Caws Pobi, Caws Pobi

Makes a single serving (serving a crowd?)

2/3 cup of grated cheddar (about 2 oz)
1 teaspoon butter
2 oz ale
just under 1 teaspoon of mustard
pinch salt
pinch pepper
2 slices (½" thick) barley bread
about 1 Tablespoon of butter for the bread slices


Toast, then butter the bread slices while you melt the butter in the ale in a shallow saucepan over low heat. Add the cheese and stir until it's just melted. Do not let it boil. Add the mustard, salt and pepper. Pour over the toast and broil for a few seconds under the grill, until the cheese is bubbling and brown.


Is it rarebit or rabbit? Historically, it looks like the latter is the older form, an English conceit, which they practise against other people's dishes as well: they called an anchovy-enhanced scrambled egg dish Scotch Woodcock. Tamaid Anghyffredin Cymreig is the Welsh translation of the English name; literally, it means ‘uncommon Welsh bit.’ The truer form, which we use here, is caws pobi ‘toasted cheese.’

That the Welsh have always loved their toasted cheese, we have verified from an English insult related by Andrew Boorde, writing in 1542 (as quoted in Hartley):

Fynde wryten amonge old jestes how God made St. Peter porter of heven. And that God of his goodness suffred many men to come to the kyngdome with small deservyng. At which tyme, there was in heven a grete company of Welchmen with they rekrakynge and babelynge trobled all the others. Wherefore God says to St. Peter that he was wery of them and he would fayne have them out of heven. To whome St. Peter sayde, “Goode Lorde, I warrent you that shall be shortly done.” Wherefore St. Peter went outside of heven gayts and cryd with a loude voyce, “Cause Babe! Cause Babe,” that is as moche to say, ‘Rosty'd chese!’ Which thynge the Welchmen herying ran out of heven a grete pace...And when St. Peter sawe them all out he sodenly went into Heven and lokkyd the dore! and so aparyd all the Welschmen out!
This also shows that the Welsh pronounciation of ‘Caws Pobi’ was heard as “Cause babie” by the Saxon ear at the time.

We prefer barley loaves to white here for authenticity. Barley for baking was popular in Devon, Wales, and Cornwall, and is still widely used today in the north and west, not just in bannocks and porridges, but throughtout Welsh cookery (see David and Hartley). Note the inclusion of a handful of barley in the Cawl ffa.


While there can be many variations of rarebit (more mustard, less mustard, a dash of Worcestershire, a sprinkle of cayenne), ale is universally included. No British recipe ever excludes it, only the puritanised American ones do. The British recipes also suggest that beer (not ale!) is the beverage of choice to serve with the meal.

If you can find it and afford it, use a good, sharp farmhouse cheddar, not the mass-produced stuff. And under no circumstances may you use flourescent American mustard. If you refuse to make your own potent British-style mustard, at least use a Dijon.

First served: Beltane 1993
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Last modified: © February 1995