Mulled Cider Welsh Rarebit

Any time Welsh Rarebit comes up in conversation (at least once in my life), my dad will make a joke to the effect of “nice, apart from the big ears.”  Easy, perhaps, but it goes down well enough.  Consider my surprise when I discovered today that the original name of the dish was “rabbit”, and is intended to be a joke.  Not sure I fully understand it – perhaps you had to be there…in the 18th century?  In any case, the dish itself may not even be Welsh in origin – seems to be a joke at the expense of the Welsh!  Makes a change from lazy sheep references.

For those who are unaware, rarebit is a bit like a croque monsieur, inasmuch as it’s hyped-up cheese on toast.  In this case, a cheese and alcohol-based thick sauce grilled atop toast.  An open fondue sandwich.  Wine and beer are the typical go-tos, but in the spirit of the season I decided to give it a bit of a wintery twist.  I certainly feel as though recent years have helped people to embrace the brilliant partnership of cheese and sweeter flavours – more adventurous fruit pairings, a smattering of candied ginger or orange-zest too.  That’s what I hoped to bring forward in this dish – dry apples and spice alongside cheese (in my case, smoked cheddar, but any hard cheese will do.)

Ingredients (approx 1-2 servings)

  • Handful of strong hard grated cheese (I used smoked Cheddar)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 500ml bottle of cider
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Small handful cloves
  • 2-3 Cardamoms, lightly crushed with the side of a knife
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • Sprinkling salt
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • Fresh thyme to serve
  • A few slices bread

Method

  1. Simmer the cider with the spices (including a small grating of nutmeg in a saucepan for 10 minutes, then remove the spices.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and cook until it has stopped fizzing.  Add the flour and whisk into a roux, cooking on low for a minute or two.
  3. Pour in the spiced cider and whisk well until you have a thick sauce.  Turn off the heat and add the cheese a bit at a time, stirring it through until it melts (turn on low-heat if it doesn’t seem to be melting).  If it seems too thin/not cheesy enough, add more until it’s to your liking.  Stir through the mustard and grate in a little more nutmeg until the balance of flavours is to your liking – season with salt if necessary.  It should be thick enough that it can be dolloped onto bread without just running off.
  4. Toast your bread on one side under the grill (broiler) until it’s nicely browned, then remove and turn over.
  5. Add a dollop to the centre of the bread slices on the un-toasted side, and spread thinly at first, leaving a few millimetres around the outside.  Spoon on more sauce until you have a pleasantly thick covering and grill until it’s browned and bubbling.  Sprinkle over some fresh thyme and serve immediately.

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