Contributed by LE
My Grandma Evans never wrote down her recipes. She never made ‘cheese on toast’. She made Welsh Rabbit. She made it for us grandkids without stout or ale and altered the ingredients depending on whatever she had in the house at the time. And I definitely remember her calling it “rabbit”, not rarebit.
I’ve put together this recipe using strong grated cheddar cheese (cheddar was actually the only cheese I knew during my childhood in Alberta), milk, butter or an egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce and English mustard. It’s so quick and easy to make, it can be on your table in only 15 minutes if you are fast at grating cheese and cutting bread. It’s one of my all-time best comfort foods.
Pob hwyl! (That’s Welsh for ‘good luck!’)
Prep Time 10-15 minutes, cook Cook Time 5 minutes Total Time 15-20 minutes
Calories 600 kcal per serving (or 400 kcal with a low-fat cheese)
- 250 g cheddar extra mature cheese (Welsh Caerphilly or Hafod cheddar cheese also work well)
- 70 ml milk or apple juice (instead of beer or ale)
- 1.5 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, the umami powerhouse
- 20 g unsalted melted butter (don’t worry if it’s salted)
- 1 Tbsp English mustard or 1 tsp English mustard powder (or double the quantity of Dijon mustard) for superb background flavour
- Pinch of cayenne pepper partners with the heat of the mustard
- 4 thick slices of good quality crusty bread (like Sourdough or French)
- Lightly toast the bread in a toaster or under a preheated grill. If grilling, only toast one side. The uncooked side will be face up on your plate.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the grated cheese, milk or apple juice, Worcestershire sauce, butter, English mustard and cayenne pepper. Stir until thoroughly combined. (Note: the Worcestershire sauce can be saved for drizzling over the finished rabbit. See Jamie’s video below.)
- Spread a generous layer of the cheesy mixture over each slice of toast, allowing it to spill over the crusts.
- Transfer each slice onto a baking tray and place directly underneath the grill for five minutes or so, until the cheese mixture is blistering brown and bubbling hot.
- Carefully remove from the oven. Cheese is like molten lava. Mark diagonal lines through the ooey gooey cheese (but not through the bread) with a sharp knife. Optional: drizzle Worcestershire sauce over the cheese at this stage.
- Plate up immediately and serve along with a crisp green salad or hot, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes.
Traditional Welsh rarebit recipes call for stout or ale. In this recipe, milk or apple juice work equally well.
Fat, such as butter, is an essential component in Welsh rarebit recipes if you want a thick texture. Some versions use double cream or egg yolks for a creamier texture
rarebit with bacon
Here’s a recipe starting with a roux (along with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes): https://youtu.be/L-rynulkGww
Jamie throws a very quick rarebit together (starts at 1:21 after the chilli jam prep) https://youtu.be/tgDakYCQnvs
And here’s an 18th century recipe cooked over an open fire: https://youtu.be/BeV3DLfeWGQ (starts at 3:38) Notice there’s no Lea & Perrins. They didn’t invent their famous condiment until the following century, in 1837.
Lea & Perrins’s “Ultimate Cheese on Toast” recipe leaandperrins.co.uk/recipe/100091100008/Ultimate-Cheese-On-Toast
FAQs: WELSH RAREBIT info
WHY IS WELSH RAREBIT ALSO REFERRED TO AS WELSH RABBIT? It is believed the name ‘Welsh rabbit’ originated in the 18th century as an English insult to the Welsh. While rabbit was a poor man’s meat in England, in Wales the poorer man’s ‘meat’ was cheese. Variants include English rabbit, Scotch rabbit, buck rabbit, golden buck, and blushing bunny. The first ever recorded mention of the dish was in 1725, in John Byron’s Literary Remains: “I did not eat of cold beef, but of Welsh rabbit and stewed cheese.” Over time, however, Welsh rabbit gradually became known as Welsh rarebit. It’s not clear exactly why this was, but it’s thought the change came about at the end of the 18th century, when the dish had become more popular. Some believe the name was changed in an attempt to move away from patronising connotations as a poor person’s meal. Many people believe Welsh rarebit should still be referred to as Welsh rabbit to this day.
WHERE DOES WELSH RAREBIT ORIGINATE FROM? Although it can’t be officially proven, it’s widely accepted that Welsh rarebit originated in Wales. According to a 14th century religious text, the Welsh were behaving in an unruly manner in heaven, so in order to make them go away, St. Peter stood outside the gates to heaven and yelled, “Caws pobi!” This translates literally to ‘baked cheese’ in Welsh. Upon hearing this, the Welsh dashed out of heaven and the Pearly Gates were closed behind them.
SHOULD I ADD EGGS TO MY WELSH RAREBIT? Fat is an essential component of any Welsh rarebit; without it, the cheese has a tendency to become slightly rubbery. My recipe uses melted butter, but you can also use margarine or double cream, and some people prefer to use eggs for a creamier texture. Experiment to discover what works best for you. Rarebit with leeks
rarebit with leeks
I DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL. CAN I SUBSTITUTE THE ALE OR BEER WITH ANOTHER LIQUID? A typical Welsh rarebit recipe will use stout, beer or ale. If you don’t drink alcohol, you could try substituting it with milk or a delicious pressed apple juice.
WHAT ARE THE BEST VARIETIES OF CHEESE TO USE IN WELSH RAREBIT? A traditional Welsh rarebit is made using a sharp cheddar cheese, but Lancashire, Cheshire and Double Gloucester also work very well. A mild, creamy Caerphilly or Hafod cheddar would give a nod to the Welsh roots of the dish.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO MAKE A VEGAN WELSH RAREBIT? Yes, definitely! Just find a good vegan cheese, vegan margarine or spread and vegan Worcestershire sauce.
WHEN IS WELSH RAREBIT TRADITIONALLY EATEN IN WALES? The Welsh love to eat Welsh rarebit at any time of the year, but it’s particularly popular as a light meal or snack on St. David’s Day. Welsh rarebit even has its very own national day – Welsh Rarebit Day – which falls on 3rd September each year.
WELSH RAREBIT VARIATIONS
You can’t beat an authentic Welsh rarebit, although there are some delicious variations on the dish that you might wish to experiment with. You could add crispy bacon, leeks, onions, laverbread or ham. You could drizzle the cheese mixture on jacket potatoes, cauliflower or chilli. Or dip squares of toast in the cheese (fondue anyone?). Yum!
WHAT IF I MAKE TOO MUCH?
mushroom rarebit sandwich
More at: https://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/collections/welsh-recipes/