First of all, if you’re imagining cute little balls of fluff being served up by Welsh housewives to their starving children, you’ve got the wrong picture. Despite being called “welsh rabbit”, the dish has absolutely nothing to do with rabbits. In fact, it’s vegetarian. And it probably didn’t even come from Wales, which is even weirder.

Now that that little misunderstanding has been taken care of, let’s move on.
 

So what is Welsh rarebit? 

It’s basically bread and cheese. Unglamorous, I know, but sounds tasty nonetheless.  You take slices of bread (the crustier the better), toast them, and smother them with a seasoned cheese sauce (cheddar cheese, please, if you want to be authentic). All in all, about fifteen minutes of work. As a cheap weeknight supper, it would be hard to go wrong!

So what makes Welsh rarebit Welsh?

Strangely enough, this seems to be one of those British “inside jokes” that goes right over Americans’ heads.  Apparently the 18th century Welsh were notoriously poor and couldn’t even afford fuzzy woodland creatures to serve their starving children. Brits saying that melted cheese was the Welsh equivalent of a rabbit was a major put-down. Maybe it was a slur on Welsh hunting skills (if they were to go rabbit hunting, this is all they’d bring back).  I’m not trying to offended any Welsh persons, here, just stating the facts.

So is it “rarebit” or “rabbit”?

The evidence seems to indicate that the dish was originally called “rabbit”, and someone messed it up along the way and now the term “rarebit” is frequently used. One supporting clue is that there is no such thing as a “rarebit” that is not Welsh, so it’s probably not an independent term, but merely a corruption of “rabbit.”
 
Now for the recipe.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of variations on this simple dish. Below is an American creation from the famous Pioneer Woman (these are the gorgeous pictures). Everyone with a taste for metric cooking can go here for what looks to be a good, old-fashioned, traditional rabbit.
INGREDIENTS:
  • Slices Of Crusty Bread, Buttered And Browned Under The Broiler
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1/3 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Beer
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Dry Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire
  • 1-1/2 cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated
  • 1 whole Egg Yolk
  • Fresh Chives, Chopped
METHOD: 
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Sprinkle in flour and whisk together until combined. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in milk and beer, whisking constantly, and cook for an additional minute. Add mustard, paprika, and cayenne and whisk.
  4. Add cheese and whisk slowly, cooking for a couple of minutes or until smooth, melted, and very hot.
  5. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolk,
  6. Serve immediately (while hot) over toast. Sprinkle with chopped chives before serving.
Sources:
Cute factor overload…:O))), a photo by law_keven on Flickr.
welsh rarebit, a photo by tristankenney on Flickr.

Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

This article has 2 comments

  1. Judeann Reply

    When I moved out on my own in 1974 I bought the Single Girl’s Cookbook by Helen Gurley Brown and proceeded to teach myself to cook. Welsh Rarebit was one of the first recipes I made, and it was very similar to the one here.

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