Sunday, April 1, 2012

Rabbit ! Rabbit !! Rabbit !!! (Three Rabbits)

 I.                 I.    Scotch Rabbit

This recipe, from The Cook and Housewife’s Manual (1826) by Meg Dods (nom de plume of Scotswoman Christian Isobel Johnstone); other sources give her name as Christina Jane Johnstone), seems at first sight very similar to the last (ed. note: a recipe for Lady Sysonby’s Toasted Cheese, to be posted at a later date).  But a very different taste is produced by the beer (stout) and the cheeses (Stilton, Gouda or Dunlop) she calls for.  Unfortunately, genuine farmhouse Dunlop, a subtle Scottish relative of Cheddar, is now no longer made.  It is to be hoped that, with the explosion of real-cheese-making in Britain, that state of affairs will soon be remedied.  [1]

  FOR 4
            300 g ( 10 ½  oz. Stilton or
            or Gouda) or possibly Dunlop –
            see above), diced.
            140 ml (5 fl oz) porter (stout)
            2 tsp mde mustard
            freshly ground pepper
  good white bread, toasted and buttered

Put the cheese, stout, mustard and plenty of finely ground pepper into a fireproof or gratin dish.  Place over a low heat and stir until the cheese melts and a smooth consistency is obtained.  Put the dish under a fierce grill for a few minutes to brown.   Serve with hot buttered toast on a separate plate.

Meg Dods concludes her recipe as follows: 

“Observation:  this is one of the best preparations of the kind that we are acquainted with.  Some gourmands use red wine instead of porter, but the latter liquor is much better adapted to the flavor of cheese.  Others use a proportion of soft putrid cheese or the whole of it in that state.  This is, of course, a matter of taste, and beyond the jurisdiction of any culinary dictator.  To dip the toasts in hot porter makes another variety of this preparation."

The best kind of stout for this recipe is not Guinness, whose bitterness is accentuated by the heat, but sweet Scotch stout such as Mackeson’s

     II.    English Rabbit

Pace Meg Dods (see preceding recipe), red wine, like stout, is also very good with toasted cheese, as in this recipe, which dates from the eighteenth century.

            FOR 4

            good white bread, rather thickly sliced
            and toasted
            2 tsp made mustard
            225 mil (8 fl oz) good red wine
            300 g (10 1/2 oz) Cheddar or Cheshire, thinly sliced

Put the toast into a large shallow gratin dish or baking tin.  Smear with mustard.  Pour the wine into the dish and leave for 5 minutes while the toast soaks it up.  Cover the pieces of toast with the cheese and put under a moderate grill until it has completely melted and is golden brown on top.

        III.   Garlic Rabbit

A dish my mother often used to make for supper, using the delicious wholemeal bread she baked herself.  My grandmother (her mother in law) delighted in saying how much she detested garlic.  So whenever she was present on such occasions, my mother deviously announced "cheese on toast" (and included a little less garlic).  Grandmother always came back for more.

            FOR 4
           300 g freshly grated Cheddar
           100 ml (4 fl oz) dry white wine
           3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
           freshly ground pepper
           toasted wholemeal bread

Mash the cheese, wine, garlic and plenty of pepper to a paste.  Spread thickly on pieces of toast.  Put under a moderate grill until the cheese has completely melted and is golden brown on top. When no white wine was to hand, my mother used milk instead.  

[1] From Wikipedia"Dunlop is a mild cheese or 'sweet-milk cheese' from Dunlop in East Aylshire, Scotland.  It resembles a soft Cheddar cheese in texture.  It fell out of favour some time after the end of the Second World War, however it has now appreciated for its value in various recipes and for eating on its own or with a dram of whisky.  The local production of Dunlop cheese ceased in around 1940, and has only been sporadic since the Second World War, however Dunlop and other cheeses are as of 2007 made in West Clerkland Farm just outside Stewarton on the Dunlop Roa, and are also produced on Arran, Islay and elsewhere.  The Dunlop Cheese factory was sited near the Dunlop railway station in what is now a housing estate, the memory of Dunlop cheese production being kept alive by the name 'Creamery Row.'"   Dunlop cheese was the invention in the early 18th century of Barbara Gilmour, a cheese genius who used the unskimmed milk of Aylshire cows to create a cheese that, since its introduction was greatly valued for roasting.  It was often served on breakfast bread (a "farl of oatcake or supple scone"), substituting for the more traditional bacon. 

My own research shows that Dunlop cheese production, while still artisinal in scale, is on the rise and that Dunlop may be purchased from time-to-time from London's (Seven Dials) remarkable Neals Yard Dairy (link), who import into the U.S.

Recipes from Peter Graham, Classic Cheese Cookery, London, Penguin, 1988, 1995


  1. I grew up eating what we always called Welsh Rabbit. A cheesy bread that we had on winter nights--usually with tomato soup. I had forgotten all about that. Delicious.

  2. Peter Graham's book is terrific and recommended without reservation. He includes what must be a fairly authoritative sampling of "rabbit" recipes, including a Welsh rabbit from Mrs Beeton's Dictionary of Everyday Cookery (1865), which goes like this:


    FOR 4

    good white bread
    80 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
    250 g (9 0z) Cheshire or Double Gloucester
    2 tsp made mustard
    freshly ground pepper

    "Cut the bread into slices about 1/2 in [1 cm] in thickness; pare off the crust, toast the bread slightly without hardening or burning it, and spread with butter. Cut some slices, not quite so large as the bread, from a good rich fat cheese; lay them on the toasted bread in a cheese-toaster; be careful that the cheese does not burn, and let it be equally melted. Spread over the top a little made mustard and a seasoning of pepper, and serve very hot, with very hot plates. Note: Should the cheese be a little dry, a little butter mixed with it will be an improvement."

    Graham goes on to note that: "The basic Welsh rabbit can be 'built on' in several ways. You can perch a poached egg on each portion, thus making a Golden Buck or Buck rabbit. If you put a rasher of crisp-fried bacon between the toasted cheese and poached egg, the dish becomes a Yorkshire rabbit."

    Lately we've had some Cheshire cheese in the house purchased at the Lancaster Market, which has a good cheese seller, and I'm sure it would be great for this purpose. But I would really like, based on the Scottish rabbit recipe, to try Dunlop using Mackeson's stout. At the moment, however, I've ceased eating and drinking. I'll just be typing.


  3. Oh, that does look like it. I think I will have to try a rabbit soon. I think the Scottish might be more interesting now. As a girl, I am not sure I'd have cared for the stout.
    Thank you for this!

  4. I guess the rabbit of the moment needs to be the rabbit of the moment. The Scottish one really appeals to me, but they all do. We have a neat, extremely authentic English pub about 30 minutes away in the middle of Coatesville horse country called The Whip where they make a mean Welsh rabbit. But it's so easy at home also. Assuming you're reading this, I was interested to learn the other day about your Bryn Mawr days. We're in Bryn Mawr every day. Curtis