Welsh Rarebit Soufflé (Jennifer Paterson’s Cheese on Toast)
Image and recipe from The Two Fat Ladies, Series 3 Episode 2 ‘The Pony Club’ Sept, 1998.
This version of cheese on toast is really two things;
One, it is the peak of post-party food. Your 3am lord and saviour*. It is soul-rectifying. It’s been there at the end of every odd night out, every oh-god-what-did-I-do New Years Day, every moment that you can’t go on. And it’s there when you just beg the barman (with a lusty wink) for something to eat. It will absorb your excess, and kill your demons. And with it, you naturally avoid the obvious issues of 2am chili (“SON!”).
(*See also, spaghetti carbonara)
And two, it is a masterful fuck you to food prejudice.
“I think it’s probably suitable for children. I think nearly all of them like cheese, unless the little wretches have developed an allergy — they all seem to have allergies these days, don’t they?”, Jennifer muses.
“It’s fashionable”, Clarissa mutters darkly.
I’m dismayed by the idea that we preach about a more equal and open world, but still we weaponise food and use it to define ourselves as socially, culturally and academically superior. Publicly eulogising your non-fatal food prejudices is weird. Food made with love tastes like love. Food made with smugness tastes like failure and disappointment (for so many reasons, see gluten-free, vegan cupcakes).
For this and many reasons, I adore Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. They defended taste in a time of food horrors (don’t eat fat, don’t eat beef, don’t eat eggs, don’t eat offal, don’t drink full fat, don’t eat butter…) but despite the emotive branding of their partnership, they never preached gluttony. So make this with love, eat this without concern for guilt, eat some vegetables occasionally and chase those demons away.
- 8oz / 226g cheddar, grated
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/2 dessert tablespoon dry english mustard powder
- A good dollop of french mustard
- Worcestershire sauce
- Tabasco sauce
- Black pepper
- 6 slices of good, white bread
Preheat the fan oven to 200oC.
Put the grated cheese in a bowl, beat in the egg yolks.
Mix in the mustard powder, french mustard, and a good dollop of tabasco and Worcestershire sauce (add with enthusiasm and Jennifer’s beautiful misquote from Richard III “Hail time-honour’d Worcester! Hast thou, according to thy oath and band, Brought hither Henry Hereford thy bold son…”)
Toast the bread on both sides. (“For heaven’s sake, as usual, use good bread. Not that slimy white slice.”)
Beat the egg whites until stiff. Take a (metal) spoonful of the egg whites and work it into the cheese mixture. Then add the rest of the egg whites, stirring in “the good old manner of the figure of eight”, until incorporated.
Put the toasts into an ovenproof dish and pour the mixture over them. Spread to cover the crusts (so they don’t burn in the oven). Grind over some black pepper.
Bake until risen and brown on top (about 10 – 15 minutes).
- Use good mature cheddar, “the real thing” according to Jennifer, “with a lovely rind on it. [It shouldn’t be] in any way comparable to that muck you buy in clingfilm, looking like a slab of soap”. Preach.
- If you are making this at 2am post party, please use an electric whisk to stiffen the egg whites — damn your safety — because if you do it by hand you will be asleep/sick in the bowl before you get to stiff peak stage
- Green finger chillies finely chopped and folded in with the cheese gets you slightly closer to the Mumbai street treat
- If you want to serve this with salad then I’d suggest:
- A classic — raw or roasted baby tomatoes on the vine (no real reason, apart from looking pretty and I am obsessed with the smell of the vine)
- If you want something to slip under the radar veg-wise, then shred some iceberg or little gem lettuce and add some variation of: hollowed, sliced cucumber, grated carrots, peas, green beans or asparagus. Add a little vinaigrette, if you want.
- If you want some strong flavours to stand up to the spiced cheese, then watercress and rocket leaves, with a few finely cut red chillies (remove the chilli placenta if you want), herbs (chives, parsley, dill, etc) and a squeeze of lemon (lemon will help if find yourself overcome by cheese).
- Radishes, thinly sliced. Or whole if you’re into having a party in your sinuses.
Also published on Medium.