A few happy hours were spent over the Christmas holidays leafing through this book Inside Chefs' Fridges, Europe: Top chefs open their home refrigerators, photographs by Carrie Solomon, words by Adrian Moore.
One of the small problems with it is that I’d only heard of two of the chefs included, though I know I lead a sheltered life. And one of them was Marco Pierre White who doesn’t keep anything at all in his fridge. The other was the mighty Fergus Henderson, of St John restaurant in London - more or him later.
It’s fascinating to see what the pros have in their fridges, though the fridges all look suspiciously clean and well-ordered, which may be the mark of a professional chef or it may be the mark of knowing that somebody’s coming to photograph the interior of your fridge.
And one really big surprise is to see how many chefs keep lemons, soy sauce and canned anchovies in their fridge. Do these things actually need refrigerating? Well not in my house they don’t.
Each chef offers a recipe or two, and one of Fergus Henderson’s is for Welsh rarebit. Now the Welsh rarebit, often “rabbit” is one those odd thing that in some places, e.g. my parents’ house, was nothing but cheese on toast, but it gets much fancier elsewhere – Hannah Glasse has a recipe that involves soaking the bread in red wine.
Fergus Henderson’s recipe is as follows:
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp English mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
450g mature strong Cheddar cheese, grated
4 pieces toast
Melt butter in a skillet, stir in flour, cook together until it smells biscuit, without turning brown. Add mustard powder and cayenne pepper, then stir in the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce, and gently melt in the cheese. When it’s all of one consistency, remove from heat, pour into a shallow container and allow to set. Preheat broiler. Spread the sauce thinly onto toast and place under the broiler until golden brown. Serve immediately with a glass of Port.
Here’s a photograph by Carrie Solomon of the end result:
Actually it’s pretty much the same as the recipe in Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating but there he says you should use a “knob” of butter, and rather improbably he says it serves six.
I decided to make it the Fergus Henderson way, although it didn’t seem to me there was enough flour. I couldn’t see it thickening much, but I followed orders, and sure enough it remained pretty thin. It tasted fine, but it didn’t look at all the image in the book. It looked like this:
So I went rummaging through the Nicholson Gourmet Library, and indeed the internet, and found a great many versions of rarebit – many with no flour at all. But a surprising number of online sources repeat the Nose to Tail recipe exactly, with many compliments paid to Fergus H. as the rarebit meister. I don’t know where they get their photos, but this is how one accompanied a piece about the Henderson rarebit in Country Life magazine:
On the other hand when people actually post pictures of rarebits as served and eaten at the St. John restaurant, the results don't look like much like the version shown in Chef's Fridges nor like mine. Here’s one from yelp:
Cooking, it’s an art, innit? Food photography even moreso.