Spicy “Po’ boy” Toastie

Spicy "Po' boy" Toastie | Selma's TableThese days, it’s not often that I get a chance to go out with my son. Jake has gathered his London ‘tribe’, the size of which ebbs and flows like the fickle tide of fame but I am pleased that his close friends have remained constant throughout. My point is, that in his spare time, he is always busy, friends to meet up with, an event to go to or a party to attend – with a tribe that large there is always something going on. It’s nigh on impossible to do anything on the spur of the moment that includes him. Unless he is grounded, which was the case last week. So I snatched at the opportunity to take him shopping with me (he needed some things too, so don’t go feeling sorry for him at being grounded and dragged round the shops!) at the weekend. We stopped for some much needed fuel at “Pho“, one of a chain of Vietnamese restaurants that seem to have sprung up everywhere. Jake had the Pho Combo which was really tasty – full of aniseed and beefy flavours, but a huge portion as most of these noodle soup bowls are – does anybody actually finish one? I had the green papaya salad with peanuts and chicken which was absolutely gorgeous – fresh, crunchy and light. Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice how many bottles of Sriracha Sauce they had lining the shelves, as well as on every table. No wonder there is a dearth of them in the shops for us mere consumers! It was really lovely to spend a few hours with Jake, outside of the house (aka the battlefield) and just hang out like old times.

Spicy "Po' boy" Toastie | Selma's TableI adore Vietnamese food – really fresh flavours with mint and coriander, bone broths (Pho), noodles and lots of salads – quite easy to eat well and healthily.  I’ve heard so much about bánh mì sandwiches – French bread sandwiches stuffed with all manner of glorious fillings and also known in New Orleans as a Vietnamese Po’ boy. I had fried seafood sandwiches on my mind when I received some packets of Whitby Seafood to review.

Spicy "Po' boy" Toastie | Selma's TableWhitby is an independent family business, founded in 1985 by Graham Whittle who has now been joined at the helm by his daughter and sons – isn’t that just such a wonderful thing in these days of giant omnipresent, multinational, community destroying, food businesses?  They have rebranded themselves – rather wonderfully in my opinion – with packaging that is modern, relevant and eye-catching and a website that is so easy to navigate and read. Whitby Whole Scampi (langoustine), fished in British waters, is one of their best sellers and has been awarded a Great Taste 2014 Star too. Funnily enough, I was chatting to a friend earlier today and she had just bought a couple of packets in Morrisons – they are on sale – 2 for £4 and I would recommend snapping up a few packs – you won’t regret it!

Spicy "Po' boy" Toastie | Selma's TableSo, I made a toastie version of a Po’ boy, with Whitby’s Whole Scampi, spicy homemade mayonnaise and that wonderful Barber’s 1833 Farmhouse Vintage Reserve Cheddar, which comes from another independent food producer, who are in fact the the oldest cheese makers in England.  I have written about Barber’s previously here. I didn’t realise that Jake was going to be home this morning and for lunch (he is on study leave/writing exams) so I was really pleased that he was here to try my Spicy Po’ boy Toastie. After claiming that he wasn’t hungry, he scoffed the lot, saying between mouthfuls “this is really good” and “can you make this again”.

Spicy "Po' boy" Toastie | Selma's TableCrispy on the outside, soft on the inside bread, crunchy coated, tender scampi, spicy, smoky, creamy mayonnaise and gooey melted cheese – with a few cornichons or pickles to add sharpness – simply divine. I’m not going to lie – this is utter comfort food and with the wild weather we have been having, seemed like the perfect thing to eat.

They are really easy to make. While the scampi are cooking in the oven, mix up the spicy mayo, grate the cheese and generously butter the bread. Then, once the scampi are cooked. put a frying pan on a low heat, place one slice of bread in it, buttered side down, spread with the spicy mayo, then top with the scampi and cheese. Place the second slice of bread on top with the buttered side up, cover and gently sizzle for a minute or two – just keep checking the underside. When it’s a nice golden colour, flip it over, press down gently and let it cook for another minute or so. I find covering the pan heats everything through and makes the cheese melt more evenly. Use soft butter on the bread – it will tear otherwise and the mayo and cheese will leak out into the pan.

Disclaimer – I was sent the products to review but the opinions expressed are my own.

Spicy Po' boy Toastie

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 x 225g package of Whitby Whole Scampi
  • 4 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp smoky paprika
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • a few drops of hot sauce
  • soft butter
  • 80g Barber’s 1833 Farmhouse Vintage Reserve Cheddar
  • 4 slices of bread


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F and cook the Whitby Whole Scampi for 15 minutes or a couple of minutes less than directions on the package.
  2. In the mean time, mix the mayonnaise with the smokey paprika, the chilli flakes and a few drops of hot sauce (I used 4 drops)  and set aside.
  3. Generously butter two slices of bread – this will be the outside of the toastie.
  4. Coarsely grate the Barbers Vintage Reserve Cheddar Cheese.
  5. When the scampi is ready, place a non-stick frying pan on a low heat and place one (or two, depending on the size of your pan) slice of bread, buttered side down in it. Spread the unbuttered side which should be facing you, with half the spicy mayonnaise mixture, then top with about 7 or 8 pieces of scampi and half the grated cheese. Top with the other slice of bread, buttered side up and cover the pan with a lid. Check the underside after 1 ½ minutes – it should be golden brown. If not leave for a few more seconds.
  6. Using a spatula, lift the toastie out of the pan and flip it over and put it back in the pan. Press down gently and cook for another minute or until the underside is golden and the cheese has melted.
  7. Serve with a side of cornichons or pickles and lots of napkins!
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart

Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableRachel de Thample is a woman after my own heart. A food writer, forager and advocate for seasonal and local produce, she has worked in the kitchens of Marco Pierre White, Peter Gordon and Hester Blumenthal. She was  Commissioning Editor for Waitrose Food Illustrated, contributed to two Borough Market cookbooks and wrote a fabulous book called Less Meat, More Veg a few years ago. Did I mention that she is also a fellow South Londoner? Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableRachel is the Food Editor for one of the pioneers of the UK organic veg box schemes, Abel & Cole. She writes the most delicious, weekly seasonal recipes for them and also meets with food buyers to look at the ethical aspects of sourcing food.  Her second book, called FIVE has just been published. It is full of varied, accessible and delicious recipes that will have you packing away fruits and vegetables without any effort at all. There is a very useful double page spread listing fruits and vegetables and their portion sizes and the recipes clearly state how many portions are in each recipe. And the recipes! There isn’t a single one which I wouldn’t make – from creative breakfast truffles and clever muffins to galettes, latkes, stunning salads, hearty soups, curries, pastries, cakes, puddings, sorbets…mouthwatering and while heavy on the fruit and vegetables, there are recipes which include fish and meat. Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableI have a copy of FIVE to give away to a lucky reader which I will tell you about in another post but in the meantime just get your tastebuds going with some of these recipe titles – Mexican Roast Pumpkin Soup with Lime; Lemony Scrambled Eggs with Indian Spiced Spinach and Mushrooms; Sassy Cherry and Watercress Salad with Crushed Pistachios; Athenian Rissoles with Pavlos’ Sauce; Summer Veg Patch Gumbo with Chorizo and Crab; Honeyed Aubergine, Feta and Walnut Borek; Honey Blossom Peaches; Mulled Figs with Mascarpone…doesn’t it all sound delicious? Ruby Chard, Shitake Mushroom & Chestnut Tart | Selma's TableIn the meantime, inspired by the premise of the book and my complimentary Able and Cole veg box as well as my Sutton Community Farm veg box, I came up with a recipe which I hope Ms De Thample would approve of!

It is full of seasonal ingredients like ruby chard, mushrooms, leeks  and one of my favourite winter ingredients – chestnuts; gently sautéed together with celery, garlic and thyme and a little lemon to sharpen the flavours, spread onto flakey puff pastry and topped with Barber’s delicious cheddar cheese.

My recipe has been featured over on the Happy Foodie website along with four other bloggers – take a look at what they have to say and what they made here – http://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/articles/number-five-challenge

Ruby Chard, Mushroom & Chestnut Tart

  • Servings: 4 - 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Bunch of ruby chard or swiss chard or spinach (approximately 250g)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 punnet shitake mushrooms
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 leek
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 75g vacuum packed cooked chestnuts
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp vegetable stock powder ilke Essentials or Marigold
  • 1 good handful of grated Barbers Vintage Reserve Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 x 320 g sheet of ready rolled, all butter puff pastry
  • 2 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of milk


  1. Fill the sink with cold water and swish the chard around in it to loosen any soil. Leave the chard in the water to let any grit settle on the bottom of the sink. Carefully lift the chard out of the water, without disturbing the sediment on the bottom of the sink and gently shake off the excess water. Trim off the ends and cut out the stalks. Slice the stalks, on the diagonal into 3 cm pieces. Slice the leaves into wide ribbons. Keep them separate.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Dice the onions and slice the mushrooms and add these to the hot oil. Sprinkle with a little salt, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon then stir and cook until the onions are soft, floppy and golden and the mushrooms have caramelised. You may need to add a little more oil if the mushrooms soak it all up.
  3. While this is going on, finely dice the celery and and slice the leeks into 1 cm rings; coarsely chop the chestnuts – add to the pan with the chard stems and stir. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Finely chop the garlic and add to the pan along with the chard and thyme leaves. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes or until the chard has wilted.
  5. Sprinkle over the stock powder and add a splash of water – just enough to deglaze any caramelisation on the bottom of the pan and get everything nice and juicy but not wet! Turn the heat right down and let this simmer for a minute or two. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.
  7. Unroll the pastry and score a 2 cm border around the perimeter. Transfer onto a parchment lined baking sheet/tray.
  8. Place the cooled chard mixture within the border and scatter over the grated cheddar cheese.
  9. Brush the edges of the tart with the beaten eggs and then gently drizzle the remainder of the egg mixture over the tart.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes and allow to cool a little before serving.

Eat warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 as a light main course with a salad and some cold cuts for the determined carnivores. Or slice into 12 and serve  as part of a mezze for 6.

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Barber’s Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Barber's Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Elaine, Simon Barber and me – Photo courtesy of foodbod.wordpress.com

Last Saturday, Elaine (from foodbod) and I were very fortunate to be at the BBC Good Food Show as guests of Barber’s Farmbouse Cheesemakers.  We were met at the Press Desk by Duncan from their PR company who armed us with press passes (for which I was extremely grateful later, as with them, we had access to the calm of the Press Room, far, far from the madding crowd) and then Elaine and I immediately went off for a natter and a restorative green tea and a double espresso – I will leave you to guess who had what!

Following a call from Duncan (very The Apprentice!), we went off to meet Simon and Charlie Barber at the Barber’s stand, which was right next to thousands of cheeses laid out on tables for the World Cheese Awards.

Barber's Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Some of the many tables groaning under the weight of over 2,000 cheeses at the World Cheese Awards

The WCA had over 2,000 entries from cheese makers all over the world and these had been judged on Friday. Barbers came away with 8 awards for their cheeses, including a  Super Gold for their Vintage Farmhouse Cheddar, which was voted 3rd best, making it one of the top 50 in the world.  During the judging, they were at Number 1 (Champion) for quite some time. Coming in 3rd overall with a haul of  2 golds, 4 silvers, 1 bronze and that fabulous Super Gold is pretty good going in a competition of over 2000 entries!

Some facts about the Barber Family and their traditional cheese making process:

  • The Barber Family has been farming and making cheddar at Maryland Farm in Didcheat, Somerset, since 1833, making them the oldest cheesemaker in England.
  • Six generations of Barbers have sustained the family business.
  • The Barber Family are the sole guardians of the original live starter culture which contains the friendly bacteria that start the cheese making process.
  • This culture has been kept alive through the years, surviving two World Wars as well as the near disappearance of traditional cheddar cheese making which began with the arrival and popularity of freeze dried starter cultures. These are cheaper to use but cannot compare in to the complexity and depth of flavour achieved using a live culture.

‘Our starter culture is the signature of our cheese.  We’re simply doing just as our ancestors did, only these days we have the technology to choose the blend of bacteria that we think makes our cheese taste the best.  Our starters provide character and individuality.  It’s what makes our cheddar taste so good, so more-ish.  It gives it structure and flavour.

‘As a family we decided that traditional starter cultures needed to be protected – if they died out then proper West Country cheddar would too.  So we set up a lab to keep the cultures safe and to this day the process continues.  In essence, the culture starts everything off; we keep a little of the new milk and starter mixture back; which then becomes the starter for the next batch; and so it continues, every day, and hopefully for many more years, and generations of Barber’s to come.    Nicholas Barber.

  • In the 1950’s, the family invested  in their own labs to preserve the rapidly diminishing starter cultures critical in making farmhouse cheddar and it is thanks to the Barber Family that we can still enjoy traditional farmhouse cheddar today.
  • Barbers also supplies cultures for surrounding cheddar producers such as Wyke Farms and Montgomery’s.
  • Barbers continue with many traditional cheesemaking methods such as turning cheddar curds by hand – cheddaring – in open vats.
  • The cheddar is aged in special wooden boxes which maintain a firm, closed structure.
  • The company has been given Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status that protects and establishes their cheese as being made in its ancestral home using the traditional recipes and methods practiced since cheddar was first developed.
Barber's Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar – creamy and slightly nutty – just so delicious!

  • Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar has a unique complexity that can only be found in cheddar made with a traditional starter culture.
  • Barbers 1833 Vintage Cheddar is matured for 24 months and will only leave the farm when one of the Barber Family have tasted and approved it.

Our Vintage Reserve Cheddar 1833 is firm to the touch, has a consistent creamy colour throughout and a smooth texture interspersed with small, crunchy crystals.  These are not made of salt, but calcium lactate and should be present in good quality aged cheddar of about 18 months or over.  It’s a good indication that the cheese has been made well and is old enough to be full-flavoured and tasty.     http://www.barbers1833.co.uk

  • The copious by-product of the cheese making process, whey, is not wasted. From whey butter to vodka; concentrated powdered protein for food products to lactose for livestock feed; even the resulting water that is used to wash down the barns is then filtered again to the highest river water quality. Truly sustainable farming which is just so admirable.Barber's Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Did you know?

  • Mature cheddar melts and blends better than other cheeses
  • It takes 10 litres of milk to make 1 kg of Cheddar
  • Cheddar cheese contains more protein and less sodium than most other cheeses
  • Due to it’s minimal lactose content, Cheddar is suitable for those who are mildly lactose intolerant
  • Cheddar originates from the village of Cheddar (a few miles away from Maryland Farm) in Somerset.
  • Cheddar Gorge on the edge of the village contains a number of caves, which provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese.
  • The name Cheddar comes from the Old English word ceodor, for deep dark cavity or pouch which references the caves that the cheese matured in

Cheddar has been produced since at least the 12th century. A pipe roll of King Henry II from 1170 records the purchase of 10,240 lb (4,640 kg) at a farthing per pound.  Charles I (1600–1649) also bought cheese from the village…Wikipedia

Elaine and I reluctantly left, having listened to Simon and Charlie, who are so incredibly passionate about their cheese, tell us about their history and the cheese making process. We tasted all sorts of delicious cheeses made by the family including a lovely hard goat’s cheese and a smoked cheese made by their cousins in Wookey Hole.

Barber's Farmhouse Cheesemakers

A selection of cheeses from Barbers and their cousins at Wookey Hole

I also had a shot of the Black Cow Vodka, despite the early hour and have to say that it was utterly smooth and very, very drinkable. Drinkable until the cows come home according to their very cool, animated  video and I would not argue with that!

Barber's Farmhouse Cheesemakers

Super smooth Black Cow Vodka

We also came away with a very smart green Barber’s cool bag with a over a kilo of their Vintage Reserve Cheddar and a booklet full of recipes. I shall be posting the recipe I developed using my local produce and their cheese as challenged by Charlie Barber.

We are hoping to visit Maryland Farm in the spring and I can’t wait! Wellies at the ready, Somerset, here we come!

So now that I have whetted your appetite, you obviously want to know how to get your hands on this award winning, gorgeous cheddar cheese. Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar is available from Fortnum & Mason, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, delicatessens and farm shops nationwide and directly through barbers1833.co.uk in the UK. It is also available from Whole Foods in the States;  Harris Farm Markets and independent retailers in Australia; Dean and Deluca in Dubai so google them to see if they are available in your country.

Full disclosure – Barbers supplied us with press passes and cheese to take home but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Sharing this with the hungry hordes over at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #43 which this week is being co-hosted for the second week running by Tracy @Scratch It and Stephanie @The Cozy Cook. Thank you ladies – it’s going to be a blast!

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013, 2014. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.