In praise of the traditional Welsh Rarebit

I have a friend who is as beautiful as she is kind.  Many years ago she had the most blisskins of a  job running a PR company that looked after many of London’s most luxury brands.  However, searching for something more than endless champagne and scrumptious canapés with the editors of glossy magazines she quite suddenly upped sticks and moved to the wilds of Yorkshire to raise her two equally beautiful boys.Welsh Rarebit

The point of this story is that when she moved she simply refused to change her outlook on fashion.  This is not a girl who could be converted to tweed and welly boots.  She knew what worked for her and was not about to copy the farmers wives in an attempt to fit in. She’s regularly seen marching across the village green on the school run in skinny jeans and sky-high heels with her Chanel chain bag flying like the most decadent of kites behind her.  I just wish that many of the pubs and restaurants that inhabit the same countryside could copy her example.

I recently managed to drag myself away from Somerset to spend a few days with her and her family.  One night we decided to try out the local village pub that had recently changed hands and was boasting a very impressive looking menu.  I have very fond memories of this pub; of snuggling by the roaring open fire, chatting to the locals and eating super hearty Yorkshire  food that was reasonably priced and reasonably tasty.  You left with a full tummy, a warm heart and a general feeling of the Bon Vivant.

As we stepped in through the renovated front door it was rather a shock.  It had been absolutely beautifully transformed into a cutting edge industrial eatery very much in the style of St John’s.  White walls, reclaimed wooden tables and  all manner of modernity.  The food was as wonderful and innovative as the interior and the wine list impressive but I all the time I was there I was filled with an incredible longing for the old version of this village pub.  I didn’t want this rebooted version of the boozer.  I wanted cigarette stains on the ceiling and a comforting pint of ale.  My bottom longed for the broken down leather chesterfield rather than the old school chair I was perched upon.  I guess I wanted the new owners of this freehouse to have the faith that they didn’t need to completely rip and replace to make it a success.   Comfortable and hearty can be mixed with the very best dining experience as the 2* Hand In Flowers has shown us.  I often feel that the modern restaurateur is so obsessed with making the experience they provide unique that they forget what their public really want.  I’m confident that this little pub tucked away between York and Harrogate will be a huge success but I’m also confident that most of their customers won’t be the locals.

This experience made me long for some of Great Britain’s most traditional of dishes and I’ve settled on heaping praise on the humble Welsh Rarebit.  This dish originates back in the 1700’s and with the use of a good local Somerset cheddar cheese and the addition of a Bath Ale can be claimed as Somerset grub!

Ingredients

  • 25g of butter
  • 25g of plain flour
  • l00ml of Dark Side Ale (Bath Ales) or other dark ale
  • 150g of Barbers 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar or other extra mature Cheddar
  • 1 free-range egg yolk
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 4 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
  • 4 thick slices of home-made bread
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method

  • Turn your grill to high or check that the top oven of the Aga is fiery!
  • Melt the butter and stir in the flour, cooking through for about 30 sec to a minute. Add the beer and keep stirring until the mixture is velvety and smooth.
  • Add all of the rest of the ingredients.
  • Toast the bread and then place on a baking tray. Smother the toast with the cheese sauce and then pop under the grill or into the Aga until the cheese is melted.
  • Make yourself a big mug of tea, sit back and enjoy a dish that’s as tasty now as it was 300 years ago with no sign of reboot. Modern life can take a back seat for a while!
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