Welsh cuisine is a hidden gem in the culinary world, so if you are looking to uncover its secrets, the best way to start is with a Welsh Rarebit recipe, also known as Caws Pobi. It’s not just cheese on toast, it’s not just your ordinary piece of bread with cheesy topping… It is your most ultimately delicious cheese on toast with Worcester Sauce that can be served for breakfast, brunch or lunch as a satisfying meal!
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What is a Caws Pobi?
In short, Welsh Rarebit (or Caws Pobi in Welsh) is a toasted slice of bread covered in a savoury cheese sauce and grilled until the cheese bubbles. Otherwise known as Welsh Rabbit, surprisingly, it is a vegetarian dish that is typically made with cheese, ale and mustard (no rabbit!). However, as with other old-fashioned traditional recipes, there are plenty of variations: some make this Welsh recipe with milk instead of beer, others add Worcestershire sauce or add the egg into the cheese sauce. The type of cheese used in Caws Pobi recipes also varies.
What’s The Difference Between Cheese On Toast and Welsh Rarebit?
Whilst some simpler recipes instruct you to grate cheese on a slice of bread and place it under the grill, an authentic Welsh rarebit recipe is a lot different from cheese on toast. The sauce is made with a roux, but instead of milk, Welsh rarebit traditionally uses ale (or another type of beer), creating an extremely flavoursome beer and cheese sauce. Trust me, extra effort in making it is all worth it! What is more Worcestershire sauce is added to season the dish! It is simple comfort food that is a crowd-pleaser!
History of Welsh Rarebit
This cheesy snack has been popular in Wales since the 1500s, but back then it was more commonly known as caws pobi which translates as toasted cheese.
The dish was first officially recorded in 1725 with the original name of Welsh Rabbit. Surprisingly so, as this Welsh toastie had no rabbit in it, but historians believe that in the 17th-18th centuries, funny names were often given to dishes in the British Isles (Spotted Dick and Toad in the Hole comes to mind).
The name soon changed to Welsh Rarebit! According to Oxford Dictionary, this was to make “the name more fitting to the dish and drop some patronizing overtones” [ref]. “Only people as poor and stupid as the Welsh would eat cheese and call it rabbit”, or that “the closest thing to rabbit the Welsh could afford was melted cheese on toast”. Or it may simply allude to the “frugal diet of the upland Welsh” [ref].
Welsh Rarebit Ingredients
- bread: sourdough, granary, or any thick-sliced sandwich bread will do.
- plain flour: also known as all-purpose flour is used to thicken the sauce.
- butter: salted or unsalted – you choose.
- ale: we used an alcohol-free ale, but you can use any other ale (pale or dark ale) or even lager in this Welsh Rarebit recipe.
- Welsh Cheddar: ideally strong and sharp Cheddar cheese. Alternatively, substitute it with Caerphilly or Double Gloucester.
- Worcestershire sauce: optional, but highly recommended.
- wholegrain mustard: use 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard or 1.5 teaspoon of English Mustard instead if you don’t have any whole grain mustard handy.
To make it a less expensive dish that the whole family will enjoy, skip the ale, and add whole milk instead! It’s just as delicious!
You may spice things up by adding your favourite hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper to the cheese mixture too!
If you don’t like sourdough or seeded bread, try it with soda bread instead! Some historians say soda bread was typically part of the traditional Welsh Rarebit!
Melt the butter in a small heavy saucepan on low heat. Add the flour to the melted butter and mix well until no dry flour remains. Cook for a minute stirring continuously. Gradually add the ale, whisking constantly to make sure no lumps form. Cook until you have a smooth thick sauce, that is of thick custard consistency. The process is very similar to making the white sauce (bechamel sauce), but using ale instead of milk.
Add the grated cheese and stir until it melts completely. Your mixture should be thick and spreadable, rather than runny. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine. Taste and season the finished sauce with salt and black pepper, if needed.
Place your bread slices on a baking sheet and under the grill for a minute to toast one side. Take the bread out, turn the slices over and spread the rarebit mixture on top. Alternatively, toast the bread in your toaster before spreading the cheese sauce and grilling.
Place the Welsh rarebit back under the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes until the cheese topping browns and bubbles.
Arrange 1-2 slices of bread per portion and serve with your favourite salad!
Watch How To Make It
We like two kinds of bread in this recipe: Sourdough or Sliced Granary/ Seeded Bread. This is for a reason: they both add texture. Sourdough has a lovely chewy crust that is perfect with the cheese sauce. Granary or seeded bread adds texture too due to the high content of seeds in it.
We love mature cheddar in this Welsh Recipe, but Caerphilly or Hadof will work well too!
All the above! We make Welsh Rarebit with poached egg and crispy bacon for a substantial breakfast. We serve it with a bunch of salads for lunch. And it is a great recipe when the fridge is looking dire too! Just add a cup of tomato soup to go with it!
What To Serve With Welsh Rarebit?
The answer to this question depends on what time of the day you are serving Welsh Rarebit. If you are looking for a decadent breakfast or brunch, serve this simple dish with eggs: it goes well with poached or fried eggs. Some pan-fried asparagus or roasted cherry tomatoes won’t go amiss here either!
If it’s Welsh lunch you’re looking for, we recommend a nice light salad (or two) or delicious greens as a side dish for your Caws Pobi:
- Lemon and Garlic Tenderstem Broccoli (Broccolini)
- Raw Courgette Ribbon Salad
- Spinach & Tomato Salad
Other Welsh Recipes
If you are looking to uncover more deliciousness hiding in Welsh recipes, have a look at some of our favourite recipes below:
Caws Pobi | Welsh Rarebit Recipe
- 4 large slices of bread see notes
- 25 g butter
- 25 g plain flour
- 125 ml ale we used alcohol-free Elvis AF
- 125 g Welsh Cheddar grated
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
- Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the flour and mix well until no dry flour remains. Cook for a minute stirring continuously. Gradually add the ale, whisking continuously to make sure no lumps form. Cook until you have a smooth thick sauce, that is of thick custard consistency.
- Add the grated Cheddar and stir until it melts completely. Your mixture should be thick and spreadable, rather than runny. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.
- Place your bread slices under the grill for a minute to toast one side. Take the bread out, turn the slices over and spread the rarebit mixture on top. Alternatively, toast the bread in your toaster before spreading the cheese sauce and grilling.
- Place the Welsh rarebit back under the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes until the cheese topping browns and bubbles.
- Arrange two slices of bread per portion and serve with your favourite salad!
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