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Smoked Kipper Rarebit

By colm
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Smoked Kipper rarebit – toasted crusty bread topped with a silky bechamel sauce, flecked with lightly smoked kippers and mature cheddar cheese, then grilled till golden.

smoked kipper rarebit

If you’d never heard the culinary term rarebit before then you could be forgiven for thinking it is some sort of culinary masterpiece, exotic and challenging to make.

In reality, it’s just a fancy word for one of the world’s favourite snacks, the humble cheese on toast.

I have no idea where the word came from and having done a little research. I’ve been left none the wiser.

However, I did learn that there are a couple of different versions of this pimped out cheese on toast recipe. There’s a Scotch version, two English ones, and even a more modern Irish one.

But the country most associated with the dish is definitely Wales.

Now, it might come as a bit of a surprise to some that Wales, with some of the finest tasting lamb and seas teeming with some of the freshest fish, is so closely connected with cheese on toast.

Apparently, the reason is that back in the day, the poor people of Wales couldn’t afford even the cheapest cuts of meat. And we know all about that here in Ireland. It’s why we’re world-famous potato eaters.

The classic Welsh rarebit has got to be the best-tasting cheese on toast recipe you’ll ever come across, and it’s straightforward to make too.

All you’ve got to do is mix some ale with mustard powder, butter, Worcestershire sauce, and a big hand full of mature cheddar cheese. Gently heat it till it’s melted and bubbling, then pour the molten mixture over some of your favourite toasted bread and grill till golden. Dead easy…

Our fishy version is a little more complicated and takes more time, but it’s well worth the effort.

First, the kippers are gently poached in a little white wine and milk. This infuses the milk with a delicate smoky flavour. The milk is then used to make a smooth,  velvety bechamel sauce to which the other ingredients are added.

smoked kipper rarebit

In goes the Worcestershire sauce along with the piquant English mustard to add a little heat and a beautiful luminous colour. Then a small handful of chopped parsley is added for freshness and some freshly grated mature cheddar for a salty kick. The super silky sauce is finally finished with a squeeze of lemon and by folding back in the fragile flakes of cooked Kipper.

It’s then a simple matter to pile the sauce on top of your favourite toasted bread and grill till molten and golden. I used some Vienna roll I had lying in the bread bin, but any crusty loaf will do the job.

Cheddar is the cheese of choice in most rarebit recipes I’ve seen, and the one I went with here, but I could imagine any hard cheese like parmesan or even Gruyère working well.

smoked kipper rarebit-3

I also topped my fishy rarebit with a tender, softly poached egg. This part is strictly optional, but it does add another element and richness to the dish, finishing it off beautifully.

You could use another smoked fish in the recipe too. Haddock or cod would work well. Kippers might be unfashionable, but I’ve noticed tons of them down the supermarket, so I guess somebody must be eating them.

smoked kipper rarebit-4

Kippers or smoked herring are cheap as chips at less than a fiver a pound. They’re also healthy as their an oily fish rich in omega 3. Very sustainable (there on the Marine Conservation Society’s list of fish to eat), not to mention tasty.

Will you give kippers a go?

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smoked kipper rarebit-2

Smoked Kipper Rarebit

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  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4


  • 50ml white wine
  • 250ml/9oz milk
  • 200g/7oz kippers
  • 50g/2oz flour
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 250g/9oz strong cheddar, grated
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 25g/1oz chopped parsley
  • 4 eggs for poaching
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 4 large slices crusty bread


  1. Pour the white wine into a pan and reduce it down by half to burn off the alcohol. Add the milk and bring it up to a gentle simmer.
  2. Slide in your kipper fillets and cook for 1 minute. Than remove the pan from the heat allowing the milk to infuse and the kippers to finish cooking.
  3. Next melt the butter and add in the flour to form a roux.
  4. Remove the kippers from the infused milk and slowly, little by little stir the milk into the roux to make your sauce.
  5. Bring the sauce up to the boil stirring constantly to avoid it turning lumpy.
  6. Next add in the mustard, worcestershire sauce, cheddar cheese, lemon juice, and chopped parsley to the sauce.
  7. Flake up the kipper fillets which should by now be cool enough to handle and add them to the sauce.
  8. Toast four slices of your favourite crusty bread under a hot grill then spoon a generous helping of your kipper sauce on top.
  9. Next bring a pot of water to the boil, add the vinegar, and gently crack in the eggs. Poach for about 4 minutes so the yolks remain soft and molten. Than drain well on kitchen paper.
  10. Glaze your rarebits under the hot grill till golden and bubbling, top with the soft poached eggs and serve immediately.


alternative fish – smoked haddock or cod

4 thoughts on “Smoked Kipper Rarebit”

  1. I have always heard of this dish and never thought much of it. Then one night after my wife had baked bread, I said “Let’s try Welsh Rarebit!” She wasn’t much impressed. The next week, I had made beer bread with a dark ale and I made the same suggestion. That time it was a hit. I am going to try this next time,

  2. welsh rarebit = freaks me out and i eat it like a maniac
    add egg = freaks me out and i eat it like a maniac going in for a last meal graze
    add smoked kippers = you are beyond genius.

    i am making this tomorrow!
    my level of excitement = ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


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