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Upgrade your toast with a Traditional Welsh Rarebit

Thick buttered toast spread with a generous and sumptuous melting mixture of cheddar, mustard, stout and Worcestershire sauce, the Welsh rarebit is a British treat par excellence.

Serve at breakfast or lunch, or even as a post-dinner ‘cheese course’. The rarebit’s peculiar name has prompted much speculation about its origin, but most of the conversation has centred around the dish’s English name.

The earliest references to the dish, from the 18th century, call it ‘rabbit’ (and not rarebit), but it wasn’t until Hannah Glasse’s 1747 cookbook, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, that a recipe for the Welsh version (along with Scottish and English ones) was given. However, the name caws pobi (‘roasted cheese’), dates back even further.

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In 1547, in his The First Book of the Introduction of Knowledge, writer and physician Andrew Boorde typifies the Welsh, saying ‘I am a Welshman … I do loue cawse boby (sic), good rosted chese’.

Serves: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10–15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 120ml stout
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard powder or 1 tablespoon English mustard
  • 175g cheddar or any sharp, tangy hard cheese, grated
  • good glug of Worcestershire sauce, plus extra to serve
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 thick slices white sandwich bread
Welsh rarebit. (Phaidon/Ben Mervis)

Method

Preheat the grill (broiler) to its highest setting and line a large baking sheet with baking (parchment) paper.

Bring the stout to the boil in a medium saucepan, then boil for another minute to reduce slightly. Add the cayenne pepper and mustard and whisk together to combine.

Remove from the heat and slowly beat in the grated cheese. Add a good glug of Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Finally, beat in the egg yolk and leave to cool.

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Toast the sandwich bread slices before smearing them with generous portions of the cheesy paste. Arrange the bread on the prepared baking sheet and grill (broil) for 3–4 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with more Worcestershire sauce.

The British Cookbook by Ben Mervis. (Phaidon/Ben Mervis)

In The British Cookbook, author and food historian Ben Mervis takes readers on a mouth-watering culinary tour across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, revealing a cuisine as diverse as the landscape from which it originates.

Part cookbook, part cultural history, this deeply researched collection of 550 authentic recipes encompasses home-cooked classics, lesser-known and regional recipes, dishes deeply steeped in British history and iconic dishes with roots outside of the United Kingdom.

The British Cookbook by Ben Mervis is available now from phaidon.com.

Are you a fan Welsh rarebit? What do you add to your cheese on toast? Let us know in the comments section below.

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