Welsh rabbit or Welsh rarebit is cheese on toast using a savoury sauce of melted cheese. The sauce is served hot, poured over slices of toasted bread or served in a chafing dish like a fondue.
The name of the dish dates from 18th-century Britain, but there is no evidence of the Welsh creating it. For some unknown reason, ever since the middle ages the English have found it funny to think that the Welsh find cheese on toast irresistible. Even William Shakespeare quoted a popular joke book of the time, saying St Peter locked the Welsh out of heaven because they were eating roasted cheese.
I’m not sure why St Peter objected to the cheese eating, I love cheese, especially a good cheddar. There are so many cheeses to choose from, many make a great cheese sauce.
Rather than just putting slices of cheese on top of toast and grilling, Welsh Rarebit uses a melted cheese sauce instead. My featured recipe adds a layer of savoury Parma ham on the toast before topping with the cheese sauce.
If you want to take that one step further, try topping the cheese sauce with some sliced tomato and a sprinkling of dried herbs or fresh basil.
Welsh rarebit with Parma ham
- 1 Crusty baton bread, sliced 1cm thick
- 10 g Unsalted butter
- 10 g Plain flour
- 60 ml Milk
- 100 g Cheddar cheese
- ½ tbsp Wholegrain mustard
- 1 Medium egg, beaten
- 4 Parma ham slices
- 1 tbsp Worcester sauce
- Preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill the bread slices until lightly golden on both sides, the set aside.
- Over a low heat, gently melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the flour and stir briskly for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring all the time, until smooth and creamy. Return to the heat, bring to the boil and stir for a further minute. Stir in the cheese, mustard and Worcester sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the beaten egg.
- Lay half a slice of Parma ham on each bread slice then top with a spoonful of the cheese mixture. Put on a baking tray; grill for 3-4 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper.