January 6, 2010

Wonderful Wednesday Recipe: Welsh Rarebit

For as long as I have memories stretching back, cooking and the realm of gastronomy has been a beloved passion of mine. Raised by a mother who likewise adored the culinary arts, I began learning how to cook from a very early age and haven’t stopped since then (nor do I plan to ever cease!).

While I would consider myself a foodie, I’m not a “food snob”. I love a tasty, rustic homemade dish as much as I do one from a swanky, multi-stared restaurant. I believe strongly that one gets that most out of eating when they’re able to appreciate the beauty and diversity of foods from all walks of life, at all price points, and encompassing a myriad of styles and ingredients.

Though two of my medical conditions have lessened the number of foods I’m able to eat rather significantly for the past several years (and baring the discovery of cures for said conditions, likely will for the rest of my life), I’ve tried never to let this point dampen my love of cooking. Instead of bemoaning those ingredients that were suddenly missing from my plate, I looked at the situation as a challenge to be even more inventive with those foods that I did still have my disposal.

Any time I start longing to toss together a dish I can’t eat (for I love the act of preparing food perhaps even more than actually eating it – or at least I adore the two equally), I just make it for my husband or serve it to dinner guests. Cooking for others is something I enjoy so deeply, I actually dreamed of becoming a professional chef all through my childhood, though (for better or worse) certain events that unfolded in my life meant that this dream didn’t quite come to fruition. Nevertheless, I don’t lament too much over this point, I still get to be a chef for my little family everyday and that brings me a profound sense of joy.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you all this? The reason is that for quite some time now I’ve been thinking about how much I wanted to start sharing some of my most treasured recipes with my readers. Thusly, henceforth from today onwards, every Wednesday (when circumstances permit) I plan on sharing a “Weekly Recipe” from my own personal collection with all of you.

Some of the recipes will be ones I’ve devised myself, others stem from repertoires of my mother and other relatives, while others still are the creations of fellow homecooks and professionals akike that I’ve gleaned over the years and come to count favourites of my own. I will strive to feature a diverse group of dishes that veer towards being both economical (aka, white truffle and foie gras pâté is not likely to crop up any time soon) and easy to prepare (though I do realize that different people have different definitions of what constitutes “easy” when it comes to cooking).

Each week one recipe will get the limelight, paired with a photo of the finished dish (if I happen to have one of my own) or, far more commonly, with a vintage image that relates to the recipe in some way (for example, if the recipe was for spaghetti sauce, I might show a vintage ad for canned tomatoes).

I know that many of my readers are avid cooks and food lovers, too, and really hope that everyone enjoys this delightful new weekly post. If you’d ever like to request the recipe for a particular food, please feel free to email me or leave a comment letting me know what you’ve got a hankering to whip up, and if I have a tried and true recipe for such a dish, I would be honoured to share it with you. (If you happen to try any of the recipes featured on Chronically Vintage, I would truly love to hear your thoughts on them.)

So without any further ado, it’s time to slip on a lovely vintage apron and dish up this Wednesday’s recipe!

Welsh Rarebit

One of the most popular dishes of the early to mid-twentieth century (and certainly one that I’ve seen in a myriad of vintage cookbooks and ladies magazines) was Welsh rarebit (sometimes simply called “rarebit” or “rarebit cheese”), a hearty, homey, wonderfully simple dish that in both comforting and energizing at the same time.

Comprised of a zippy cheese sauce poured over relatively thick slices of bread, this dish is close cousin to both grilled cheese sandwiches and croque-monsieur. It pairs wonderfully with soups (such as roasted red pepper or minestrone), salads, fresh fruit (especially apples, pears and figs), and light fair such as grilled vegetables or chicken.

{This charming vintage illustration, from Eudamonius’ Flickr stream dictates that Welsh Rarebit should always be paired with toast. Good advice, but if you’re in the mood for something a little different, this tasty, versatile cheese sauce also works terrifically over English muffins, crackers, or as a fondue style dip.}

This particular recipe is one I’ve tweaked over the years, sometimes adding fresh herbs such as basil or chives, or jazzed up further with the inclusion of (rehydrated) sundried (or oven roasted) tomatoes or pitted and sliced black olives. Some people like to include a little ale or even hot sauce in their recipes, but I’ve not tried such versions myself.

I don’t know where the original recipe came from, but a handwritten version the basis of this one appears in the first recipe collection I began (in a coiled school notebook) as a youngster, so it may have come from either my mom or one of her cookbooks. Wherever it hails from, this rarebit recipe is a wonderful dish that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes, making it perfect for meals on the go or times when unexpected lunch or dinner gets drop by.


• 6 slices white or brown bread of choice, provided the bread you use is somewhat sturdy (I like varieties such as ciabatta, French, and sourdough – or a luxurious spin, you can even brioche, if you fancy), cut about ¾ of an inch (2cm) thick

• 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (Gruyere is also nice, if you prefer)

• 1/2 cup milk (or, if you’re feeling indulgent, cream)

• 1 tbsp unsalted butter

• 2 tbsp all-purpose flour

• ½ tsp dry English mustard (such as Colman’s) or, alternatively, ½ tsp Hungarian paprika

• ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional, best omitted if using paprika)

• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a double boiler (or a heat resistant glass bowl over a saucepan partially filled with boiling water), first bring the water up to a boil and then reduce the heat (burner temperature) to medium. Melt the butter, add the flour and mustard (or paprika) and stir briskly for a few seconds to combine (thereby creating a pale roux).

Next gradually add the milk and Worcestershire sauce (if using), stirring as you add. Allow mixture to come to a gentle simmer (not a rolling boil) and thicken somewhat. Next add the shredded cheddar cheese, salt and pepper (now would also be the time to include ingredients such as herbs, if you were using them), stirring moderately until the cheese had melted and the sauce has thickened to a consistency reminiscent of hollandaise sauce.

Meanwhile as the cheese sauce is nearing completion, toast the six slices of bread. Once cheese sauce is ready and the bread is toasted, divide the toast between three plates (two slices per serving) and spoon (or ladle) the sauce equally over each portion of toast. Serve and enjoy immediately :)

Makes three servings (two slices of bread each), or however many you wish to divide up between the six slices of bread.

Bon appétit!


  1. Wow - this makes grilled cheese look cheap - giggle! You know, I had heard the name Welsh Rarebit before - but I never had any idea what it was. I thought maybe rare steak or rabbit - lol!

  2. Oh, my, this looks marvelous!! My Mom makes it occasionally but I never have. You've inspired me to try, though! Hope you are feeling well, dear friend!

  3. Oh you are so talented, another string to your bow. Thanks so much darling.

  4. What an interesting recipe! I had never heard of it before so thankyou for sharing :)


  5. nom nom, never thought of putting it with figs, I may just have to bake some and then make your recipe and try the taste explosion!

  6. Sounds yummy.
    Blessings, andrea

  7. Oh yummy! When I was younger, I thought Welsh Rarebit was some spectacular and difficult culinary masterpiece. The name suggests such. When I discovered how easy it was, I resolved to make it. I haven't. Ever. Yet. This post has rekindled my desire to do so! I'm starting a new culinary venture of my own this year. Thanks for the added inspiration and I look forward to all the yummy treats you'll send our way!

    Happy Thursday,

  8. A great idea! But you will be making your readers very hungry :-) ...I think I need to eat some cheese now.

    Hope your New Year has started off perfectly!

  9. Yummy, i love cheese and this sounds perfect! I have never actually made rarebit before, i will have to try to make some as soon as my diet is over hehe xx

  10. Wow! You are indeed a gal of many many talents! This is absolutely delightful my darling; you sharing recipes with us is fantastic! I've never heard of Welsh Rarebit, but it seems like it will give Grilled Cheese a run for its money ;) Looking forward to seeing more of your recipes!

  11. I had always wondered what this was too....Ginger Rogers orders it at a restaurant in Carefree and I always thought she was saying "rabbit", lol!

  12. Wow that sounds so yum! Can't say i've never had welsh rarebit though so i'll have to stick it on my "to do" or in this case "to eat" list.

  13. Jessica,
    The only time I ever ate this was on a trip to England, and it was fabulous. Thanks so much for posting a recipe for it. I'm looking forward to your Wednesday recipe postings. Sounds like fun!

  14. I've been missing. I've never had this :(

    I'm going to enjoy reading and trying your recipes!

  15. Oh my goodness! I will be here first thing on Wednesdays from now on! I so love food (also a non-snobby foodie!). I've never had Welsh Rarebit but I shall have to try it! Sounds like perfect comfort food!


  16. I had heard of Welsh Rarebit before but never really knew what it was. I actually thought it was so gross meat concoction or something, but now that I know what it I'm sad I didn't know before. This sounds really yummy! Thanks so much for the recipe.
    I'm definitely a fan of cooking and baking, so I'm looking forward to more of these posts, and nothing is better than good family recipes.
    Lovely post! Hope you're having a wonderful week :)

  17. Wow, I'd never heard of this before and now I can't wait to try it. I'm so excited for your Weekly Recipe posts! Hope you're having a wonderful week.

  18. Yummy ! You're so talented my dear Jessica !

  19. Awesome idea on the recipe posts jess, i look forward to these and might even see a few i recognize!!
    love katie <3

  20. My grandma used to make me this when I was little... thank you for posting the recipe, I think yours is the closest I've seen for it so far (she passed away so unfortunately I can't ask her how to make it). I'm not sure where she got her recipe from, she was German American from Chicago but it could have been from one of her Betty Crocker recipe books.

  21. Sweet friends, immensely big thanks yous to one and all for your encouraging, wonderful comments. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this post (and the other two weekly recipes that have since been published here on Chronically Vintage) and loved reading your thoughts on Welsh Rarebit.

    Thank you again, everyone, I truly hope you're each having a splendid week!

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica