Downton Dish: Welsh Rarebit

This recipe will probably make a bit more sense after you’ve seen the episode, but even beforehand, it’s delish, and perfect for snacking on during a cold day (which it certainly is here in Edinburgh!). Perfect for getting your strength back after you’ve been forced to flee your home and ideal for covering up the toast your newfangled electric toaster just burned.

Rarebit, unsurprisingly, was originally known as Welsh Rabbit, and the first recorded use of the term dates back to 1725. The origin of the name is unclear–it may well have been a way of mocking the Welsh, who were, by and large, fairly poor back then and relied more on cheese than on meat for their protein. By the end of the century, the term had been corrupted to the now more commonly used rarebit.

As is the case with most former peasant food, rarebit’s been considerably tarted up in recent years, with some chefs adding fish, meats, and poached eggs to the classic cheese on toast. Feel free to go nuts with this–it does lend itself well to being played with. I’d recommend a bit of ham or bacon to make this a sort of croque madame, but let your imagination run wild!

Welsh Rarebit

Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe


300ml whole milk
75g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
200ml beer (good traditional ale, not cheap lager)
1 good tsp wholegrain mustard
75g medium-strong cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large slices wholemeal bread

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, stir in the flour to make a roux and cook gently for two to three minutes. Meanwhile, gently heat the milk. ­Gradually add the milk to the roux, followed by the beer, stirring all the time. Don’t worry if it fizzes up; the bubbles soon disappear. When the sauce is thick and smooth, let it cook for a minute or two longer, then add the mustard, ­cheddar and plenty of black pepper. Taste, add salt, if you think it needs it.

Toast the bread. Spread the cheesy mixture on top and place under a hot grill until bubbling and golden. Serve straight away.

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