Thursday, 15 March 2007

Ravishingly Rare

I don't know if the Welsh can actually lay claim to the delightful snack they call Welsh Rarebit, and I invite response as it seem like a typical pub question, but one thing I am sure about is that I love it. I can remember as a lad at school during home economics being shown how to make a rarebit, and it has stayed with me ever since as a thing of utter beauty. Yes, anybody that knows me will know that it is the simple things in life that get me going. Not that it takes much on the subject of food to get me enthusiastic.

Like most classics, it will have it's variations from town to town. Whether or not the towns in Wales that lay claim to have invented the dish, have pitched battles over the subtleties of how it is made, I really do not know or care. After all, if you have a bouillabaisse in one town in France you can just about place your house as a bet that it will taste different in the next. That is what is so brilliant about being obsessed with food, that ability to tweak and experiment, to debate and discuss, classic or not. As long as it tastes good, has not been butchered out of all recognition and contains the main ingredients, then good on you for even thinking about changing an original recipe. Of course, this philosophy does have it's limitations. You can clearly see on some of the menus of today's so-called modern brasseries that to tweak too much is to commit a crime. Just last week I choked on a tarragon chicken dish which had been 'tweaked' with the addition of curry. 3 spoons in I called for the chef, it was that bad.

Back at school, I very much doubt that we used beer in our Welsh Rarebit recipe, but the classic does call for this. Does it need it? In my opinion, yes. The French use their own tweak on the recipe with a Croque Monsieur which of course is simply a cheese paste made with a roux, milk or cream and cheese. The beauty about a Welsh Rarebit is that it remains a unique British classic, packed full of flavour thanks to the mustard, Worcestershire Sauce and strong ale. So you don't need anything other than a piece of bread, a hot grill and the remainder of the beer bottle to have a cracking little tea.

I use Newcastle Brown Ale in my recipe, for no other reason than it is what us Geordies are very famous for and it makes for a delicious rarebit. It will fill your house with the most enticing of aromas, making all available stomachs rumble. Be creative and use this in a multitude of dishes. Keep the sauce loose and stir it into your mash, or as a sauce in it's own right as an accompaniment to pork. Spread it onto chunky white fish and grill it to bubbling perfection. Amazing, simple, beautiful, life and food should always be like that yes?

Newcastle Brown Ale Rarebit
Serves 2 on lots of toast

50g butter
50g flour
250ml Newcastle Brown Ale (or any strong beer)
200g strong cheddar cheese, grated
1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbs English mustard
Freshly ground pepper

1 - Melt the butter in a deep pan and add the flour, stirring for 1 minute to form a roux.
2 - Pour in the beer bit by bit, stirring all of the time until you have a thick sauce.
3 - Stir in the cheddar cheese, Worcestershire Sauce and English mustard, a good grinding of black pepper and stir until thoroughly combined. You should have a thick paste.
4 - Toast your choice of bread, finishing the 2nd side with a liberal spread of rarebit mixture and grilling until golden and bubbly. This cries out for the remainder of the ale, so consume quickly before anybody else does.


Anonymous said...

Hi David,

Enjoyed watching you on Masterchef, - you did so well and we were rooting for you, - 'Congratulations'!

My Granny (who was born in 1899)used to cook rabbit pies which were delicious, I've never tasted anything like them since.
She also made stottie bread to die for, - unfortunately she died without telling anyone exactly how she made them!, - although I think she just threw the ingredients together by instinct.
They were light but firm and had those fabulous holes where the butter melted into when warm.!!

Can you offer any recipes for them?

It's great that you're flying the flag for British dishes, -especially northern ones.

Look forward to seeing you at your Darren's hoose warmin' party!!
Well done once again, - my mam cried when you got voted out!!!

Julia Ken and Sophie

LisaRene said...

Hello, I found your site via The Heart of the Matter soup round up. Welsh Rarebit contains my husbands two favorite ingredient Worcestershire sauce and mustard. This will be the perfect food to nibble on this Sunday while we watch the Super Bowl football game.