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Welsh rabbit is a savoury delicacy of cheese melted with beer, spooned over toast and grilled. There are many variations of this dish, which is essentially melted cheese on toast.
As well as the Welsh variety there are English rabbits and Scottish rabbits. but they are all rabbits, not rarebits or rare bits.
Hannah Glass published her Art of Cookery in 1747 and she refers to Welsh, Scotch and English rabbits. It wasn’t until 1785 that the term Welsh rarebit was first recorded.
The French, too, have a fondness for Welsh rabbit, the dish first appearing in a French cookbook in 1814. By the turn of the century it was very popular in Paris restaurants, as a hot entree washed down with English ale.
Along with the controversy about the exact ingredients of a rabbit there is the problem of finding a plausable explanation for ‘‘rabbit’’ and this has never been done satisfactorily.
For this southern rabbit the best flavour will come from a cheese with a bit of a bite. A very mature cheddar has enough of a tang to be interesting. I love the idea of a really strong cheddar mixed with dark ale, mustard and Worcestershire, melted until it oozes tantalisingly, dolloped on toast then grilled until it singes in patches.
45 South rabbit
Makes 22-24 small rabbits
⅓ cup stout or other dark beer, I use Speight’s 5 Malt old Dark
1 Tbsp (15g) butter
150g mature cheddar, grated (I used Mainland Tasty Aged Cheddar)
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
25g panko bread crumbs or dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg yolk size 7, beaten
1 baguette or ciabatta, sliced 1cm thick
olive oil spray
Finely chopped chives or spring onions
Pour the beer into a small saucepan, add the butter and heat gently until the butter has melted and the beer is hot.
Add the cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and stir until the cheese has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the panko breadcrumbs, then beat in the egg yolk. Leave to cool.
If this is for a family meal, I usually toast the bread in the toaster or under a preheated hot grill. If the rabbit is to be served to accompany soup when friends call or if I am serving the rabbits as pre-dinner nibbles, I find it more convenient to make crostini.
I bake the baguette slices in the oven prior to making the rabbit. This can be done a day or so before required if convenient.
Spread the cheese mixture over the toast or crostini and grill for a minute or two, until the cheese bubbles and singes in patches. Sprinkle with chives or spring onions and serve warm.
Pre-heat the oven to 150degC on bake.
Line an oven tray with nonstick baking paper.
Spray both sides of the bread lightly with olive oil and place on the oven tray and bake for 15 minutes, turning halfway through until lightly golden and crisp. Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Kumara, bean and chorizo soup
Wonderfully warming with a richness hidden in its depths, this is perfect cold-weather soup.
A medley of spices infuse the kumara as it simmers until tender, then it’s blitzed to a velvety smoothness.
The addition of red kidney beans and chorizo sausage adds texture and more deliciously aromatic flavours.
It’s easy to assemble, too.
Makes 12 cups approximately
1.3kg orange kumara peeled
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp each mild chilli powder and ground cinnamon
2 tsp each crushed ginger and crushed garlic
3 Tbsp tomato paste
7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
425g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
150g cured chorizo sausage, sliced thinly on the diagonal. If chorizo is thick, cut in half lengthways before slicing thinly
sour cream or Greek yoghurt
paprika and parsley sprigs
Dice the kumara into 1cm-2cm pieces. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in all the spices, ginger, garlic, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute adding a splash of water if the pan is dry.
Add the kumara, stock and balsamic vinegar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until everything is tender.
Cool a little. Using a stick mix, puree until smooth (or puree in batches in a food processor). If the soup is too thick stir in a little more stock.
Reheat just prior to serving and stir in the beans and chorizo and simmer until hot.
Ladle the soup into warm bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt, a sprinkling of paprika and parsley sprigs.
Serve with 45 South rabbits.