Philip Harben ,may not be remembered very often today, but he was the first TV celebrity chef in the world; seventy years ago he had a series on the BBC, called, very originally, ‘Cookery’. This series ran for five years from 1946, and followed from an earlier radio cookery show which started during the war. He went on to present other TV cookery shows and write many books, and I have his small book, Cooking Quickly.
He writes in a very direct, personal way, and you feel his presence leaping off the page. You can almost hear him speaking to you as he tells you what to do to make something, ‘rarebits’ for instance. Most people have heard of Welsh rarebit, and I think these days many would thing it just grilled cheese with a dash of Worcestershire sauce. A rarebit is a cooked cheese, and there are various varieties, according to Mr Harben, including Welsh rarebit – the other way, buck rarebit and meat and onion rarebit – which I tend to think is Mr Harben’s own creation.
This is his ten minute recipe for two people:
Grate some ordinary Cheddar cheese (the coarse side of the grater will do) until you have a cupful. Add to it 4 good pinches of salt, several grinds of pepper. Take a teaspoon of dry mustard and mix it to a fluid consistency with a tablespoon of beer dregs or some milk, which you lace with a drop or two of Worcester sauce. But don’t add it to the cheese – not yet.
Melt some fat – butter for choice of course – in a s,mall pan; not a lot, just enough to grease the pan. Put in the grated cheese and stir it over a gentle heat until it begins to melt and go sticky. Now add the mustard fluid and stir well in. Cook until the cheese is melted.
While the cheese is cooking make two slices of toast and have two plates warming. When the toast is done spread it with butter or margarine (this is not strictly necessary, th cheese mixture is already rich with fat) and hold it in readiness. When the cheese is done, pour it on to the toast and spread it over evenly.
There’s your Welsh Rarebit; but many people like to put it back under the grill again and toast the cheese a golden brown. very nice too.
Variations: The best Welsh Rarebit I ever tasted in my life was made with double Gloucester cheese and a spoonful of Guinness.
I guess you could add any liquid you liked, a drop or two of red wine sounds nice!