There are portholes in life when you’re adrift; not knowing if you’re coming or going. This is a dish for those moments. It’s for those murky duvets of time when you only know for sure if it’s 3 am or pm by going outside and squinting at the sky.  This is the sort of food you should make when the fridge is bare, bar eggs and milk collected from a convenience store.

I used to know that feeling care of jet lag, when the lounge room was scattered with suitcases, yawning open and the only sound in the flat was the rattle and hum of the first load of washing.

Now I recognise it from a splintered confusion delivered via something that looks like this, who shakes his fists at the ceiling like an orchestral conductor having a fit and makes muffled noises which make me think he’s repeating his own name over and over and over. It’s someone who doesn’t really believe in shutting his baby-grey eyes and is starving all the time.

The sound edible answer in both of those instances is comfort food- the sort that will sit happily at a table no matter what time of day it is. I think you know what I mean about the timing. Cereal at 5 pm feels sad.  It’s the domain of 15 year old acne pocked boys who could eat the legs off a table if pressed. Similarly, cake at 3 am feels….wrong. Certainly it’s fine for once a year on your birthday, when you’re a little sozzled and find yourself  hacking with a splade at the last piece of something that once had a candle or 30 something in the centre. But it’s not the sort of eating you should make a habit out of. Similarly, when you find yourself  at 7.35 am scoffing one of your husband’s hidden stashes of protein bars (aka fake food), while trapped under a milk-smashed infant and researching dairy recipes in Matthew Evans’ delightful ‘Real Food Companion‘, you know something is askew in the universe.

This cultural hash of a dish was first crafted a few months ago after a late arrival back in London from a trip across to the continent. We came back from our babymoon  (terrible term, quite fun concept) via  the ferry from Calais to Dover.

It may be slow, but it’s terribly civilised. You drive your car onto the ferry and park it in the belly of the boat. In my experience, it’s worth splashing out on flexible tickets- that way if you run into traffic on the way out of London there’s not a terrible panic that you won’t make your scheduled crossing in time. Once on board,  if fun for you doesn’t come from slot machines and cheap booze consumed in plastic bucket seats, then splurge a little for the lounge access. There you’ll get wifi, comfortable chairs, a cup of tea or glass of champagne and the day’s newspapers.

On the way back I sat watching white cliffs creep closer and closer and finished the last corner of an order of an order of Welsh Rarebit while we said our last farewell to France for a while.

From then on  I  couldn’t get the melding of French Toast Welsh Rarebit out of my head. I knew there was a reason, beyond the sheer novelty of the concept why. It takes the best of both places and mashes them into one channel. There’s the pleasing squish of pain perdu, topped with the most soothing of English toppings. Welsh Rarebit is a dish that asks very little of you- it stands tall by leaning heavily on condiments- a muddle of mustard, beer, piquant sauce and cheese in a bubbling, burnished crust on toast.

Take my suggestion; open a decent beer, both to calm your frayed nerves (whether from travelling or from life…) to assist in the sauce. Pluck from the fridge some mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Then rescue from the freezer bread and the grated cheese you keep in there for emergencies. What you have from there is the start of a steadying snack for any time of day of night. In one slice it manages to remind me of both the just-out-of-reach allure of travel and the comforts of being swaddled at home.

Once upon a time I liked to eat it while casting receipts and boarding passes from my purse and tabulating how long it might be before I’m faced with the need to make it again.

These days I eat it with one hand, desperately trying not to get too many crumbs on a baby’s head.

Welsh Rarebit French Toast

Makes 4 slices, serves 2. Is excellent for brunch, lunch with a sharply dressed green salad or a light Sunday night supper in front of the tele. Or at 5 am, if you’re breastfeeding and can convince someone else to make it for you.

Shopping/foraging

4 slices of good quality sourdough bread (it’s ok if it’s a little stale)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup of milk
1 knob of butter

Rarebit topping
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp plain flour
125 ml of beer
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch of cayenne pepper
75 grams of Gruyere or Cheddar cheese, grated

Here’s how we roll

1) Beat together the eggs and the milk.

2) Place the slices of bread in a shallow tray or baking dish. Pour over the egg and milk and allow to soak for 3 minutes. Then turn the slices over and allow the other side to soak.

3) Place a knob of butter onto melt in a fry pan over a medium heat. Cook the eggy-sodden bread, two at a time (if they fit) in the fry pan until the underside is golden. Flip and cook the remaining side. Place the french toast on a baking tray and repeat with the other two slices.

4) To make the rarebit topping first create a roux out of the butter and the flour. Melt the butter in a frypan over a medium heat and stir in the flour. Cook until it takes on a light fawn hue and smells like biscuits.

5) Add the beer and the mustard and stir, cooking over a low-medium heat.

6) When the contents of your pan has thickened to a cohesive sauce remove from the heat.

7) Add the Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and the cheese. Stir to combine, until the cheese melts.

8) Turn on the grill in your oven to medium/high.

9)  Spoon a quarter of the rarebit topping onto each slice of french toast. Use a knife to make a criss/cross pattern in the sauce. Place under the grill until it is bubbling.  Eat hot, but be careful not to scorch your mouth.