Split Pea Rarebit

Source: Recipes for a Small Planet
Date tried: April 13, 2014
Yield: 5 servings
Time needed: 45 minutes

Time saver
Use leftover rice and peas and take only 15-20 minutes to prepare sauce and serve.

I am not a beer drinker. My father was, as were his friends, and I remember many a Saturday morning they spent around the kitchen table with a case of beer as they played endless hands of cribbage. So I had plenty of opportunity to acquire a taste for beer as I grew up, but I never did. (I can still play a mean hand of cribbage, though.) Wine is my choice of alcoholic beverage. I only buy beer when I need it for cooking.

According to this recipe, the beer is optional. But don’t omit it. I found the sauce quite unpalatable without it. An even better choice is to make a more traditional rarebit. I did follow the tradition of using toast rather than rice as the base for the sauce.

Did you know that “rarebit”is a made-up culinary term to replace “rabbit”? The original name, “Welsh rabbit”, was an English slur against the Welsh, implying such poor hunting skills that a Welsh hunter had only bread and cheese to eat after a day hunting rabbits, while an English hunter, of course, had rabbit stew. As the dish made its way into cookbooks, “rabbit” became the more genteel “rarebit”.

Split pea rarebit

Split-Pea Rarebit
1/2 cup split peas or other small bean
1 small onion
11/2 cups brown rice
1 recipe cheese sauce

Cheese Sauce Ingredients
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
11/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
dash nutmeg
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
pinch dried chili peppers
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup beer (optional)

Cook the rice (45 minutes)
Cook the peas until tender (20-30 minutes)
Sauté the onion

Make the cheese sauce:
Heat oil
Stir in flour and cook until bubbly (about 2 minutes)
Add water and simmer until thick (about 15 minutes)
As the sauce is thickening, add the salt, tomato paste,nutmeg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and dried chili peppers.
When the sauce is thick, stir in the shredded cheese until it is melted and the sauce is smooth.

Add the cooked peas and onions to the sauce, and the beer if you wish.
Pour over servings of the cooked rice.

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The recipe quest

I am a fairly adventurous eater.  I like trying new dishes, new ingredients, new styles of cooking.  Naturally, I have accumulated a number of cookbooks—and lost quite a few too.  Adelle Davis’  Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit is gone and Mother’s in the Kitchen, my first La Leche League cookbook.  Also a little gem called Easy Gourmet Cooking in 30 minutes.

In fact, that was the book that set me on cooking adventures in the first place.  I was a young teacher, living for the first time on my own.  Not far into the semester, I realized that many evenings I was having nothing more than toast and coffee while grading papers.  Not a good way to keep up one’s energy.  But how to work cooking into a schedule that seemed overwhelming—especially good cooking.  So a book that promised dinner on the table in 30 minutes—and good food at that—was a godsend.  I even learned to like liver, one dish I had always rejected as a child.

The second thing that started me on this quest was a brush with cancer a few years ago.  For several months after having a colorectal tumour removed I had no appetite at all. I had to re-introduce myself to food like a baby, trying small portions of one thing at a time. Low energy levels meant I couldn’t produce complicated recipes either. Yogurt and fruit became a standard breakfast; simple one-vegetable soups prepared at home a typical lunch or supper. It was a real achievement to get something as substantial as an egg or a muffin down.

 Then one day I realized I was enjoying my food again and I pulled out the cookbooks. My first thought was to start at the beginning of each one and try one or two recipes a week.  Soon I realized that was impractical.  For one thing,one book starts off with a hundred or more recipes for a sauce, dip, sandwich spread or salad dressing.  I could end up with four or five in the fridge and nothing to use them on. Another begins with more than two dozen recipes for bread.  I love baking my own bread, but I can’t live on bread alone.  No, I would have to roam through the recipes in another way.

 By the time I had worked out what I was doing I had already tried a good many recipes.  Then I began wondering how many there were to try—altogether—from  all the books.  So I made myself a grand catalogue of all the recipes, noting which ones I had already tried and which were still to be sampled.

 Will I ever get to try them all?  Short answer: probably not. Not unless I am still preparing my own meals on my hundredth birthday.  Meanwhile, however, I thought it might be interesting to jot down some of my adventures with food.