Many think it is mere cheese on toast, but Welsh Rarebit is so much more.
Now commonly known as Rarebit, the dish was once known as Welsh Rabbit, and indeed some folks still call it that. But although the dish is associated with the land of St David, there is little evidence that it actually originated there. Nevertheless, caws pobi (toasted cheese) was certainly popular in the hills of Wales as far back as the 1500s. There is even a story from the 16th century that the Welsh were making too much noise in heaven. An exasperated God asked St Peter what to do. St Peter immediately stepped outside and yelled “Caws pobi!” After the Welsh had all rushed outside excitedly, he closed the Pearly Gates behind them.
The name is thought to have started during the 1700s when calling something Welsh was a way of referring to its poor quality. In other words, Welsh Rabbit was a poor man’s excuse for a meal when no meat was available.
The joke was on them. Now Welsh Rarebit is a beloved favourite, perfect as a simple but hearty supper. There is even an official Welsh Rarebit Day – September 3rd if you’d like to mark your calendars.
Variations of the dish include:
- buck rarebit (topped with a poached egg)
- French rarebit (layers of toasted bread and cheese sauce cooked under the grill)
- Yorkshire rarebit (topped with bacon and a poached egg)
- English rarebit (using red wine as the liquid ingredient)
Yes, you could have cheese on toast, but it’s worth making a little extra effort and enjoying a good Welsh Rarebit.
Recipe from www.welshcountrycottages.com. Serves 2 hungry people or 4 as a snack.
225g strong grated cheese. Cheddar, Red Leicester, Cheshire are all good choices.
1 tbs butter
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp flour
4 tbs beer or milk
4 slices bread
Put the grated cheese, butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and flour in a small pan. Add a sprinkling of black pepper. Add the beer or milk. Stir and heat gently until the cheese has melted and the sauce has formed. Put to one side to cool just a little while you toast one side of the bread.
Turn the bread over and pour the sauce over the untoasted side. Return to the grill and heat until the sauce is bubbling and browned.