How to make cheese rolls

Helen Leach (left) and Mary Browne with their home made cheese rolls. Photo: ODT files
Helen Leach (left) and Mary Browne with their home made cheese rolls. Photo: ODT files

Flavours of home is a series of recipes from around the world cooked by people at home in Otago. This week Helen Leach and Mary Browne, from New Zealand, show us how to make traditional southern cheese rolls.

Cheese rolls became a specialty in the 1950s when sliced bread became available.

Several fillings were used and Prof Leach and Mrs Browne each have their favourite.

Thanks to Afife Harris and Gardens New World.

Rex Cheese-derived filling 

Research by Prof Leach and Raelene Ingles has shown the earliest known cheese-roll filling was a home-made copy of Rex Cheese, a commercially processed cheese available in tins.

It had been around for years.

This version comes from Bring A Plate Recipes from the Mornington Methodist Church, 1984.

120g (1 cups) grated tasty cheese
2 Tbsp milk
1 egg
2-3 tsp malt vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Put all the ingredients in a small, heavy-based saucepan and mix.

Stir continuously over medium heat until the mixture melts, then thickens and just begins to boil.

Remove from heat and allow to cool.

It will thicken as it cools.

Store in small jars in the fridge.

Makes sufficient for 8-10 rolls.

Palmerston cheese filling  

When Mary Browne edited Favourite Recipes from Rural Otago for the Waikouaiti branch of Rural Women in 1994, all the cheese-roll recipes she received originated from McGregors Bakery tearooms in Palmerston, which had been making them for many years.  

1 small, mild-flavoured onion or shallot or red onion
250g cheddar or colby cheese
boiling water to mix

Use a food processor to chop the onion finely.

Tip into a bowl.

Cut the cheese into small cubes and place in the processor.

Add about cup boiling water and pulse until the cheese is well chopped.

Add extra boiling water, a tablespoon at a time, and process until the mix is soft, smooth and thick.

Mix in the onion.

Makes sufficient for 15-18 rolls.

You can trim the crusts or leave them in place.

Spread the filling evenly over the slices and roll tightly.

Brush with melted butter if desired.

The rolls can be cooked immediately or stored up to a day in the fridge or three months in the freezer.


To make the rolls

slices of square-cut sandwich bread, white or wheatmealmelted butter (optional) 

To cook the rolls

Preheat oven and pan with a grilling rack to 200degC.

Change oven setting to grill.

Place the rolls on the hot rack on the pan and position above the middle of the oven.

Grill the rolls until golden brown.

Use tongs to turn rolls over and grill the second side.

Or, fan-bake at 200degC (no need to turn).

Or, toast in an electric grill and sandwich press with an adjusting lid.

Serve hot with the traditional cup of tea or with a hearty soup for lunch.


Spread the filling thickly to the edges of the bread.

Some people like to cut off the crusts but they don't prevent the bread being rolled.

Mrs Browne likes to leave them on.

Roll up the bread, place the seam at the bottom and press to flatten the roll.

Watch the rolls carefully while cooking as they may burn.

Some ovens require you to leave the door ajar when grilling, but others don't.

Rolls may cook at a different speed so remove them as they cook and put the rest back to brown.


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