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Welsh Rarebit

I never promised that it would be all fine cuisine around here (quite the opposite, I think) so since we all seem to be freezing our buns off at the moment I thought I’d refer to one of my favourite cold weather comfort foods – something that I happily snaffled for my lunch today and poo to the diet guilt in this cold snap.  I love cheese but God has decreed that hot cheese shall be totally irrestible, both in smell and taste, to all but the steeliest-willed skinniest of skinnies. 

I have quick combos that I love on a cold day: toast one side of a slice of bread under the grill then spread the other with tomato puree (paste), good grated strong Cheddar (the real thing, not that plastic muck that tries to pass itself off as Cheddar) and sprinkle on some dried oregano.   Pop back under the grill and cook until the cheese is melting and just starting to brown.  Voila! –  Pizza Bread!  🙂   I’ve successfully substituted a scraping of Sacla red pesto and then cheese when I don’t have tomato puree (making a kind of Basil-ly pizza bread.  Mmmmmm…).  And for true connoisseurs of the Toast and Cheese Tasters Guild nothing can compare to a scraping of Marmite and then the grated cheese (although if you haven’t tried Marmite before you may want to take it easy with that one – Marmite truly is a product that you either love or hate.  It has been known to make grown men cry).  

Purists, however, will undoubtedly prefer to go through the extra kerfuffle of making proper Welsh Rarebit (also called Welsh Rabbit, although of course no rabbits are actually harmed in the making of it).  Lovely, but I’m normally too much of a gannet to muck around and do things ‘properly’.  Here, however is the authentic recipe for this English (well…Welsh) classic:

Welsh rarebit (Serves 4)

(By the way, the phrase Welsh rabbit was coined in the 18th century to describe this cheese on toast. Some believe it was invented when the Welsh wives spied their menfolk returning empty-handed from the hunt and had to melt cheese as a substitute for game).

This Welsh rarebit with egg is from the Edwardian chef C Herman Senn:

  • 9 oz/255g freshly grated Llangloffan, Caerphilly, Cheshire or Cheddar cheese
  • 1 oz/30g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Colman’s English mustard powder, mixed with 1 tsp water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce (optional) – a few drops of each may be added to the mixture
  • 4 slices of good bread, white or brown, lightly toasted and buttered

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Mix the finely grated cheese with the butter, breadcrumbs, mustard and egg. Beat well, season with salt and pepper to taste and spread thickly on buttered toast. Cook in the oven until golden brown (5-10 minutes).

That’s it.  Enjoy…  And stay warm! 🙂

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Hibernate

I woke up this morning to read that storms have wacked north and north western France, badly disrupting air and sea travel. I can believe it.  I was listening to the effects during the night.

When the wind blows hard around here a curious ghostly noise emanates from somewhere around our house, a sound like a sigh mixed up with a musical note.  It can be eerie and unsettling.

‘…wwOOOOOhh…   …wwOOOOOhh…’

As I lay curled up in bed last night, the ghostly groans began in the very early hours and continued over and over, repeating in a regular rhythm that made them sound animal in nature.  I snuggled down further, wrapping the quilt up around my head because the pulsing groans began to sound more like the sounds made by a great, slumbering beast that had slumped over and enveloped our house.  The winds increased and plant debris was hurled against our large windows, ticking and knocking for hours on end.  I can tell you that at that point I was curled up tight like a pill bug and burrowed deep down under cover, grateful to be cocooned in the warmth and safety of my bed.

I heard very recently that up until the 20th century Breton peasants would virtually hibernate during the winter months.  Not hibernate in the sense of a dormouse with physical bodily changes, but ‘hibernate’ as in staying in, all snuggled together, snoozing the cold winter months away and only awaking periodically to take vital sustenance. 

That strikes me as a very good idea.

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