Since Hove Museum has closed it’s cafe doors, we have been on the lookout for a replacement proper Welsh Rarebit. A good Rarebit is not necessarily just posh cheese on toast. It’s a melting combination of whipped cheese, butter and flour with the lightly nutty aftertaste of a dash of beer and served with a crisp, spicy rocket salad. Sometimes served with an additional egg, but that’s just overkill in our book.
I’ll say traditionally a good Rarebit has been made with a salty, mature cheddar, but of course, the dish itself was (is!) a Welsh tradition appropriated by the rest of the UK and Cheshire or Caerphilly cheese is often used. Both Cheshire and Caerphilly cheeses have a slightly citrussy tangy taste, so for us, we prefer something a little more oozy and mildly buttery.
We are very lucky to have THE perfect Rarebit cheese from a local cheesemaker, Rob, from Bookham Harrison over in leafy Funtington, near Chichester meandering at the foot of the South Downs. Sussex Charmer is a punchy hard cheese which is the lovechild of Cheddar and Parmesan (and certified vegetarian) with the gutsiness of a good Parmesan and the creaminess of cheddar.
How to make a perfect Sussex Rarebit
Important note here…the bread is very important. A good thick slab of a wholemeal sourdough is delicious and robust enough to withstand a rich sauce without becoming soggy . But that said, if you prefer white, then just cut it from a good fresh loaf and don’t stint on the thickness of the slice.
Serves 4 | Prep 10 minutes | Cook 10 minutes
225g Sussex Charmer cheese
25g salted butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (if you’re vegetarian, we had a go at making vegan Worcester sauce – recipe here)
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
4 free range egg yolks
A good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons of golden beer – try Long Man Long Blonde or Dark Star Hophead
4 thick slices of bread
Mix the mustard with the beer in the bottom of a small pan to make a paste, then add the butter and about 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce – you can always add more later if you like. Heat gently until the butter has melted.
Mix in the cheese and stir carefully until it has just melted but be careful not to let it boil or burn. Once you have a sauce, season if required, then allow to cool until just slightly warm, being careful the mixture doesn’t cool to be come solid.
Pre-heat the grill to medium-high, and toast the bread on one side and just lightly toast the other. Beat the yolks into the warm cheese until smooth, and then spoon on to the toast and cook until bubbling and golden.
Serve immediately with a spicy leaf salad and some tiny cherry tomatoes to balance the rich flavours.