Traditional Welsh Food
Traditional Welsh Cooking. Mmm... there's lovely!
Often when people think of Wales, they are reminded of mountains and Welsh Male Voice Choirs and railway stations with unpronounceable names. Yep, I can say... Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
However, it often takes a little while before visitors realise that Wales has a deep-rooted culinary tradition all of its own. Many dishes are localised and often are unheard of in other parts of the country, while many more are typically consumed all over Wales. Who hasn't heard of the Welsh penchant for seaweed (laverbread) or the ubiquitous Welsh cake? Lamb is one of our finest exports being the best in the world, and Welsh cheese has a fine reputation. Wales also has several excellent breweries, both large and smaller family-owned ones.
Croeso - Welcome, come and enjoy a delicious exploration through these traditional foods of Wales.
Please note: Unfortunately many people have decided that it's okay to steal this article and publish it as their own. I have issued DMCAs to as many as I can - know that I am the original creator and owner of this piece.
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Warm up your family this winter with a hearty Welsh dish
Cawl is a wonderful dish, perfect for autumn and winter evenings, which can be adapted in many different ways. Traditionally it is a straightforward lamb (or beef) and vegetable stew. The vegetables included are dependent upon what is in season. Root vegetables are king here, apart from the ubiquitous Welsh leek, which absolutely, undeniably, indisputably must be included. And onions. Of course.
Sometimes Cawl would be served as a two-course meal. The broth would be strained off and served as a light soup then the meat and vegetables would be the main course.
It was usually cooked in a cast iron pot or cauldron over an open fire but these days it is pretty good in a slow-cooker or casserole dish. Traditionally Cawl was eaten in wooden bowls with wooden spoons so that there was no fear of burning the mouth. The best cawl is started on Monday but not eaten until Wednesday. Eat with home-made bread and golden, creamy Welsh butter.
Cawl should be started the day before so that any fat can be skimmed off and all the flavours amalgamate.
- 1-1.5 kg/2-3 lb. Welsh lamb best end of neck cutlets. If lamb is difficult to get hold of, casserole beef is pretty good in this recipe too.
- 1 large sliced onion
- 3 leeks
- 2 medium sliced carrots
- 1 medium parsnip
- 1 small swede turnip (rutabaga) or 2 white turnips
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 6 small potatoes
- salt and pepper
- 2 litres (8 cups) water
- If in season cabbage, celery, etc., can all be used.
1. Trim the fat from the meat as much as you can but don't worry too much about it - it will melt into the stew and add flavour.
2. Cover with cold water, add salt and pepper, bring to the boil, simmer slowly for 1 hour.
3. Allow to cool (preferably overnight) and skim off all the fat.
4. Put in all the vegetables except 1 leek, the potatoes and half the parsley.
5. Cover and simmer very slowly for 1 hour, then add the potatoes, halved and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
6. Add the remainder of the parsley, taste for seasoning and finely chop the remaining leek (green and white part) on top. Let it cook for 5 minutes and serve.
Traditional Welsh Christmas
The people of Wales were, in the main, a poor race. The rugged landscape was difficult to farm and only certain areas, such as Pembroke and the border lands were rich and fertile. Most people experienced hard times and Christmas was celebrated more with customs than feasting. However, the Christmas cake was a big part of the celebrations... a rich fruit cake topped with candied peel and nuts - very similar to the familiar Dundee cake.
Laverbread is made from laver, an edible seaweed found along the coast of Wales. It must be washed repeatedly to get rid of the sand... however, theRaggedEdge has found most laverbread to be extremely gritty and not to mention, slimy. It is considered a staple in some areas and a delicacy by many people. It is also becoming quite fashionable among the celebrity chef set.
It is high in iodine and has a tangy taste - a little like oysters and olives.
Photo courtesy of Selwyns Seafoods
A hearty Welsh breakfast
A traditional Welsh breakfast is similar to a 'full English' but with variations.
A Welsh breakfast comprises grilled Welsh bacon, locally produced pork sausages, black pudding, eggs (may be poached, scrambled or fried), laverbread, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms (fried in butter) and baked beans. In some areas cockles may be on the menu too.
Mmmmmm..... won't need to eat for three days after that little lot, cariad.
Bara Brith is a glorious cake-like fruited bread. Its name translates to 'speckled bread'. It can be made with or without yeast. The yeast-less version uses self-raising flour and is more cake than bread.
It was taken to Argentina by Welsh settlers in the 19th century and is now a traditional food item there known as 'torta negra' or 'black cake'.
The yeast version must be eaten fairly quickly as it doesn't keep for as long as the self-raising one. Though, really, that isn't a problem as this bread goes very nicely with a cup of tea. And talking of tea... the dried fruit is soaked in a strong cup of black tea overnight before making the cake the following day.
Every area, indeed every family would have a variation of this recipe. And all claimed that theirs was the one true Bara Brith.
Bara Brith recipe
Here is a recipe adapted from the BBC Good Food Guide
- 400g/14oz mixed fruit
- 75g/2.5oz dried cranberries
- mug hot strong black tea
- 100g/4oz butter, plus extra for greasing
- 2 heaped tablespoons orange marmalade
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 450g/16oz self-raising flour - try a mix of wholemeal and white
- 175g/6oz light soft brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon and ground ginger
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 50g/2oz crushed sugar cubes or granulated sugar, to decorate
1. Mix the dried fruit and cranberries in a bowl, then pour the hot tea over. Cover and leave overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas
3. Butter a 900g/2lb loaf tin and line the bottom with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
4. Melt marmalade and butter in a pan. Cool for 5 mins, before beating in the eggs.
5. Drain excess liquid from the fruit.
6. Mix the flour, sugar and spices together, stir in the fruit, the butter mix and milk until evenly combined. The batter should have a dropping consistency - add extra milk if necessary.
7. Spoon the batter into the tin and smooth. Sprinkle on the crushed sugar. Bake for 1-1¼ hrs until dark golden. Insert a skewer or sharp knife. It should come out clean.
Tip: Cover loosely with foil if the Bara Brith starts to over-darken before the middle is cooked. Allow to cool in the tin and serve sliced. Spread on golden Welsh butter and enjoy with a strong mug of tea.
The origins of Welsh Rarebit have been lost in the mists of time. There is much speculation about whether it should be 'rarebit' or 'rabbit'. I live in Wales and have never heard it called 'rabbit'. Most of us call it 'cheese on toast', or 'tost'. It isn't just grilled cheese on toast though; there's a little more to it than that.
- 1 piece of toast
- 100g mature cheddar (or similar)
- 30g butter
- 1 tsp flour
- 70ml left over beer, preferably something strong and dark
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- a pinch of cayenne or a splash of Worcestershire sauce
1. Thinly slice or grate the cheese.
2. Put the butter and flour in a small saucepan and cook for a few minutes.
3. Add the ale, seasoning and cheese.
4. Cook over a low heat until the cheese has melted. Do not allow to get too hot.
4. Pour over the toast and put under the grill for a minute. Dust with cayenne or sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce and eat at once.
Read more on the history of Welsh Rarebit.
Useful Links to Welsh Food Sites
More Exploration of Wales' Culinary Traditions
- Food and Drink in Wales. Site has some alternative versions of recipes on this page.
- Welsh Cuisine on Wikipedia Wikipedia article listing even more food particular to Wales.
- Historic UK: "A Taste of Wales"
- Welsh Recipes by Trevor Jones: "Welsh Recipes"
- Wales, The True Taste has a searchable database of Welsh recipes. Try Chargrilled Welsh Lamb Steak With Laverbread Citrus Sauce
- Really Welsh are growers and suppliers of good, honest produce. Their site has information, recipes and a fun quiz to see how really Welsh you are!
Roast Leg of Welsh Lamb
Directions for Roast Leg of Lamb
- Calculate cooking time at 25 minutes per pound (half kilo) plus an extra 25 minutes. The meat will also require a 20 minute resting period in a warm place after cooking. If you prefer your lamb rare, reduce to 15 minutes per pound. Lamb will cook through easily because of the bone.
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C)
- Wash and dry the leg of lamb and place on a rack in a roasting tin. Make deep slits in the skin and press in a mixture of minced garlic, butter, finely chopped spring onion, parsley and salt. Lay two sprigs of young rosemary on top, reserve a few more sprigs for serving.
- Add a litre of water to the pan with a cup of red wine.
- Place the roast in the oven. After 5 minutes reduce heat to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C). Check during cooking and cover loosely with foil if the surface darkens too much.
- After cooking, remove from oven, place on a board or warmed plate, cover with foil and keep in a warm place for 20 minutes before carving.
- Use the liquor in the pan to make gravy.
- Tip: to make a really tasty gravy add a couple of shallots and/or cloves of garlic to the water and wine during cooking.
A great reputable supplier of Welsh Lamb is based in Torfaen: Douglas Willis