On the first of March the people of Wales will all be displaying a daffodil fixed to their lapels and if not a daffodil - a leek. For this is St David’s day, the patron saint of Wales. Wales is a land bordering the western side of England around the same size as Massachusetts but very different, with a diverse landscape from mountains of slate, to quiet coastal fishing harbors, to rolling hills dotted with sheep.
The leek is a traditional symbol of Wales brought about by 10th century laws only allowing cabbages and leeks to be cultivated at that time. Therefore as you can imagine leeks feature quite heavily on a Welsh menu. They are often made into hearty soups but they also are a vital ingredient to Glamorgan sausages which are basically finely sliced leeks, breadcrumbs and grated, crumbly Caerphilly cheese mixed with eggs and shaped into ‘sausages’ before frying.
Another traditional Welsh dish is cawl, which is a cross between a soup and a stew consisting of lamb off cuts, bacon, cabbage and our old friend the leek. Left to bubble away quietly for a few hours this dish transforms into a delicious one pot meal.
The Welsh breakfast on seaweed. Well, not only seaweed, but they do like to serve it alongside their eggs and bacon where it is known as laverbread. The shiny black seaweed is collected at low tide, clinging to the rocks, it is then washed several times and boiled for ten hours before being sprinkled with oatmeal and fried in bacon fat. Laverbread is rather like a salty spinach and is available tinned to take out all the hard work of the gathering, washing and boiling.
Just like the English next door, afternoon tea is very popular with the Welsh, often serving up Bara Brith and Welsh cakes. Bara Brith is a traditional sticky cake, made with fruit that has been soaked in tea overnight. It is baked then glazed with honey and served sliced and smothered in butter. Other variations exist, adding extra ingredients such as cinnamon or caraway seeds. Welsh cakes, sometimes called griddle scones or pice ar y maen in the Welsh language, are reminiscent of small thick pancakes or perhaps scones even, with dried fruit as an integral part of any recipe.
There seems to be some disagreement around whether the snack of up market cheese on toast with added beer is called Welsh rabbit or rarebit. But it’s certainly an easy dish to conjure up to make any Welsh person feel at home on St David’s day. So should Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones or Shirley Bassey drop by lunch is sorted.
Photos courtesy of flckr timbetu, horcubee and doeth