I recently hosted a party for my American friends and wanted to introduce them to some British classics. I wanted to make things that I could prep ahead and quickly assemble and heat at the last-minute, so Welsh Rarebit ticked all the boxes.
Traditionally, Welsh Rarebit was served as a ‘savoury’, a course after dessert (or pudding if we are being very English). In a recent episode of Downton Abbey, the fabulous Mrs Patmore, bustled a tray of it upstairs at the end of a grand dinner. It harks back to the days when men would stay and smoke and drink Port while women were ushered off to another room to gossip. In the 1700s it was called ‘Welsh Rabbit’ but I imagine they quickly decided to change the name when they realised it was putting off the pioneer vegetarians who thought they were eating Peter Rabbit.
Nowadays it is simply a lovely comfort food, perfect for a weekend lunch or a pre-dinner (or, in my old life, a post-pub) snack. A batch of the cheese mixture will sit in the fridge quite happily for 3 days meaning you can indulge in this treat with very little fuss. My children love it. It is pretty cheesy so I usually serve it with a vinegar dressed rocket [arugula] salad to balance out the cheese.
The recipe I used is adapted from the gorgeous cookbook from The Ivy in London where they still serve it as a post-dessert course. It is a great book for anyone looking to learn some British classics and written by the very dashing AA Gill. It was the restaurant I took my then boyfriend (now husband) and parents to when they met for the first time. It was the place to be seen and to spot celebs when I first moved to London and holds lots of lovely memories of those carefree days.
Anyway, before I wander too far down memory lane, here’s how you make it.
150g [5oz] good strong Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon English Colmans mustard (if you can’t find it stateside use double the quantity of Dijon)
30ml [1 fl oz] beer – You should use some kind of ale but I use whatever we have in, even Stella!
8 slices of good crusty sourdough bread (it is also yummy on crumpets)
1. Mix all the ingredients together (except the bread)
2. Toast the bread on both sides then spoon on the cheese mixture, about 1cm thick, and grill [broil] until the cheese melts and turns brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.
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