Welsh rarebit (or Welsh rabbit as originally spelled) is a traditional but famous Welsh dish. Basically, it’s combination of hot melted cheese on toast which is a winning combination on any day. Some still call it posh Cheese on Toast which let’s face it, doesn’t sound half as good as Welsh Rarebit, does it?
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National Welsh Rarebit Day - 3rd September
The first and most important thing to understand is that rarebit is not a word that is used in any other context. It only exists next to the word Welsh when referring to the dish Welsh rarebit. There’s no rarebitting involved in making Welsh rarebit and no rarebits are harmed during the cooking process.
There are many meals, drinks and dishes that have a National Day named after them, possibly the most famous being pancake day. But every 3rd September is National Welsh Rarebit Day which is celebrated the world over, but with great fervour in Wales.
A little bit of history
The origin of the name is uncertain, but it’s generally believed that the word rarebit is a corruption of the word rabbit. 'Welsh rabbit' first appeared as a dish in 1725 and later in many "Eighteenth-century cookbooks. It is thought that the dish was attributed to the Welsh because of their historic fondness for cheese, which was used as a substitute for meat as a source of protein by poor peasants. Welsh Rarebit is described by some as 'posh cheese on toast'.
Or possibly it was to indicate how much the Welsh were said to enjoy hot cheese. There was even a medieval joke to that effect, that St. Peter was so tired of the noise from the Welsh people in heaven he tricked them into believing there was a roasted cheese just outside the pearly gates, and when they all ran out to get some, he locked the gates. It was probably funnier at the time !
There are some variations on the Welsh rarebit dish such as;-
Scottish: toasted bread with slices of melted cheese
English: toasted bread soaked in red wine with slices of melted cheese
English: toasted bread soaked in red and white wine with slices of melted cheese and mustard
Buck - Welsh Rarebit served with an egg on top
Blushing - Welsh Rarebit blended with tomato
Welsh Rarebit Recipe
When any dish is as popular as Welsh Rarebit, there are always many many different recipes and variations on the theme. However here is a traditional recipe to follow;
50g/2oz salted butter
250ml/9oz strong bitter beer, warmed
250g/9oz strong cheddar cheese, grated
2tsp mustard of your choice,
2 tbsp Worcester sauce
Black perper to taste
4 large slices of bread – try brown granary bread
In a small saucepan melt the butter and make a roux with the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring to prevent the roux from burning. Stir in the warm beer by degrees, until you have a thick but smooth sauce. Add the grated cheese and stir until melted. You should now have a thick paste. Mix in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and season well with black pepper.
Lightly toast and butter the bread, then pile up the cheesy mixture on each slice. Cook under a hot grill for a few minutes, until browned and bubbling.