Keeping Alive a Tradition #3: Welsh Rarebit

Welsh rarebit, or rabbit, is a traditional twist on the classic cheese on toast. In truth, I don’t suppose this is a dish confined to our small corner of the world, since English rarebit, Scotch rarebit and Irish rarebit also exist. However, I’m not certain if those rarebits made in the other corners of the British Isles bare the exact credentials of the well-known Welsh version. It is important to highlight that the original dish was called Welsh rabbit, rather than rarebit. It makes sense, perhaps, that the name was changed to distinguish it as a non-meat dish.

The reasons behind this post go beyond the fact that this is both delicious and traditionally Welsh: the recipe itself needs to be established. I’ve seen many a recipe for Welsh rarebit during my time on WordPress, but only a few have prepared it correctly. This fabulously delicious lunch-time meal should contain only mustard, cheddar cheese, brown ale and butter, nothing less, nothing more. Any recipe which makes use of paprika or cayenne pepper, is taking itself a little too seriously. Believe me, this is a good example of less-is-more. Both the yellow English mustard and the red Welsh mustard are acceptable in this recipe. Please don’t use the dreaded American mustard, which is a rather sorry excuse for the popular condiment. Once again, sorry America – you do take a beating here, don’t you?

Welsh Rarebit

Serves 2

Ingredients:

• 100g mature cheddar cheese

• ½ tsp English or Welsh mustard

• 2-4 tbsp brown ale, depending on the desired consistency

• A small knob of butter

• Two slices of wholegrain bread

Method:

1. Melt a little butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the cheese, ale and mustard and cook over a low heat until the cheese has melted.

2. While the cheese is melting toast both sides of your bread, under a grill. Once the cheese has melted spoon the mixture over the toasted bread. Return to the grill and allow the rarebit to brown.

Cost: In Britain 100g of good, mature cheddar can be found for as little as 55p. If one is successful in this exploit this dish should set one back a mere 70p. Not bad considering it will provide a filling lunch for two.

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89 comments on “Keeping Alive a Tradition #3: Welsh Rarebit

  1. cookinginsens
    February 5, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Nice Frugal. Even with the snide America comments. That’s okay. I like Welsh rarebit and even some Welsh people. I’m going to make this today using good old American yellow French’s mustard and any cheese that strikes my fancy :) Love

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      Yes, sorry about those – I ought to control myself :D. Loved your version really :D

  2. Juls (Pepper and Sherry)
    February 5, 2012 at 8:15 am

    There used to be a small tea room in a converted barn near where I am in Surrey that made proper Welsh Rarebit (and if so requested would give you a sausage or bacon or an egg with it) and it was fantastic, it was so good that after the tea room closed over a year ago I have been disheartened by the occasional rarebit I eat, knowing it just won’t be the same (there was some poncy place up near Covent Garden I remember charging nearly a tenner for the most ridiculous incarnation of rarebit I have yet seen – It had gruyere, hollandaise and white wine in it. It was horrible as well.) So for well over a year I have stared forlornly at menus that promise me rarebit knowing it isn’t going to be anything like that tea room’s and, here’s the sad bit, I’ve been scared to make it at home because I worry it’ll make me a traitor to the tea room’s memory!

    I might have to be a little bit treacherous soon.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      Oh that’s really awesome!I’m sorry that it closed down! You ought to be treacherous, treachery is usually good.

  3. Danielle
    February 5, 2012 at 8:27 am

    The ultimate comfort food! This looks so delicious!!

  4. thesinglegourmetandtraveller
    February 5, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Looks delicious and I like the lovely traditional recipe. Was talking Welsh Rarebit in my interview with Mark Mosimann on Tues about his favourite cookbooks … re Mrs Beeton and traditional recipes … but just looked at my own 1923 edition and – while much same ingredients as yours – she doesn’t brown it … mmm … strange … I’m definitely with you … nice browned topping is the best :)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks! The browned topping is a much. rarebit seems to be the word on everyone’s lips!

  5. Stephane
    February 5, 2012 at 8:52 am

    To make it really Welsh, use caerphilly, a real welsh cheese :Caerphilly. http://thejoyofcheese.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/fromage-of-the-day-01-08-12gorwydd-caerphilly/

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      I know all about Caerphilly cheese and it doesn’t work. Cheddar may be named after a village in Somerset, but it is just as Welsh as it is English. In fact, I much prefer Welsh cheddar to any produced anywhere.

  6. promenadeplantings
    February 5, 2012 at 9:32 am

    A classic Frugal. And thanks for the reminder of how to cook it properly, I’d forgotten about the brown ale. But what would the abstemious Chapel folk do? Skip it I guess, or rmaybe not fess up!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks! It is so yum. abstemious chapel folk don’t exist in Wales… They merely pretend to be so.

  7. Chica Andaluza
    February 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

    My grandfather was from Mold and his auntie taught us all to make this properly. And it´s exactly like you make it….I love this and really fancy some now for breakfast!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Oh really? that’s cool. You should make some :D

  8. sophie king
    February 5, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I haven’t had this in so long! Definately making myself some today… I have a craving for it now that I’ve seen the pictures

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Oh please do! Let me know how it goes as well!

  9. Stephane
    February 5, 2012 at 10:47 am

    how does a welsh man eat his cheese? Caerphilly

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      Blimey, one needs to indulge in a rather blatant mispronunciation for that joke to even come close to working! :D

  10. alternative eating
    February 5, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Looks so good:) I love melted cheddar;) :)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Oh me too – it’s the best cheese for this purpose, I feel.

  11. nocturnefirefay- Miss L.F xoxo
    February 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    I love, love, love cheese and this looks delicious! Will make this very soon ;)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      Thanks! This is a must for any cheese lover.

  12. Arturo Féliz-Camilo
    February 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Nice!! Welsh rabbit will make it to the Caribbean!!

  13. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    February 5, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    That looks fabulous!

  14. wutheringbites
    February 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Oh gosh, this looks scrummy. The dribbling cheese mixture….mmmmmmm! I’ve never made welsh rarebit before, which is very surprising as i’m a cheese on toast obsessive. lovely :)x

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Thanks! I love dribbling cheese :D. You should totally give it a go if you like cheese that much!

  15. dhagburg
    February 5, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    What’s more comforting than warm cheesy beer! Love this!

  16. Tessa
    February 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Looks wonderful! Sorry to disappoint (Not really, I’m just being polite :)) but when I make this I will be using my American style mustard (French’s) and a fabulous brown ale brewed right here in Oregon. I look forward to trying this. I’ve never had rarebit before. Thank you for sharing your authentic recipe.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks! that’s quite all right. I’m sure I’ll live. At least you are making it :D. You won’t be disappointed!

  17. thelittleloaf
    February 5, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Yum! Cheese on toast taken to a whole new level…

  18. saladcheese
    February 5, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Sadly, I do have to agree with on the American mustard. It’s just too bright and tastes like sadness. When I can, I go Dijon or old-school whole grain. I’ll have to add this to my ever-growing pile of recipes to try out soon. Cheers!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      Haha, yes it does, doesn’t it? Please do, it is yummy – especially for lunch.

  19. Trish
    February 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    I’m curious as to how English mustard differs from american. And don’t apologize for knocking american food. I think we’ve taken over the ‘crappiest diet in the world’ status. How do you come up with just 2 to 4 tblsp of beer? I mean, you have to open a bottle, what do you do with the rest…? Just kidding, don’t answer that.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      I think it’s just of much better quality – I don’t know the nuances of the difference. I think the answer is fairly obvious :D

  20. budgetcookingblog
    February 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I have to admit that looks good. I always thought it had rabbit in it for some reason. Hmph.

  21. cogidubnus
    February 5, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Ah but the real gem is Buck Rarebit…viz Welsh Rarebit just as you’ve so brilliantly described, but with a soft poached egg on top…on a scale of 1 to 10 this hits an eleven with me every time….(provided the poached egg IS soft of course)

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Oh yes, it is. I ate this all the time at my gran’s when I was younger.

  22. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
    February 6, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Niiiice… You’re so right, sometimes the simplest things are grand (there’s a good English word), without the fussiness that we try to add to them…

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      I think the Irish say it more. I don’t think I’ve ever heard and Englishman say it! :D.

  23. Yinzerella
    February 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Here is the Joy of Cooking recipe for Rarebit. Alas, it is an abomination and includes cayenne! http://yinzerella.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/retro-reheat-redux-welsh-rarebit/
    Also, I tried your black bean burgers again and this time they were a smashing success. Cheers!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      Alas, it is :P. I’m glad the burgers went down well :D

  24. alliedale
    February 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    This looks seriously superb! Nothing like gooey melty cheese sauce… and your photo captures that wonderfully.

  25. Amrita
    February 6, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    I’d been quietly observing your dishes but this made me kick my fingers into action! Cheese and toast – classic, but then making it a rarebit is like heaven on bread! Beautiful pictures too!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Oh, I am glad. I love getting comments :D. I’m glad you liked the post so much.

  26. Ragamuffin Diaries
    February 6, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    This looks delicious. I confess I never knew what Welsh Rarebit was until today, and always thought it had something to do with rabbit!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Tut, that’s not acceptable :D. Thanks, though :D

  27. Kimby
    February 7, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Flail away. I’ll take a good brown mustard over the bright yellow version any day… Thanks for the history on this dish and also the proper way to make it!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm

      Good! I really like to stick up for tradition :D. Perhaps it ha something to do with being an historian.

  28. Julie @ happygoodtime
    February 7, 2012 at 4:53 am

    This looks delicious! I’ve never had a rarebit, but it seems I’ll be remedying that soon. All of my favorite ingredients together! Cheese, beer, mustard – oh my.

    I won’t even defend what you’re calling “American” mustard. It’s awful, and shouldn’t be consumed. I eat a lot of mustard, and none of it is the aforementioned yellow paste.

    Lovely post.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      Thanks. You really should try it, it is yummy. I’m glad you avoid American mustard, it is crap…

  29. Susan Nye
    February 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    FF – I haven’t had Welsh Rarebit in forever. Ever Christmas someone sent us a big crock of cheese – after the holidays my mum turned whatever was left it into rarebit. Thank you – Susan

  30. lambyknits01
    February 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Carbs and cheese are my kryptonite ;)

  31. mommywritervkent
    February 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Being an American I have to say, I dont like the mustard here either :D I love this recipe and would love to try it one day!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Get some of the proper stuff, it’s far nicer.

  32. mommywritervkent
    February 7, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Unique and Unpredictable and commented:
    Sounds fantastic!

  33. Conor Bofin
    February 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    While it looks pretty perfect, I can not bring myself to admire anything Welsh after their visit to Lansdowne Road last Sunday. Painful, very painful.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks! Haha, yes… Though, you didn’t really deserve to win :D

  34. Emerald Garden Lady
    February 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    One of my favourite lunch time meals.

    I make mine with whole grain mustard and instead of ale, Worcestershire sauce.

    Funny I was brought up thinking that was the “real” Welsh Rarebit, you live and learn!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      Awesome. It is truly perfect for lunch. It isn’t but it is an acceptable variation :D

  35. cakeboule
    February 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    I love wwelsh rarebit – ironically we had a quiz the other day at School and nodoby knew what it was! Can you believe the youth of today!

    • frugalfeeding
      February 14, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Haha, bloody youths – they don’t know they were born.

  36. mrswebbinthekitchen
    February 14, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    I laughed out loud at the mustard comment. Is English mustard anything like our brown/Dijon mustard we have? Because that’s my “dreaded” mustard of choice. ;)

    Curious what you think of ketchup?

    • frugalfeeding
      February 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      Haha. No, that’s French mustard – it’s much stronger. Ketchup is fine, as long as it’s of a goof quality… I only have it with chips or the occasional bacon sandwich.

  37. Jennifer Burcke
    February 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for reminding me that it has been far too long since I made Welsh Rarebit. I agree with you-the original recipe can’t and shouldn’t be improved upon.

    • frugalfeeding
      February 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      No probs! Thanks, everyone keeps trying to add stuff!

  38. Sifting and Sowing
    February 17, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    i do agree that less is more, but…. have you ever tried it with a thin layer of gentleman’s relish on the toast? it’s damn good this is my staple sunday evening fodder. ooh, actually could eat some now…

    • frugalfeeding
      February 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Nope and I’m afraid I never will – I honestly don’t think it needs anything else :D. Plus I’m not such a big fan of gentleman’s relish.

  39. eatinggreener
    February 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Looks good… hope I can find Welsh/English mustard over here in Canada.

  40. Korena in the Kitchen
    February 20, 2012 at 4:16 am

    Simple is so often the best way to go. This looks great. Love the photos.

  41. jok3r133
    February 26, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Absolutely loved this first time I tried it. Works really well with shredded leek or cabbage cooked into the cheese.

  42. thekalechronicles
    April 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Just got around to reading this one. I’m forwarding it to a friend of mine who has been trying to make Welsh Rarebit from a recipe in an American cookbook — not a good idea (the proportions are all wrong).

  43. Finella
    January 10, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I am pretty sure you have left out eggs, its not a welsh without egg’s in it. I love your recipes though

    • frugalfeeding
      January 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      I’m afraid that’s incorrect, but it is nice with eggs :D

  44. Cheryl
    March 21, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Just had this for lunch. Yummy! I had some Coastal English cheddar and stone-ground mustard on hand, but I had to use a black lager instead of the brown ale, since that was all I had. I remember my mother making Welsh Rabbit for us when I was young, but I don’t have any idea what she put in it. I just remember the cheese and toast.

    • frugalfeeding
      March 25, 2014 at 8:21 am

      Glad you enjoyed it so much – I love rarebit.

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