Heres a little something I made today which goes well with a good German or Czech style lager, although a nice light ale would work too. The Larousse Gastronomique (1984 edition) describes Welsh rarebit as a “British speciality consisting of a slice of toasted bread covered with a mixture of Chesire or Cheddar cheese melted in pale ale with English mustard, pepper, and sometimes a dash of Worcestershire sauce and an egg yolk.” (p. 1149)
Here’s my modern interpretation of that recipe which utilises the same technique of pouring a cheese sauce over bread and grilling it, but this version draws on the strong salty flavours of blue cheese and anchovies. If you think ‘oh god not those vile ingredients’ I promise you that it won’t be what you expect. When you cook all this stuff together something magical happens – even my girlfriend, who performs an animated vomitting motion everytime anchovies are mentioned, loves it. It’s kind of like how the anchovy is not really recognisable in a Caesar salad dressing. However, if you’re really not keen, then just omit the blue cheese and anchovies and use the same weight of just cheddar. Traditionally Welsh rarebit isn’t made with a roux based sauce, rather it’s just cheese dissolved in heated ale, so this is a departure from tradition in more ways than one. But people who enjoy tasty grilled melts with a bold cheese flavour are going to love this – and great with a good beer or two.
Blue Cheese and Anchovy Rarebit by Canaan Perry
Recipe makes around 8-10 toasted rarebits.
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic crushed
2 cups of beer (perhaps a malty German lager or a light English fruity ale)
60 grams of cheddar cheese roughly cubed
3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
80 – 100 grams of Danish style blue cheese roughly broken up
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
4 anchovy fillets finely mashed
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons of chicken stock powder (or 1 stock cube crumbled)
½ teaspoon of paprika (smoked paprika is best but not essential)
½ teaspoon of finely milled black pepper
10 Slices of decent bread like German rye or white Italian loaf are best
- Heat oil over medium heat in a saucepan, add garlic, and sauté until it is fragrant and starts to take on some brown colour. Be very careful not to burn it though.
- Add flour and stir into oil to make a roux. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon to ensure even cooking. Cook for 2 minutes to a light golden colour: this helps to remove any raw cereal taste in the flour.
- Begin to add the beer a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.
- The sauce should be quite thick at this stage but not a solid mass that comes away from the side of the pot. If it is too dry add a little more beer – you’re looking for a very thick gravy-like consistency.
- Begin adding the cheeses, stirring to incorporate them well in to the sauce.
- Add the mustard and mashed anchovies and stir vigorously until a smooth result is achieved.
- Add stock powder, pepper, paprika and Worcestershire sauce and mix in until well incorporated.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5–10 minutes while you slice up your bread and turn on your grill. This mix should make about 8–10 large toasted rarebits.
- When the mix is cooler add the egg and beat in very well. The mix will take on a glossy appearance. The egg also helps the cheese sauce to brown when it is grilled.
- After heating your grill, toast the bread on one side, then take a very generously heaped tablespoon of sauce and spread it over the untoasted side of the bread, taking it all the way to the edges.
- Toast cheese side up until a nice brown colour is achieved. A good rarebit always has a few dark brown spots here and there on the cheese coating, however make sure they don’t burn.
Serve at once with a green salad and/or fries and of course with a bloody good homebrewed beer to wash it all down. Drinking the beer you cooked with always helps to tie the food and drink together. You could also cut these into small squares and put on a plate, to have as a nibbly with beer – perhaps to eat while watching a game.