Ultimate cheese on toast
Everyone has one of those dishes that cheers them up no matter how grey the clouds, or tempts them to eat no matter how sick they feel. For me, that's cheese on toast. But this is no ordinary cheddar melted on white bread, oh no. It's gotta be the ultimate cheese on toast dish of all time. Welsh rarebit. Or rabbit. Whichever name you favour. It translates as the same thing; Tasty.
I've always had an affection for it. I remember quite vividly making Gary Rhodes version as a teenager, slavishly following each measurement and instruction. However I truly fell head over heels in love with it while working at St John, where it's a menu staple not just for the customers. I think the chefs there basically survive on slices of it. There is nothing better towards the end of a busy evening service than for someone to pop a couple of slices under the grill and then cut it into fat soldiers and all the chefs grab a piece or two while cleaning up to go home. Heavenly.
The origin of the name is murky and many theories abound; my personal favourite is that it was a bit of a dig at the Welsh . Mocking that the Welshmen couldn't even afford the cheapest of meats; rabbit, and ate this dish instead. Well to be honest, it's so good I think they had the last laugh.
Welsh Rabbit was the first recorded spelling in the 1700's, rarebit isn't recorded til at least 60 years later. Rarebit isn't a word that can be used to describe anything else. Everyone knows what it means when you say it.
Now. Rarebit is not just cheese melted on toast with a splash of Worcesterhire sauce as some of my internet research threw up. No. That's just wrong. Rarebit is a silky smooth alliance of cheese and beer, mustard and cayenne, all held together with some butter and flour. Which type of cheese is up to you, but I think it should be cheddar, good hearty really strong stuff. Some other variants have been recorded and I tried a couple, one using port instead of beer (weird colour and just tastes wrong) and one using cider in place of the beer (sweet and weird). So I'll stick with this, my own tried and tested recipe. It makes a good six to eight fat slices of toast and please don't use pre sliced bread. Please, go get a nice loaf you cut yourself and make it a good thick wedge, toast it both sides before spreading with the mixture. Grill it gently til it's golden and bubbling, and enjoy it with the same beer you used to make it. Or port. It's a good light lunch with a nice crisp green salad or a good supper topped with a fried egg, which makes it a buck rarebit. Another option is to serve a big platter of hot bubbling slices of rarebit after your next dinner as a great alternative to a cheese board. Beaming smiles all round I find, the childish pleasure of cheese on toast made a little more sophisticated. Try it, let us know your favourite variants!