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Ham and cheese toastie xmantown main april 2016
The Ultimate Ham and Cheese Toastie Brian Clarke and Harry Weir

The Ultimate Ham and Cheese Toastie

Here, Conor Higgins of Oxmantown Café shares his recipe for the ultimate ham and cheese toastie

Serving: 8
Time: 1 hour +
Difficulty: Medium


  • 300g/10oz Gruyère cheese
  • 300g/10oz rocket
  • 1 large loaf sourdough bread, sliced 

For the ham hocks:

  • 3 x ham hocks
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1⁄2 bulb garlic
  • A few springs of thyme

For the béchamel:

  • 1/33.8fl oz litre milk
  • 1⁄2 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 small sprig thyme
  • 85g/3oz butter
  • 80g/2/8oz flour, sifted
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Nutmeg

For the slow roast tomatoes:

  • 4-5 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

For the pickles:

  • 500g/17.6  white wine vinegar
  • 100g/3.5 sugar
  • 8g/2tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 100ml/ 4fl oz water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1⁄4 onion, thinly sliced


  1. Place ham hocks in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Rinse any scum off the ham with cold water and clean the pot.
  2. Put the ham hocks back in a pot with the rest of the ingredients for the ham hock and cover with cold water. Bring just to a boil and reduce immediately to a simmer. Skim any scum that rises to the surface. Leave on a simmer for three hours or until the meat falls off the bone.
  3. To make the béchamel, put the milk, carrot, onion, cloves and thyme into a pot and bring to just before boiling point, remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. (This step allows the flavours to develop to a level beyond most.) In Oxmanstown, we use our Parmesan and Gruyère rinds to impart even more flavour. Strain milk into a pot and reheat.
  4. In a separate, wide-bottomed pot on a gentle heat, melt the butter. Gradually whisk in the sifted flour. Stir on low heat until gently bubbling. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking and stirring until smooth before each addition. Season and add a sprinkling of nutmeg.
  5. For the tomatoes, preheat oven to 80°C. Quarter the tomatoes. Lay face up on a baking tray. Dust with icing sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Roast on a low heat for about an hour or until withered, beautiful and intensified.
  6. For the pickles, put vinegar, sugar, salt, turmeric, mustard seeds, water and cloves in pot. Bring to the boil and reduce by a quarter. Squeeze excess water from the cucumbers and onion and add to the pot. Remove immediately from the heat. Stir and allow to cool.
  7. To assemble, spread the béchamel on two slices of bread, then add the shredded ham hock, some more béchamel and Gruyère cheese and place under grill until deliciously melty and golden brown around the edges. Top with tomatoes, pickles and rocket, put lid on and grill on both sides. Serve.

Photography Credit: Harry Weir, assisted by Brian Clarke

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  • Making the béchamel the night before makes all the difference.
  • Ensure that the flour and butter is cooked off enough when you make the roux. It allows for the molecules in the flour to break down, resulting in a smooth sauce.