Welsh Rarebit, pronounced Welsh Rabbit, is not a Welsh dish and there is no rabbit in it at all. It is believed the name 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. The basic ingredients (bread, beer, cheese) are food staples of every region, and it was certainly eaten in Wales for many centuries; although this 18th Century recipe is the standardized version now which is still made today.
Buck’s Rabbit is a popular variation of Welsh Rarebit, made exactly the same way only served with a runny poached egg on top. Another version is called Gloucester Cheese and Ale and it is also a very similar recipe, but uses more of the ale.Welsh Rarebit was quite often eaten as a dish after the main meal, almost like a savory pudding or a cheese and biscuit board for the poor man.
Welsh Rarebit served on Georgian Pewter plates from the 1700s, with a Georgian silver knife and fork (the fork was just becoming common for the upper-classes) and the ale in a Pewter goblet.
- 40g butter
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 70ml of a good ale (drink the rest with the dish when made)
- 250g of a good quality ‘mature’ English cheddar – hand grated or chopped small
- 2 tsp of the best English mustard
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 4 large slices of fresh bread, toasted (home-made if possible)
- Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the flour. Cook the mixture for three to four minutes, stirring constantly, and then slowly add in the ale – this time stirring vigorously as you go, letting the flour cook out. Turn the heat down, add the mustard, cheese (keep some back to add later) and seasoning, and stir over a low heat until all the cheese has melted. Check for seasoning again, adding more mustard if you think it needs it. Reduce the volume of the liquid until the cheese and ale mixture thickens.
- Turn the grill on and toast thick slices of fresh bread on both sides, butter one side. Put the toast on a heat proof dish, then pour the cheese mixture over the toast, and put the toast back under a hot grill until the cheese mixture starts to blister and go golden brown. Sprinkle over the reserved cheddar, season, then serve the Welsh Rarebit (optional add a poached egg to make it a Buck’s Rabbit).