Wales has a tradition of living off the land and it’s food reflects that…it’s hearty, simple and straightforward, made with local, seasonal ingredients. It’s food that fed the hearty appetites of the men and women who worked the land: miners, farmers and fishermen. Most Welsh families have their own traditional Welsh recipes that get handed down from generation to generation.
When I came to Wales for the first time I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. Traditional Welsh recipes have exotic sounding names like: cawl, faggots, Welsh Rarebit, laverbread, Welsh Cakes, and Glamorgan sausages. You might not think about “food” and “Wales” at the same time, but here are some of the best traditional Welsh recipes that you will want to cook tonight:
1. Traditional Welsh Cawl
Cawl (rhymes with “owl”) is the national dish of Wales. It is a soup made with what is seasonally available. Like most traditional Welsh cuisine, it developed to sustain men and women who were working the land.
Early cawl would have been made with bacon or maybe goat. Lamb was considered far too valuable a meat to be put in soup. Cawl can be added to to keep it going for several re-heatings. Traditionally cawl included meat, leeks and potatoes, but you can add other vegetables that you have on hand. The meat can be bacon, mutton, lamb, beef or even fish or other seafood. It is usually eaten with crusty bread, salted Welsh butter and, in Brecon, a chunk of Welsh cheese.
2. Bara Brith
In Welsh, ‘bara” means bread and “brith” means speckled. You can make it as a yeasted bread or with self-rising flour. It’s traditionally made with tea, dried fruits and mixed spices, served sliced and buttered at teatime. You can soak the dried fruits…sultanas, raisins, currants…in tea , sherry or brandy to add flavor.
3. Welsh Cakes ( Picau ar y Maen )
These sweet little cakes were traditionally a lunch time staple for working men in Welsh slate mines. Known also as “bakestones”, Welsh cakes are usually cooked on a griddle or on a “maen”, which is a bakestone. If you don’t have a bakestone, a heavy, cast iron frying pan will do.
Here are some variations of Welsh Cakes: ( from Wikipedia )
- Llech Cymraeg: cooked with plain flour (particularly wholemeal flour) and baking powder, resulting in a much flatter and crisper cake. Typically, this variant is made as a slab on a bakestone, or nowadays on a baking tray, hence the name Llech Cymraeg (literally, “Welsh slab”).
- Jam Split: popular in South Wales. As the name suggests, this is a Welsh cake split horizontally, with jam (and sometimes butter)…rather like a sandwich.
- Apple Dragon: Add grated apple to the mix to help keep the cakes moist for longer.
- The Newport Lovely: regional variant hand-crafted by the men of Newport for their women as either a wedding gift or engagement present.
- Mynydd Cymreig: (literally, “Welsh Mountain”): from North Wales. You add double the amount of baking powder, which results in their increased rising. They are also finely coated in icing sugar, symbolizing the seasonal snow cap of some of the higher peaks in Snowdonia.
- The Kiwi Cake: exported by Welsh settlers, the Welsh cake has been produced in New Zealand for many years.
4. Glamorgan Sausages ( Selsig Morgannwg )
The Glamorgan sausage, known in Welsh as “Selsig Morgannwg”, is a traditional Welsh vegetarian sausage whose ingredients typically include Caerphilly cheese, leeks and breadcrumbs. This sausage became popular during the Second World War when meat was scarce. You can vary the ingredients by using a different cheese, using onion or spring onions instead of leeks and adding other flavors such as mustard, parsley, sage or nutmeg.
5. Welsh Rarebit ( Caws Pobi )
This tasty dish was first known as Welsh Rabbit, although “rarebit” became famous or in vogue some 60 years later. You can use either one. Whatever you call it, it is a savory sauce of melted cheese and other ingredients, such as ale, mustard, ground cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce over toasted bread. Easy and delicious, it’s what’s for dinner.
6. Welsh Pancakes ( Crempog )
.The Welsh love their pancakes. These were traditionally made on the bakestone for unexpected guests. Welsh pancakes, known as “crempog” in the North, are usually served dripping with butter. They can be made savory with the addition of some herbs and spring onion or with buttermilk, oats, and speckled with currants and raisins.
Crempog are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, also called “Pancake Day”. The Welsh customs for Shrove Tuesday include kicking cans up and down the street, begging door-to-door for flour and singing cheeky songs and verses.
Modryb Elin Enog
Os gwelwch chi’n dda ga i grempog?
Cew chithau de a siwgr brown
A phwdin lond eich ffedog
Modryb Elin Enog
Mae ‘ngheg i’n grimp am grempog
Mae Mam rhy dlawd i brynu blawd
A Sian yn rhy ddiog i nol y triog
A ‘nhad yn rhy wael i weithio
Os gwelwch chi’n dda ga i grempog.
Auntie Elin Enog
Please may I have a pancake?
You can have tea and brown sugar
And your apron full of pudding
Auntie Elin Enog
My mouth is parched for pancakes
My mum is too poor to buy flour
And Sian is too lazy to get the treacle
And my father’s too sick to work
Please may I have a pancake?
7. Traditional Roast Welsh Lamb ( Oen Cymreig )
Welsh lamb is like wine…it’s flavors come from the earth that it feeds from. Welsh Mountain Lamb is a hardy breed that thrives on wild mountain fragrant herbs and abundant heather.
Salt Marsh Lamb comes from the estuary pastures of the Welsh coastline and carries within its flesh the saltiness of the sea. In between are the lowlands with their sweet juicy grass that makes the meat-rich and the fat crispy.
8. Anglesey Eggs ( Wyau Ynys Mon )
Anglesey Eggs is a simple dish that is a soulful blending of leeks (the Welsh National vegetable), mashed potatoes and cheese sauce. It was a dish created from a scarcity of meat and is the very best kind of comfort food. Make this dish mid-week, when you need some warm, earthy pleasure.
9. Welsh Onion Cake ( Teisien Winwns )
Welsh Onion Cake is another great traditional comfort food, consisting of thin layers of onion, potato and butter. You can have it on its own as a vegetarian main, but it is traditionally a side dish, eaten with lamb or beef.
10. Welsh Faggots ( Ffagodau Cymreig )
The name “faggot” is the old northern British term for uncased sausages. Traditionally, it was made from off-cuts and offal, but now you’ll find that it’s made from pig’s liver and/or pork and beef. It is enjoyed all over Wales, but particularly in mid and south Wales. Welsh Faggots are traditionally served with mashed potatoes, green peas, and onion gravy.
11. Laverbread ( Bara Llawr )
Laverbread is a traditional Welsh delicacy made from seaweed that has been washed and cooked to a dark greenish paste. Laverbread is full of vitamins and minerals, low in calories and high in protein. It is a rare plant source of vitamin B12 and is also full of iron and iodine.
Traditionally, the most popular way to eat laverbread is to roll it with oatmeal and cook it in bacon fat until crispy. It is mostly seen in a traditional miner’s breakfast of bacon, eggs, and cockles before a long day at the pits.