Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Prairie Kitchens - Welsh Rarebit

When Canadian troops came home from World War II, they brought close to 48,000 new brides with them, mostly British but also French, Belgian and Dutch. As they settled in across the country, these women were struck by the abundance of food in Canada. Most of them had endured five years of food rationing, scarcity and hunger. Even so, there was much they missed from home.

Hilda Duddridge, a Welsh lass who married a fellow from Hanley, missed the seafood (cockles and mussels) and laverbread, a dish of seaweed and oatmeal. Needless to say, she could not get some of these ingredients in Saskatchewan in 1945.

Hilda's new husband, Lew Duddridge, had a Welsh mother (a war bride from World War I) but even so, he quickly informed her that he did not much like Welsh (or British) cooking. Luckily, Hilda found a few traditional favourites that Lew could love, such as Welsh Rarebit, a savoury cheese toast.

Picture and story of Hilda and Lew, Victoria Times Colonist

Years later, she was interviewed about her experience for a Master's thesis, Deliciously Detailed Narratives: The Use of Food in Stories of British War Brides' Experiences, available online.

To help these young women in the kitchen, the Department of National War Services published the Canadian Cook Book for British Brides which informed them, for instance, that their Canadian husbands preferred pie of any sort over suet pudding and took cream in their coffee, not hot milk. As you might imagine, it does not include a recipe for Welsh Rarebit.

Welsh Rarebit
4 slices of sturdy bread
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ale or milk
2 egg yolks

Toast the bread on one side under the broiler. In a saucepan, mix the cheese with the flour and mustard powder. Add the butter, Worcestershire sauce and ale. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is thickened and smooth. Do not boil. Remove from heat for 3 min. Whisk the egg yolks and, after 3 min., whisk them into the cheese. Blend well.

Spread the cheese onto the untoasted side of the bread and place under the hot grill. Do not use the top oven rack or the bread might burn before the cheese is cooked. The cheese should be lightly browned. Eat hot. It is also traditional in Britain two swipe the toast with chutney before putting on the cheese.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow twitter.com/prairiefeast.

This food column first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

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