A Very Merry Ploughman’s (ish)

by Sam Bilton on April 17, 2015 No comments

Plougmans 1

Despite the romantic notions that farmers have been eating a classic ploughman’s lunch of bread, cheese and beer for centuries, it’s rather disappointing to read that this dish was a PR gimmick initiated by the Milk Marketing Board in the 1960s. That said it is a much loved pub grub staple and can be found all over the British Isles in various guises. Sometimes it includes multiple cheeses, others ham or perhaps a meaty pork pie or even a Scotch egg. For this reason I had no qualms about putting my own spin on it when Merrydown cider invited me to create a ploughman’s as part of a Sussex food blogger challenge. It’s not your traditional ploughman’s but does include all the elements you would expect to find in a ploughman’s namely bread, cheese, chutney and cider.

If you like it, please tweet and Facebook about it or post it on Pinterest using the hashtag #comfortablyhungry.

Merrydown Rarebit with Pineapple Chutney and Cider Glazed Shallots

As far as I’m concerned there’s no hard and fast rule that says your ploughman’s has to be cold. We have some great cheeses in Sussex and they are equally delicious when melted on hot toast and washed down by a lovely glass of Sussex cider. I’ve used St Giles from the High Weald Dairy as it is wonderfully creamy when melted paired with a punchy Broad Oak Cheddar from The Traditional Cheese Dairy. Alternatively, you could use 225g of any strong flavoured hard cheese.

Merrydown Rarebit

Serves 4

Plougmans 2


  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp Merrydown Medium Cider
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 100g St Giles Cheese, grated
  • 125g Broad Oak Cheddar, grated
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of Cayenne pepper, according to taste
  • 4 thick slices of rustic country style bread (I used a walnut loaf). You may need more than this as it depends on the size of the loaf.


  1. Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the cider, mustard powder and cheese. Return to the heat and cook the cheese until just melted (DO NOT LET IT BOIL). Season with a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of Cayenne pepper. It will look fairly gloopy and unappetising at this stage but it will be fine in the end. At this point you can transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to use it (I actually prefer doing this as it is easier to handle when cooler).
  2. Lightly toast your bread on both sides. Divide the mixture between the slices then grill until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately with the chutney and shallots on the side.

Alterative: Spread a little of the chutney on each slice before spreading the cheese mix on top then grilling.

Pineapple Chutney

Makes around 2 x 500ml jars


A ubiquitous combo in the 70s, cheese and pineapple are great friends. Pineapple also loves pork, particularly gammon, and this is lovely with a pork pie. I like my chutneys to have a bit of a kick but you can omit the chillies for a milder condiment.


  • 1kg fresh pineapple chunks (prepared weight – roughly 2 medium pineapples)
  • 300g onions, finely chopped
  • 25g knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 – 2 red chillies, finely chopped (optional)
  • 200g demerara sugar
  • 200ml cider vinegar
  • 150ml Medium cider (I used Merrydown)
  • 1 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt

Spice bag (wrap the following in muslin tied with some plain string)

  • 10cm cinnamon stick, broken in two
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds


  1. Use a food processor to finely chop the pineapple (and onions if you wish). The fruit doesn’t need to be pulverised to a puree but it is good to have a variety of fairly small pieces.
  2. Place the pineapple and onions in a large pan with the remaining ingredients and spice bag. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 2 hours until most of the liquid has evaporated and the chutney is thick. You should be able to see the base of the pan when you draw a spoon through it.
  3. Remove the spice bag and store in sterilised jars. You can eat this chutney immediately but as with most pickles it will mellow with age so is best left a month or two before consumption. Once opened store in the fridge and consume within 6 weeks.

Pork pie

Cider Glazed Shallots

Serves 4

I’ve never been a fan of pickled onions but I do like shallots cooked in this way. This recipe is adapted from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.



  • 400g shallots
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 200ml medium cider (I used Merrydown)
  • Sprig of thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp runny honey


  1. Peel the shallots and place them in a wide shallow pan with the vinegar, cider, thyme and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil then barely simmer for around an hour (this will depend on the ferocity of your cooker). Stir regularly to baste the onions. When the liquid has virtually disappeared, add the honey then stir until the shallots are glossy. These can be eaten warm or cold.



Sam BiltonA Very Merry Ploughman’s (ish)

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