Pulling a rarebit out of the hat


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“Welsh rarebit” or “Welsh rabbit” was one of those dishes I’d always wondered about, along with “toad in the hole”, before moving to the UK.

Apparently its name is originally a bit of a slight on the Welsh – who were (many years ago, I’m sure) considered so inept they couldn’t catch a rabbit for dinner, so they had to settle for cheese on toast. In an early example of political correctness the name was adjusted to “rarebit”, supposedly taking a bit of the sting out of the insult.

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There’s more to good rarebit than just slices of cheddar plopped on bread and stuck under the grill (broiler, if you prefer). The recipes vary, but common elements seem to be a good cheddar, some Worcestershire sauce and either beer or milk.

I did my research and cobbled together a list of ingredients that seemed like a fair thing – eschewing the egg that one recipe recommended.

A “roux” is not absolutely necessary, but our friend Chef Michelle used one when she served us rarebit during our Belgian fries excursion. Roux in its most basic form is melted butter whisked up with flour, forming a base that adds richness and body to the resulting dish.

We used Guinness for the beer part, but I reckon any beer would do the job. A dark one, though, will give your rarebit a bit more oomph. If you can’t use beer, milk is permissible.

It seems we did make one mistake: whisking for too long after melting the cheese into the roux and beer. The rarebit mixture went very quickly from a nice smooth paste into a blob – it seemed like the fat from the butter had separated out. Everything was quite salvageable, but possibly the final product was a bit greasy as a result.

Rarebit is definitely more interesting than cheese on toast, and if you get the grilling just right the lovely bubbly brown appearance is quite appetising.

Oh, make sure to use a nice crusty loaf too – no pre-sliced industrial rubbish.

– Waz

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36 Responses to “Pulling a rarebit out of the hat”


  • A roux is equal parts flour and butter used as a thickener. There are different color roux…used a lot in Cajun and Creole cooking especially in New Orleans.

  • Sounds good. I’ll try it!
    I think you used too much flour. one or two tablespoons would’ve been enough. but I think that’s a think you can only find out by doing. I’ll try with 1-2 tablespoons.

  • Hello Anna,

    One or two tablespoons should be enough? We actually only used about THREE TEASPOONS which is probably not even one tablespoon. As Michel points out, a classic roux is equal parts butter and flour, so were probably about right.

    Lenny.

  • First time reader and commenter–love your blog!
    This is pretty cool. I also love experimenting with recipes I’ve heard of but never made. It looks great and sounds fun to put together. I’ll have to try this one. Make it about 4pm, add a cup of tea, and we might all look gentrified.
    Very cool.

  • cathy from chico, ca

    Yum!
    After the roux was cooked a bit, I added all the rest the ingredients besides the cheddar. Just mixed it and let it simmer. Then I added the cheddar… let it melt. Not too much wisking; I think it may create gluten (?) making it gooey. Very delicious!! And, I followed Lenny’s lead by eating with a bit of Guiness. Great idea!

  • cathy from chico, ca

    Forgot to add… there is a bit of an urban legend that attributes NIGHTMARES to Welsh rarebit. Did anyone have any after eating this??

  • I was wondering, after watching this recipe about a million times… what type of cheese was that you used, mild sharp etc…

    Great video by the way.

  • Cathy, I’ve certainly heard about cheese giving you nightmares if you eat it too close to bedtime. It’s never happened to me – and I’ve experimented liberally – but the urban myth exists.

    Ben, we used mature (sharp) cheddar, but you could use a milder flavour if you weren’t up for the delicious old-socks smell of the mature variety.

    Lenny

  • Another one of those food folklore questions answered.

    I think cheese on toast is one of those universal comfort foods, that every cheese eating culture has in one form or another.

    The guy who used to run the hardware store down the street here had a toaster oven version that included ketchup.

    I just found a recipe for Toad in the Hole by Jamie Oliver, which i will try and post the results.

  • Well done show! Quite entertaining, I recommend it to all those who I find truly love the process, and learning involved with cooking.

  • I’m new to all these blogging/vlogging techniques. I just have a plain old blogger site with no fancy bits on the sidebar so WAS I IMPRESSED WITH THIS! Congratulations on a great site. I’m looking forward to keeping up with your culinary efforts.
    I did read somewhere once, that cheese goes rubbery if it is cooked AFTER it has been melted into a sauce. I’m wondering if the melting of the cheese should either be the last thing or done very close to the end with everything else and then no more heat till the toasting.
    Cheers Gillian

  • Snot on toast. Nauseating.

  • This was a great food idea. I made up the mixture with notes from the video and we ate as you did. Then we had some mixture left over so it became many different sandwiches. The best was a Welsh Tuna Melt.

  • Heather,

    Glad you enjoyed it!

    Waz

  • cathy from chico, ca

    When will you be bestowing another fabulous podcast upon the world? Loyal viewers are waiting patiently…

  • yeah mates! we want some more :)

  • [Banging knife and fork on table] “We want more CTK! We want more CTK”. Everyone join in….

  • Guys and girls,

    We’ll be back soon … we’re away on a trip at the moment, and before that our stove and oven broke down, hence the delay. Think of it as the kind of break between seasons that TV shows have!

    Stay tuned …

    Waz

  • I’m hungry.

    Looking forward to the next episode.

  • Have a wonderful trip, look forward to your return.

  • It looks great but loaded with cholesterol and fat. I wouldnt eat everyday, twice a year like you offered should be enough to keep your coronary arteries safe.

    The dietitian and her healthy boy friend

  • cathy from chico, ca, usa

    Hi there,
    I have started a food blog… you two were a big inspiration! THis is one of the dishes on my blog; just wanted you to know.
    Thanks!

    http://bvcuisine.blogspot.com/2007/01/welsh-rabbit.html

  • to be precise, a roux is not only equal WEIGHTS of flour and fat, but the thick pasty mixture must be cooked to some degree. a white roux is cooked over med-high heat until it *just* begins to change color. a brown roux, as you may guess, is cooked longer until it obtains a nice, dark brown color and strong nutty flavor.

    in traditional french cuisine (where roux is from), they do not get any more complex than that. if you deglase a pan with flour and call it a roux, you are simply adding flour to a simple sauce. the correct procedure would be to deglase and then add a properly prepared roux to thicken.

    the reason is that you want the flour to burst open (when it is cooked) and bond with the fat. if this is accomplished, it will easily mix in with a sauce and thicken it very nicely.

    lol sorry i’m hella high.

  • Ah, Welsh Rarebit! I grew up with this dish, but we called it (don’t laugh),
    “Pink Bunny”!

  • I had the taste buds going this afternoon for something special. We made Welsh Rarebit as a barsnack in the RAAF in the early 60s and I thought it was time for more.
    Thanks for the recipe this is the closest one I foun but we did not use flour , just good crumbly vintage cheese and stale beer.
    Great hot with a cold beer.

  • I came across you sit in a search for “Welsh rarebite” a recipe I founce in a cookbook from 1954, in the section ‘cheese’. I did a google search. Yours is the first to explain. It sounds yummy. Better than grilled cheese. “How about a Rarebit Sandwitch instaed of ….” I’m gonna try all my different recipes for “rarebit”.

  • ‘Welsh rarebit’ is an ‘etymologizing alteration of [Welsh rabbit]. There is no evidence of the independent use of rarebit’.
    Oxford English Dictionary

    ‘Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong.’
    H. W. Fowler (Co-author A Dictionary of Modern English Usage)

    ‘RAREBIT, n. A Welsh rabbit, in the speech of the humorless, who point
    out that it is not a rabbit. To whom it may be solemnly explained
    that the comestible known as toad-in-a-hole is really not a toad, and
    that _riz-de-veau a la financiere_ is not the smile of a calf prepared
    after the recipe of a she banker.’
    Bierce, Ambrose (1911) The Devil’s Dictionary http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/972

  • Just a couple tips: Three teaspoons equal exactly 1 tablespoon.

    And it turned into a blob because you boiled the cheese, which causes it to coagulate.

    Cheese should never be heated to high temperatures for a sauce. High heat causes the proteins of the cheese to separate from the oil. Think of cheese as oil and water held together by protein, when you add too much heat, oil and water separate causing greasy food and a lumpy sauce.

  • akabrady is absolutely right about how your sauce got “blobby”. As for creating glutens? Um, no. Not possible. Backwards, in fact, sort of.

    All you really have to do is take the bechamel sauce (essentially) off of the heat before you melt the cheese into it.

    The proper cheese sauce for Welsh Rabbit is usually either a Bechamel or a Veloute with cheese added. The difference between a Bechamel and a Veloute is in the liquid that is added to the white roux (roux blonde). If you use Milk then you have a Bechamel sauce (one of the “Mother” sauces) and if you add stock, wine, or beer then you have made a Veloute sauce (yep, another Mommy sauce). Once the desired thickness is reached, but take it off the heat and add the cheese.

    You can add just about anything you like and come up with all sorts of nice variations to these sauces.

  • Interested in a comment from Wales? Sorry to say it, but you made a pig’s eye of this. Mind you, there are nearly as many recipes for the dish as there are cooks. It is known in Welsh as “Caws Pobi”, which simply translates as “toasted cheese”, but it is a whole lot more than that.

    The English name “Welsh Rabbit” is a casual ethnic slur, but it just refers to the supposed poverty of the Welsh, whom they regarded as unable to afford meat, even a rabbit. Actually, the Welsh enjoy some of the world’s finest dairy produce, and have long had a national love affair with good cheese. See also “Glamorgan Sausages”. “Rarebit” is a Cardiff virgin.

    Maybe I’ll post my Mam’s recipe to my own blog, and let the public enjoy it, but I’m awfully tempted just to keep it to myself, to astound my friends.

  • great recipe guys, But one tip i would give is always use a wooden spoon when adding the mustard and extra liquds, as a whisk doesn’t have the surface tension to cut it in to the mix, Plus you need strong arms to beat it in , then you will get the full flavor of real Welsh Rabbit/rarebit

  • Maybe you might have some second thoughts about trying Welsh Rarebit if you viewed a few Winsor McCay ‘Dream of the Rarebit Fiend’ comic strips from the early 1900s.

    It starts out with somewhat surreal and sometimes disturbing dreams various people had after eating Welsh Rarebit before bedtime.

    I’d love to try this dish though….

    http://www.allstarauc.com/asonline/images/auction20SD/Copy%20of%20rarebitgrandpa.jpg

    http://www.fauno.com/glosario/hist/littlenemo/img/rarebit.jpg

    http://i15.tinypic.com/5zbby8l.gif

  • growing up we had this as a soup with broken toast and bits of bacon “the rarebit”

  • My Grandfather, from Wales, once showed me how to make Welsh Rarebit. Mind you, these were famine times for the Ilses, reflecting the Irish potato famine. The Welsh would take the sharp cheese and mix it into a warm pan with water. the butter would be used as an emulsifier, while most of the flour available was made into breads. After bringing the water/cheese mixture just about to a boil, the bread would be heated, not toasted, but warmed to where the outside would have a ‘crunch’. After most of the water was simmered out of the pot, the cheese was drizzled over the bread. No beer, no chives, no garlic. Just cheese and bread… Welsh Rarebit

  • Butter is not an emulsifier. Egg yolks, dry mustard powder, and soy lecithin are emulsifiers.

  • Great recipe! I’ll make it without Guinness, don’t drink. An ounce is about 30 grams while a tablespoon is 15 grams/ml whilst in Australia it’s 20 grams/ml.

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