My mom used to make us Welsh Rarebit for breakfast. Let me clarify though. We used to call it “Welsh Rabbit” (in a very Afrikaans accent), and her recipe did not contain any booze. Otherwise, my school years may have been a lot more fun than it actually was!
Welsh Rarebit is, as the name suggests, a traditional British dish, and gained popularity in Wales. And no, it does not contain any rabbit bits. According to Wikipedia, the origin of the name is unknown and this dish was first recorded in 1725. I guess, with our British roots here in South Africa, it does explain why it ended up on our breakfast then. Even the iconic “Kook en Geniet” (Cook and Enjoy) recipe book has got a recipe for Welsh Rarebit, slightly clumsily referred to as “gesmelte kaashappie” (melted cheese snack), which is what it essentially is I guess!
So what is Welsh Rarebit exactly? It is basically a cheese sauce served on toasted bread. Or, like Delia Smith calls it “Cheese on Toast for Posh People“. There are various variations on the recipe of course – like my Mom’s which is basically a bechamel sauce on toast. The more traditional versions include mustard and beer as ingredients, with the addition of Worcestershire sauce, paprika, etc. Growing up with my Mommy’s version as frame of reference, I only discovered quite recently that this is a ‘made with booze’ dish – and with that in mind, is probably not meant to be served for breakfast! But no judgement here if you do!
Seeing that “Welsh Rarebit Day” popped onto my radar as being celebrated on the 3rd of September, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to try the more “traditional” take, so of course, I used a recipe found on BBC Food.
Let me walk you through it.
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.
Sure looks good, doesn’t it! You can serve this with a crisp salad, or tomato soup or just munch it as is!
This was delicious, but I will change a few things next time. The recipe calls from strong beer, and some recipes I saw even mentioned to use Guinness. I used a Weiss beer and as a result, the cheese sauce had little too much of a beer taste for me. It did overshadow the taste of the cheese a bit. And again, it can be because I am used to my Mom’s version, which is 100% cheese sauce. Most recipes, like the one in the “Kook en Geniet” calls for 125ml beer and 125ml cream, which makes a bit more sense to me. I also used ‘normal’ white bread, which worked quite well actually. I will definitely try it next time!
Interesting to note for that there are various “extras” that can be added to the traditional Welsh Rarebit. Various variants like the English Rabbit (an interesting concoction involving the toast being soaked with wine), Scotch Rabbit (basically a sandwich with two toasted slices of bread), Blushing (stirring in tomato or tomato soup) Bunny, Golden Buck (served topped with an egg), etc. What would a truly South African version be? The addition of a generous sprinkling of biltong powder? Why not! *making mental note*