Caerphilly and Cider Welsh Rarebit
This is a staple at The Ethicurean and the smell in the morning as the rabbit is made is intoxicating. Served alongside a pile of Mark’s salad leaves, the flavours are acidic, sweet, salty, rich and, foremost, savoury. Many recipes call for the inclusion of stout or porter-style beers. Ours is very much a West Country affair and we choose Perry’s Morgan Sweet cider on account of its sweet acidic fruitiness, but any good medium sweet cider will suffice. Cider pairs very well with Caerphilly.While beer would dominate this cheese’s citrusy and mushroomy earthiness, the cider sings in chorus.
The science behind using Caerphilly or a mature Cheddar is very straightforward: we don’t want a stringy Welsh rabbit. Cheeses such as Emmental contain casein molecules that are linked by calcium, forming long fibres – essentially the string in stringy cheese. Gorwydd’s citrus flavour indicates a high level of acidity, which removes some of the calcium. Its unctuous texture means a higher moisture content that will separate casein molecules. All in all, it's the perfect cheese for rarebit.Mature Cheddar is a good alternative. The ripening enzymes are rather partial to casein and they devour it, preventing any long, string-like fibres forming.
- 1 large, unsliced white tin loaf
- 100g very soft salted butter (or 100g beef dripping, melted)
- 150ml medium-sweet cider
- 100ml single cream
- 2tbsp vintage cider vinegar, such as Ostler's
- 2tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 pinches of smoked paprika
- 250g Gorwydd Caerphilly (if you can't get hold of Gorwydd, and aged Cheddar makes the best substitute), coarsely grated
- 2 egg yolks (omit if using Cheddar)
Heat the oven to 200°C/GasMark 6. Cut the ends off the white loaf and then divide the loaf into 6 slices. The thickness of the slices is one of the factors that makes this rabbit so perfect, with a crunchy exterior that gives way to a brilliantly soft, white interior.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the very soft butter (or the melted dripping) on both sides of the bread. Put the slices on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes, turning them over half way through. Both sides should be very lightly golden. Leave on a wire rack to cool.
Put the cider, cream, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and paprika in a non-stick saucepan, place over a medium heat and cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture has reduced to the consistency of double cream. It should be a deep shade of brown. Lower the heat and add the cheese and the egg yolks, if using. Stir until the cheese has melted, then whisk the sauce until very smooth and glossy. Leave to cool and thicken to a paste consistency.
Spread the mixture edge to edge on the toasted bread. Return them to the oven for 4 minutes, then place under a hot grill until evenly browned. Enjoy with a generous helping of dressed salad leaves. As the local Bristolians would say, ‘Gert lush!’
Watch the recipe being made: