This week we’re celebrating Wales. And you all know Welsh Rarebit, or Rabbit as was the original name, right? Melty, beery grilled cheese oozing over slices of crusty bread… Well it’s now also got a Greek cousin. Made with yogurt, a slightly spicy yellow cheese and carob honey.
It’s actually National Welsh Rarebit Day today. Isn’t that appropriate? The whole of this week is dedicated to beautiful Wales and following an invitation by the British Embassy, a bunch of us food bloggers are posting traditional Welsh recipes, either in their original version, or with a twist. It took me about 2 seconds to decide I was going for the Welsh Rarebit. To be honest I was planning on trying it anyway, as I recently discovered a recipe in a stack of “must-try’s” that I filed away a
few years while ago and then forgot about. So the timing was just perfect.
Wales is a beautiful country. I have many relatives there so I’ve been lucky enough to have visited several times. The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Wales is the amazing shades of green. Everywhere. Coming from Greece and especially Athens, the views of green green fields stretching for miles were awe inspiring to me as a child. The car journeys to and from all the family members were spent with me gazing out across those fields trying to spot as many horses as possible (won’t go into my passion for horses right now…). All apart from one such journey many years ago, which always makes me giggle when I think of it. One of my aunts was driving, with my mum, grandma, brother and I as passengers. My poor grandma made a comment about how strange it was to see so many cows, Wales being known for its major sheep farming industry. Further down the country road we came across another field with cattle and my aunt said “oh look, there are some sheep dressed up as cows”. Well, that was the most hilarious thing our primary school aged ears had heard all summer. And of course every.single.cow we came across after that was a sheep in cunning disguise. To this day I don’t know how the two of us made the -very long- journey without getting throttled.
So back to the rarebit, or rabbit as it was known originally. There are many versions out there. Apart from slight variations in ingredients, there are two main differences in the preparation method. One way is to just melt cheese, beer or milk, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in a pan and spread it onto the bread before grilling, the other is to make a roux and then add the cheese etc. to that. I fancied a thick layer of cheesy goodness, and thought the roux method would ensure a thicker sauce, especially with the help of the egg yolk. Indeed the sauce was wonderfully gooey, easy to smother the bread with, and didn’t melt over the crusts while under the grill (broiler for my US friends). The ale I used is strong tasting and the wonderful flavour really came through in the rarebit. If you don’t like the taste of beer you may need to get yourself checked out; no, just joking, I suggest you use milk instead.
And now for the Greek cousin! (my 12 cousins from the UK will be smiling at that one) I wanted to tie this dish to Greece in some way, as I am after all in Greece as we speak. To begin with I was thinking of switching some ingredients in order to Greekify the result. But at the same time I really wanted to make the traditional version. After a light-bulb moment I decided to do a double recipe. So I was free to mess around with the experimental version as much as I wanted! Greek yoghurt is great for cooking with, and bakes really well with eggs, not sure if you knew that. So instead of milk or beer I used yoghurt. Instead of cheddar I used a Greek yellow melty cheese called kasseri, but chose a type that has a slightly stronger taste. A bit of mustard, a bit of oregano and a special guest ingredient, carob honey. This is something I thought of at the cheese counter in the supermarket. They have a small section nearby with deli type products, and I was browsing the shelves while waiting for my number to be called. I saw the bottle of carob honey and it reminded me of Worcestershire sauce, purely due to its colour, as they have nothing else in common. But it got me thinking that I hadn’t considered an equivalent to the Worcestershire for my experiment. Then I remembered that the kasseri I chose is sort of salty, so maybe something sweet would balance it out nicely. So into my basket went the bottle of carob honey. And balance it did! Thus, I present to you the Greek Rarebit. Very tasty indeed.
I would say in the interests of bicultural relations you should all make both rarebits this week. Tomatoes are a great accompaniment, fresh in a salad if it’s hot where you are, or as a warm soup if it’s cold. Mwynhewch eich bwyd! (Enjoy your food!)