cheese rolls a ‘cuisine’, but you know what I mean!) and it took me about 6 months to realise that they just don’t exist here. I partially blame that on the lack of old-fashioned tea rooms up north, and the fact that the air doesn’t have the same chill to it. Some of my fondest memories of childhood were the wintery days when I was home sick from school and my Grandma would feel bad that I was cooped up in bed, so we’d get all rugged up in scarves and hats and gloves, and she’d take me to some kitschy little tea room with those cabinets full of sandwiches and baked things that you put on your tray and slid along the bench. I would always have lemonade, a belgium biscuit (more on those at a later date) and a cheese roll, and she’d have a pot of tea and an asparagus roll, and sometimes a yo-yo biscuit. I often played up how sick I was, so that I’d get to stay home with Grandma, but my Mama was too clever to let that happen too often!

Anyway, it was a cold and blustery evening, and I was feeling a touch homesick, so I decided to make my own cheese rolls to have with our spicy pumpkin soup for dinner, and I’ve included the recipe in this post in case you want to have a crack at them yourself. It’s not rocket science or anything, but they really are a good thing to have on hand!
Ours didn’t make it to the freezer, but if you’re making them to freeze don’t cook them – just roll them up, pack them tightly into snaplock bags, and put them in the freezer.

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In a saucepan (on a low heat) warm up one can of evaporated milk and half an onion (finely chopped)
Once that’s warm, mix in one packet of onion soup mix, stir, and add one cup of grated cheese.

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( I like my cheese rolls to taste like onion, but I don’t like the texture of the bits of onion (I know, I know) so I chop up my onion into massive chunks and let it flavour the evaporated milk, before fishing them out and mixing in the soup mix and cheese, but you can finely chop the onion and just leave it in the mixture if you aren’t as offended by the ‘bits’ as I am! )

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Once the cheese sauce has thickened to a spreadable consistency, spread a thin layer onto your slices of bread, and roll them up.
( Some people like to cut the crust off the edge that’s going to end up on the inside of the roll, but I like mine to stay on. Means they retain a little more structural integrity, particularly with soup! )

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Line them up on a baking dish (or stop here and stick them straight into your snaplock bags if they’re going into the freezer!) and grill on 180º C until golden (usually around 10 – 15 minutes)

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Spread some butter on your cheese rolls while they’re still warm, and serve – either on their own or with soup!

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This pumpkin soup recipe is also the easiest recipe on the planet, and one that my Mama used to make all the time, so I’ll just quickly share that too!

All you need to do is scoop the seeds out of a pumpkin, and roast it (with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper) until it’s soft. Peel the skin off, and then blend with milk or cream (or in this case, another can of evaporated milk!) until it’s your preferred consistency. Mix in some of your favourite Mexican seasoning to taste – I use the Tio Pablo Mayan Gold Spice Mix – and serve with a spoonful of sour cream.
You can also make this with Indian spice blends, or with coconut cream and Thai curry paste, depending on what you’re feeling like! It’s super warming, and so easy – the perfect winter soup!

Anyway, let me know if you try making either of these things, or if you have a favourite food that reminds you of home!

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