Cheese and tomatoes, weren’t they just made for one another? A perfect partnership like apple and cinnamon, beef and horseradish, lamb and mint, you get the idea? And I don’t mean sliced and shoved between two bits of limp bread, but paired exotically and deliciously so that all the flavours complement one another; the sweet, juicy and slightly acidic tang of the tomato with the creamy, salty, biting cheddar.
The two ingredients are also cheap staples from which many a delicious meal can be made. They also make perfect family supper ingredients as kids tend to unanimously love the combo. Imagine the clean simplicity of fresh pasta topped with a sweet tomato and basil sauce and salty parmesan cheese, or as a filling in a simple cheese and tomato tart. Perfect for lunch or a summer picnic…or even as a home-made margarita pizza topping…tomato sauce and mozzarella. You can’t go wrong. This time I craved something different, something quick and so I came up with the winning combination of creamy tomato soup with a smoky Welsh rarebit.
It was a visit to Moelyci that started this craving. Sadly their gorgeous supply of tomatoes is finally come to an end and so in a last bid to prolong the taste of summer I zoomed in and grabbed a massive bag. I half heartedly meant for them to last the week but once home that tomato soup craving took over. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls book The River Cottage Cookbook has a very simple recipe, one that you can literally throw together in about 5 minutes flat! To make four average sized bowls of soup he uses….
1 kilo tomatoes (mine were a combination of plum, beef and a few cherries) which I washed, quartered and threw in a roasting tin with a good glug of olive oil poured over. Then I added some Halen Mon sea salt some black pepper plus 3 or 4 cloves of peeled garlic. I also chucked in a small quartered onion. These were then roasted in the oven on about 200 degrees until they were soft, collapsing and beginning to turn pulpy, maybe about 45 mins. I then chucked them in a pan with about a pint of chicken stock (but you can use good vegetable stock) and blended using a soup blender. You can do this in a normal blender as well or if you haven’t got a blender you can push it all through a fine sieve. This would remove the seeds and skin which Hugh suggests, but I don’t think this is totally necessary.
That done it was a case of what to have with it? Boring old bread wasn’t for me so I scoured the fridge and cupboard to see what I could come up with. Its amazing what you can make with some left over smoked butter (which I got from Dairy Mon), half a block of strong cheddar, a glug of beer and a few store cupboard staples.
Most people are unsure about the origins of name Welsh rarebit. Some suggest it started out as an 18th century pub, or tavern dish known as Welsh rabbit, but wherever it came from I love it. It is basically glorified cheese on toast but with added ingredients.
I have found two methods for making Welsh rarebit, one which uses a bechamel sauce, the other cheese blended with beer. I’ve tried both but eventually came up with a method of combining the two to great effect so that there is both a slightly bitter hint of beer and a sweetness gained from a good grain mustard and Worcester sauce. The last two were always added to the mixture when I was given it as a child, which must then also make it comfort food…anyhting given by my Mum or grandparents qualifies as comfort food!!
My recipe not only made enough rarebit mixture for supper, but also for my lunch until the end of the week!
30g ordinary or smoked butter
30g plain flour
quarter of a pint of milk, plus a splash of ale or beer
a teaspoon of grain mustard
a tablespoon of Worcester sauce
200g strong Welsh cheddar (Black Bomber or Dragon cheddar is good)
Melt the butter over a pan and stir in the flour cooking to make a roux. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk and then a good glug of beer. Put the pan back on a gentle heat and stir until thickened, slowly adding the grated cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese has melted and you have a thick but smooth paste. Stir in the mustard, Worcester sauce and season with salt and pepper. Leave to cool.
Toast a couple of slices of bread of your choice lightly. Remove from the grill and spread a think layer of the paste over one side. Put back under the grill and cook until it is hot bubbly and just starting to turn brown in places. Serve alongside your tomato soup and enjoy!