“What exactly is Welsh Rarebit?” you’re probably asking yourself.
Most of us know this dish as basically cheese on toast. Not a bad thing.
It’s actually a dish that was born of poverty in 18th Century Wales. At that time, only the wealthiest could afford meat. Cheese was the “meat” of the poor. Over time, “Rarebit” became the bastardization of “rabbit”.
Most recipes that I’ve found contain some sort of alcohol, generally ale. However, I wanted a recipe that didn’t have any alcohol. And, I finally came across one written by Jennifer Paterson of “Two Fat Ladies” fame. It is different than traditional Rarebit, which is generally a cheese sauce, in that this recipe is more of a souffle-style.
This won’t behave like what most would think of as a souffle. It certainly doesn’t rise like one. The souffle-style comes from the base (cheese and egg yolks) folded into beaten egg whites which makes the topping a souffle effect.
The tomato soup is just a natural paring.
Tomato soup goes with just about everything.
Welsh Rarebit mixed with tomato soup or tomatoes is known as “Blushing Bunny”. Huh.
Now. To the recipes.
Now, of course, with either of these recipes, you can serve them separately with a simple salad to make a nice lunch or a light dinner. Together, they make a rather hearty end-of-day vegetarian supper.
For the Rarebit, if you want to use other cheeses or all of one or the other, go ahead. However, cheddar is the most traditional. Be sure to use a sharp cheddar. Once you add the egg whites, it will neutralize the flavor of the cheese mixture, so you want a stong-tasting cheese. Longhorn cheddar won’t do.
With summer coming up, fresh tomatoes will be abundant. If you want to use your fresh home-grown tomatoes, by all means, do. Use the equivalent amount to fresh tomatoes. Depending on how “rustic” you like your soup, you can peel and seed your fresh tomatoes before using them in the soup if you prefer. It’s up to you.
As for canned, I use Muir Glen Fire Roasted. If you want to use your fresh tomatoes but would like the roasted flavor, you can either roast your tomatoes on the grill or slow-roast in your oven.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
4 tbsp. tomato paste
1 lg. (28 oz.) can tomatoes
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 lg. sprig rosemary, left whole
4 c. vegetable broth
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh basil, julienned
Shredded Parmesan or Romano
1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and cook another minute.
3. Add the tomato paste and, stirring frequently, cook until the tomato paste begins to take on a rust-colored appearance (this indicates the sugars in the tomato paste are caramelizing).
4. Add the tomatoes, rosemary, vinegar, broth, sugar, salt & pepper. Stir until the soup is well mixed. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the soup has come to a boil, uncover, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
5. After the first 30 minutes of cooking, remove the soup from the heat and remove the rosemary stem. Let the soup cool slightly.
6. With either a stand blender (in batches) or a stick blender, puree the soup. Make it as smooth or as texture as you like. If you want a super-smooth soup, then pour the pureed soup through a strainer. Taste for seasoning.
7. Put the soup back on the stove to reheat over medium heat and just bring back to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the basil. Set the soup aside and let the basil “steep”.
Meanwhile, while the soup is cooking, make the Rarebit.
1 c. grated extra sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 c. grated Gruyère or Emmenthal Cheese
3 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Salt & pepper to taste
4 thick slices bread (sourdough or country loaf works best)
1. In a large bowl mix the cheese with the egg yolks, Worcestershire, dry mustard, cayenne, paprika, salt & pepper. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the bread on a baking sheet lines with foil and parchment paper and toast the bread until it is lightly toasted on both sides. Set aside.
3. In a mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the whites reach stiff peak stage.
4. Take 1/4 of the egg whites and mix them into the cheese mixture to lighten it up a bit.
5. Take the remaining egg whites, 1/3 at a time, and fold them into the cheese mixture. Don’t worry about making a homogenous mixture. You just want to get a good mix with the cheese.
6. Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of bread (there will be quite a lot).
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until the souffles are brown and have risen slightly.
Finish the meal: By this point, the soup should be finished and the basil “steeping”.
Spoon the soup into a bowl and sprinkle some Parmesan or Romano over the top.
Place one of the Rarebit on a plate.