KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Weekend teatime must mean scones with clotted cream and jam, yes? Or croissants and other pastries bought from the neighbourhood bakery?

Sounds divine. But sometimes we feel like something simple and homemade yet still a tad fancier than our usual teatime.

The path forward, I believe, is to look beyond the usual sweet treats and consider something savoury.

I remember how my Italian friend would whip up a simple bruschetta in our student dorm, a sort of appetiser before a dinner of pasta. Just some bread, toasted with a smear of good olive oil, a quick rub with a clove of raw garlic, then some diced fresh tomatoes, and we were ready to eat.

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Slices of sourdough bread.
Slices of sourdough bread.

Fast forward years later and I am hankering after a version of that bruschetta, albeit amping up the umami with some good Cheddar cheese. Given it’s teatime, we’ll skip the raw garlic.

A final touch, to make it heartier: sliced beefsteak tomatoes instead of diced. I’m using heirloom beefsteak tomatoes here but the normal variety would do.

No cream, no sugar, no butter.

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Just more crunch than we realise we’ve been missing from our afternoon teas, and plenty of savoury notes from the aged Cheddar. Simple, yes, but oh so delicious.

Freshly grated Cheddar cheese.
Freshly grated Cheddar cheese.

Tomato & Cheddar Bruschetta

In Italy, the traditional method to prepare bruschetta is by using a brustolina. This device is simply a square metal grill that fits easily over the stovetop.

I prefer something that requires less careful watching, so a quick toast in the oven works just as well.

Sprinkle a handful of grated Cheddar cheese over each slice of bread.
Sprinkle a handful of grated Cheddar cheese over each slice of bread.

This is followed by another round in the oven, after sprinkling the grated Cheddar cheese over the toast, albeit using the broiler function — just enough to melt the cheese.

Note that diced fresh tomatoes will be lovely too (the classic recipe, one could say) or even a spoonful of sun-dried tomatoes. All versions will provide an extra dollop of umami to the bruschetta.

Seasoning is straightforward too: just sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, according to your taste. If you can take the heat, a drop or two of chilli crisp or chilli oil will take it up a notch!

Thickly sliced heirloom beefsteak tomatoes.
Thickly sliced heirloom beefsteak tomatoes.

Ingredients

4 slices of sourdough bread

Extra virgin olive oil

100g grated Cheddar cheese

2 beefsteak tomatoes, thickly sliced

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chlli crisp/chilli oil, to taste (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the slices of sourdough bread on a large tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over each slice of bread.

Toast the slices of bread lightly in the oven, until almost golden brown. When ready, remove the tray from the oven and switch the oven to broiler mode.

Sprinkle a handful of grated Cheddar cheese over each slice of bread. Return the tray to the oven, using the broiler mode to melt the cheese.

To finish, place two slices of beefsteak tomatoes on each piece of toast.
To finish, place two slices of beefsteak tomatoes on each piece of toast.

Once the cheese has melted, remove the tray from the oven. Place two slices of beefsteak tomatoes on each piece of toast.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you like, add a drop or two of chilli crisp or chilli oil too.

Serve the tomato and Cheddar bruschetta whilst warm.

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