Once upon a time there was a very nice woman from Sussex who with her equally nice and Sussex-y husband ran a tea shop in a small seaside town. The very strange thing about this teashop was that it was not in England. It was, in fact, in Poulsbo, Washington, where I was raised. My English mother was so enamored of this place and the couple who ran it that she and I would go there at least once a week. For their part, I'm sure that the proprietors were entirely delighted to have a local ex-pat as such an enthusiastic patron and promoter.
Her menu was a straight-forward one. High tea, scones with Devonshire cream, ploughman's lunch, etc. My personal favourite was the Welsh rarebit. It's a kind of cheese sauce made with... well, you'll see what it's made with in the recipe below. I hadn't had it for perhaps thirty years when for some reason weekend before last I decided to try to make it for Doug and me.
It took a few experiments, but at last I have a recipe that closely matches the one I enjoyed so often with my dear mother in Mrs. Sussex's tea room. No, that wasn't really her name; play along, OK?
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 cup India pale ale
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 8 slices of bread for serving
Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the dry ingredients and the Worcestershire sauce. Whisk the mixture continuously for five to six minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream and beer. Return the pan to the burner and turn up to medium-high. Whisk the sauce continuously until fully thickened. Add the shredded cheese in small handfuls, adding more as it melts into the sauce. Toast the bread and pour the rarebit over top. For an extra bit of fun, put the plates under a broiler for a few minutes to slightly brown the sauce.
Serves four generously as a side dish.