Last Updated on March 19, 2021
What to do when you’ve got all those annoying scraps of cheese leftovers lurking in the bottom of your fridge? In my case, I make rarebit – sometimes a classic Welsh rarebit with hard cheese and sometimes a variation, like this blue cheese rarebit, where you can use anything from 50-100% blue cheese to make a really delicious lunch that’s perfect topped off with a slice or two of pickled walnuts.
This particular rarebit uses the classic recipe that I’ve made ever since I was a student – but it’s a grown-up and sophisticated version based on blue cheese, pimped up with a little wilted spinach (you could use rocket, mushrooms or tomatoes) and pickled walnuts. I’ve used 100% Cashel Blue here, but you could use any good blue cheese – and if you don’t have enough, it would be fine to eke the mixture out with a hard cheese like cheddar.
Welsh rarebit has been popular since at least the 1500s and is known as ‘caws pobi’ in Wales. It’s thought to have been a staple food in the South Wales Valleys. The first reference to it is in 1725 called it Welsh Rabbit, but it’s believed that was a joke – a name given to the dish that was popular in an area where meat was too expensive to be eaten every day. By the end of the 18th century, it was more commonly called Welsh rarebit. There’s a 16th-century tale where God is reported to have asked St Peter how to get rid of the Welsh from heaven. Marching up and down outside the Pearly Gates, St Peter shouted ‘caws pobi’ and all the Welshmen ran out to claim their share – and the gates were slammed shut behind them.
To make sure that the subtle tang of blue cheese and pickled walnuts weren’t overwhelmed, I’ve used white port to moisten the mixture along with an egg yolk and a little salt and pepper. I don’t think blue cheese rarebit needs mustard, but if you disagree feel free to add some to the egg and cheese mixture. And, if you don’t have white port, you could use a little dry white wine, cider or even milk just to get the right consistency. There really is no need to add flour – then you are making something like a mornay sauce which is definitely not a rarebit. And, personally, I don’t find it necessary to cook the sauce in a pan before smothering the bread. I just line my grill pan with foil to catch the drips (which I’ve been known to eat!) and adjust the grilling temperature to stop it burning
Although this is really just a variation on a cheese toastie, it’s somehow much more luxurious and filling. It makes a substantial starter or a great light lunch with a green salad, or you could cut the rarebit into smaller squares to make party food canapes, each with a smaller piece of pickled walnut.
Here’s how to make blue cheese rarebit. I’ve added the adjustments to make a classic Welsh rarebit in the notes for the recipe. But do try the rather decadent blue cheese and pickled walnut version – it’s really quite special!
Blue Cheese Rarebit
- 1 medium egg yolk
- 75 g crumbled or grated blue cheese or a mix of blue and hard yellow cheese with at least 50% blue cheese
- 1 handful baby spinach
- 15 g butter
- 2 tsp white port or milk/cider/lager
- 1 pickled walnut
- 2 large slices sourdough bread
- In a small saucepan, wilt the spinach in the butter.
- Remove the spinach from the pan and set to one side to cool
- Add the egg, cheese and port to the butter and mix with a fork to make a thin paste. Don't worry if there are cheesy lumps, these will melt. Season with pepper.
- Warm over a low heat until the whole mixture thickens a little.
- Toast the bread on one side
- Turn the grill to a medium heat
- Top the toasts with wilted spinach then with the cheese mixture
- Grill until puffy and golden, then add slices of pickled walnut
- Eat while piping hot!
Do you like Welsh rarebit? Is so do make sure you try my version!