Friday, August 12, 2011

Welsh Rare-bit

I remember my first meal in Park Slope, Brooklyn, quite vividly. It was mid-August, pouring rain and a little chilly. We were frantically apartment searching, hoping we'd be in somewhere permanent before we started our first teaching jobs that September. My mom was in town visiting, and we had stopped to look at a delightful apartment that had everything we'd imagined a Park Slope apartment would: exposed brick walls, rooftop access, and the tiniest bedrooms you've ever seen.

We stopped at an adorable little cafe for lunch called Sweet Melissa's, which you may be familiar with if you follow Sweet Melissa Sundays or know the delightful baking cookbook from the bakery: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book: Recipes from the Beloved Bakery for Everyone's Favorite Treats.

The Welsh Rarebit immediately jumped out at me. It wasn't the kind of meal you'd write home about, but it was delicious. A cheese and butter soaked baguette toasted just so with a perfectly light arugula salad. It was adult comfort food at its finest. What better meal to end a long day of apartment searching than this savory treat.

So when I saw that Mrs. Isabella Beeton, half of woman number 10 on Gourmet Magazine's 50 women game changers in food history, had a Welsh Rare-bit of her own, I just had to try it. Her version is certainly a splurge, loaded with butter and cheese (and if your cheese is a little dry, Beeton recommends adding even more butter to improve it), but she does advise you to only have one slice. It's dressed up with some mustard and black pepper which give it a deeper flavor.

It's taken from her book Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, which gave women advice on how to run a proper Victorian household. The book covered topics from the management of servants to the use of local and seasonal produce. The complete book is 1,112 pages long and contains over 900 recipes. She finished the book before her untimely death at age 28.

Of the selection of Mrs. Beeton and Mrs. Hannah Glasse, Gourmet Magazine wrote: "Mrs. Glasse's The Art of Cookery (1747) and Mrs. Isabella Beeton's Book of Husehold Management (1861) are important foundation cookbooks."

Be sure to visit the other bloggers who cooked recipes by Mrs. Beeton and Mrs. Glasse this week.

Val -  More Than Burnt Toast - Syllabub 
Joanne - Eats Well with Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed - Apple Snow
Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef - Pan Seared Trout with Caper Sauce
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Janette - Healthy Living
Mary - One Perfect Bite - Excellent Rolls and Shrewsbury Cake
Kathleen - Bake Away With Me - Another Sort of Butter Cake and Bakewell Pudding
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island - Hodge Podge Stew
Linda of Midwest Life and Cuisine

Welsh Rare-bit, or Toasted Cheese 
recipe from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

This recipe can be expanded to serve several at once (see Mrs. Beeton's notes for how to do that below). I tried to keep as much of Mrs. Beeton's original language as possible (mostly because it's just delightful). Mrs. Beeton says this dish is in season at any time of the year.

Slices of bread (two per person)
Cheshire or Gloucester cheese (I used Jarlsburger, to great results)

Cut the bread into slices about 1/2 inch in thickness; pare off the crust, toast the bread slightly without hardening or burning it, and spread it with butter. Cut off slices of a good, rich, fat cheese; lay them on the toasted bread in a cheese-toaster. Be careful that the cheese does not burn, and let it be equally melted.

Spread over the top a little made mustard and a seasoning of pepper, and serve very hot, with very hot plates.

To facilitate the melting of the cheese, it may be cut into thin flakes or toasted on one side before it is laid on the bread (toasted on one side? I'm not sure how to do that, but Mrs. Beeton must have known!). As it is so essential to send this dish hot to table, it is a good plan to melt the cheese in small round silver or metal pans, and to send these pans to the table, allowing one for each guest.

Slices of dry or buttered toast should always accompany them, with mustard, pepper and salt.


  1. I think that a version of this is probably the very first thing I ever made when I was a kid.

  2. Ah ... nothing cheese and butter! The foundation ingredients! Haha! Welsh rare-bit (or Rabbit as we called it when kids) was a standard Friday lunch in our school cafeteria. We used to love dipping big cubes of toasted bread in that gooey cheesy bowl that the 'hair-net ladies' offered up! I swear they looked as old as Mrs. Beeton would be in the 70's!

    Good job finding such a comforting treat in Mrs. Beeton's book!

  3. Oh that looks so yummy....I could eat a piece for lunch today! =)

  4. I adore Welsh Rarebit, and if I had stumbled across it, I may have made it as well... I could go for a slice (but just one ;P) right about now. Lovely choice!

  5. This really looks delightful. I love a good rare-bit and I'm so glad you introduced Mrs. Beeton's recipe for it to us. I will try this one, though it will take me awhile to come-down from the "fun" this week's challenge presented. I'm so glad you are with us for this challenge. Have a fabulous weekend. Blessings...Mary

  6. Who doesn't like toast with amazing cheese and loads of butter. I guess no matter what century it will always be a hit.

  7. This week's challenge has been so inspiring and educational...rare-bit is another dish that I never knew much about. Yours looks really tempting, and it's my idea of a perfect 'after work, too tired to cook' dinner. Great choice!

  8. Katie, This is true adult comfort food...I would love to be having a piece right now! Yours looks lovely! Loved reading of your apartment hunting in Park Slope. Have a nice week end!

  9. I haven't had Welsh Rare-bit in years! Yours looks so good. I enjoyed reading about your apartment hunting and your memory of eating this at the cafe.

  10. When I was younger I thought this was Welsh Rabbit and I was not interested in "eating Thumper" so I ignored it completely. Then I realized it didn't have rabbit in it at all and loved it. Now about Turtle

  11. I've always heard of this dish but never tried it. However, what you made looks so scrumptious, I'm going to give it a try!