TRADITIONAL WELSH FOOD -
BWYD CYMREIG TRADDODIADOL
MODERN WELSH COOKING -
COGINIO CYMREIG CYFOES
How Do You Vote: Welsh Rarebit
By Ken Thorne, Food Editor
Traditional Welsh Rarebit - Caws Pobi. Melted Welsh cheese on toast & garnished with tomato and parsley.
|Modern Day Welsh Rarebit: Welsh Cheese Sauce - Saws Caws Cymreig over oven roasted vegetables, garnished with roasted tomato and chopped parsley.|
|Photo WDA Food Directorate||Photo by Ken Thorne|
dragons years the debate has raged Rarebit
or Rabbit! This article is, at best, a humble attempt to offer some
clarification on this issue. Also featured, is a recipe to make St David proud
– upmarket from his mythical bread and water diet but nevertheless a low carb
21st century rarebit version – a wonderful Saws
Caws Caerffili – Caerphilly Cheese Sauce (Over Oven Roasted Vegetables).
recipe is wonderful, adapted from one featured in Angela Gray’s The
Welsh Cheese Book (2003) by Gomer Press. Angela as you may know is a Welsh
TV Chef with a large devoted following. The recipe has been a pleasing dish to
serve both as an appetizer and main course. Guests for dinner rave about this
version of the classic Welsh dish.
recipe is easy and a delight because it pleases your guests to see it go
together in front of their eyes. The Caerphilly Cheese Sauce can be made fresh
in roughly ten minutes as the vegetables roast. It is fun to involve your guests
in the assembly of their dishes.
cheeses can be found in
best Caerphilly cheeses are made in
It Rarebit or Rabbit?
earliest record I could find of this dish was 1547 at the end of Henry VIII’s
reign when the Welsh were predominant in the royal court and
there is a recipe by the French gourmet Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) itemized in
the Cassell’s “Dictionary of Cookery
(1885).” Brillat-Savarin is famous for the quote, “Tell me what you
eat and I will tell you what you are.” He used the term Welsh Rarebit for a
sauce recipe in which he used eggs in place of milk or beer.
in 1814, a time when French chefs were not high on British cooking, Chef
Beauvilliers when compiling his “L’Art du Cuisinier” did include five
recipes from across the channel. One of these recipes was called Wouelche
Rabette translated as Welsh Rarebit.
Today, the term Rôtie au Fromage –
Roasted (Toasted) Cheese is in common usage in
fifty years later, in 1861, the distinguished cookery writer Isabella Beeton
published her prolific “Beeton’s Book of Household Management.” Yes, she
had a recipe for toasted cheese referring to it only as Welsh Rare-bit. In 1961, a condensed centennial version of her book
entitled “Mrs Beeton’s All About Cookery” was published again referring to
it only as Rarebit.
1867, Lady Llanofer (preferred spelling today over Llanover)
of Gwent published her landmark book “The First Principles of Good Cookery,”
the first book ever published on Welsh food, recipes and household management.
In her book, written in English, she lists a recipe (the original one - a thick
slice of toasted cheese) for the dish as Welsh Toasted Cheese - Caws wedi ei
Bobi not mentioning
the “R” words at all. Although Lady Llanofer was of English heritage, she
adopted the land of her birth with gusto. She worked all her life to preserve
the Welsh language, culture and dress in spite of the mocking and sneering of
friends from both sides of the border. For more on Lady Llanofer, visit two
wonderful websites: www.ladyllanover.org.uk
and the second: web.ukonline.co.uk/gwenynen.gwent.
A 20th century reference, Harmsworth’s Universal
Encyclopedia (ca.1935) published in
Selection of Fresh Vegetables ready for oven roasting.
Roasted Vegetables prior to pouring the hot creamy Welsh Cheese Sauce.
|Photos by Ken Thorne|
The first Welsh recipe book of the
20th century, costing one shilling was “Croeso Cymreig – A Welsh
Welcome (1953)” and represented a simple collection of basic traditional
recipes and menus. The book lists Caws Pobi and Welsh Rarebit only. Likewise,
Theodora FitzGibbon, the prolific Celtic food writer (Taste of Wales, etc.) of
the 1970s, uses the terms Caws Pobi/Welsh Rarebit only.
I have seen references made to the
S. Minwel Tibbott, the esteemed
former Food Director of the St Fagan’s
Bobby Freeman was the author of the acclaimed book,
“First Catch Your Peacock (1980)” later published in US under the title,
“Traditional Food From Wales (1997).” This book was the culmination of
thirty years researching authentic Welsh dishes to serve in her Fishguard
restaurant. She uses Caws Pobi frequently and prefers Welsh Rarebit usage but is
somewhat ambivalent on Welsh Rabbit. I honestly believe she was not aware of the
Referencing the Penguin Book’s “Companion to Food
(1999, 2002 Ed)” I was utterly shocked how negative their Rarebit section is -
listed under Welsh Rabbit. They were also very negative on the other Welsh
entries, eg, leek,
Many Welsh cookbooks have been published in the
period 1980 to 2005 and to the best of my knowledge all use Rarebit over Rabbit.
This is also true amongst all the TV, radio and newspaper personalities such as:
Angela Gray, Dudley Newbery, Colin Pressdee, Sandra Williams and Gilli Davies.
From my travels, almost all restaurants and hotels in
The conclusion on whether it’s Rarebit or Rabbit?
It depends on which side of the Welsh/Saxon border you are positioned! My survey
of the evidence from literature and informal polls indicates if you are Welsh or
closely connected with
On the Saxon side of the border, it’s a mixed bag
but the general preference, even if cookbook writers are closely connected to
the food scene, is to use the uncomplimentary Welsh Rabbit term.
what is now considered the traditional cheese dish is, of course, a sauce and
has evolved substantially from the original recipe. Now the beer is in the
rarebit and in the mug! As such, some may wish to promote Welsh cheeses while
adopting a new name “Caerphilly Cheese Sauce - Saws Caws Caerffili” (or
substitute your favorite Welsh cheese name)! Please send me an email
and vote: rarebit or rabbit!
“Alliff rhywun ddim byw heb fwyd
Cymreig da - One cannot live without good Welsh food!”
CAWS POBI -
Saws Caws Caerffili – Caerphilly Cheese Sauce
Oven Roasted Fresh Vegetables
By BBC Wales TV
Chef Angela Gray
The selection below is optional, you may
select other vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, etc.
tomatoes, sliced in half crosswise
red peppers, each cut into 6 lengthwise, seeds removed
green peppers, each cut into 6 lengthwise, seeds removed
eggplant, cut into 12 slices
red onions, each peeled
and sliced into
cloves garlic, peeled
and cut in half
butternut squash, cut into 12 pieces
acorn squash, cut into 12 pieces
zucchini, halved lengthwise
chives or sm portion of a leek, chopped for garnish
parsley, fine chopped
olive oil for brushing, sautéing
sea salt and pepper
Welsh Rarebit Sauce: -
Welsh Black Mountain Cheese or other mature Welsh Cheddar
Welsh ESB ale or other favorite ale or beer.
1 1/2 tsp
Welsh dry mustard – sub. Coleman’s English Dry
cayenne pepper, or to taste
Set oven to 400F. Place tomatoes on a tray, cut side up, along with other
vegetables. Lightly brush the vegetables with olive oil, season with the sea
salt and black pepper. Sprinkle tomatoes with parsley. Place tray of vegetables
in oven for about15 to 20 minutes until just done and nicely golden, keep warm.
Meanwhile, make the rarebit; heat the ale and Worcestershire sauce, add
the cheese and melt slowly. Stir in mustard and cayenne, cook for 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and mix in the egg. Bring back to heat carefully without
Divide the vegetables into individual ramekins or place on one large
dish, reserve the tomatoes and keep warm. Top the vegetables with the cheese
sauce. Place tomatoes on top, garnish with chives or leek, serve with crusty
from The Welsh Cheese Book by Angela Gray, published by Gomer Press, Wales. (To
purchase a copy please click for details.)
Recipe adapted for North American cuisine by Ken Thorne - comments or questions please contact by email.
© 2005 Ken Thorne