Sian Griffiths states the case for Welsh cuisine on St David’s Day (and she has few recipes up her sleeve)…
In my opinion, Welsh food is one of the most underrated of national cuisines. As a born-and-bred Welsh girl, you might think me a little biased – but, if you really think about it, Wales has so much to offer when it comes to quality food.
Historically, the Welsh have a tradition of living off the land, and wholesome, satisfying fare made with a few, quality ingredients has always been the aim. Take cawl as an example – it’s cheap, hearty and delicious. The essence of this is still present in modern Welsh cuisine today: it’s all about excellent ingredients simply cooked, which allows the flavours to speak for themselves.
The humble leek is the national symbol of Wales, and Welsh rarebit is a famous dish, but Welsh cooking certainly isn’t limited to this. Welsh lamb is justifiably famous all over the world, owing to the lush pastures on which it is farmed; Camarthen ham is a premium product (and a favourite of HRH The Prince of Wales) ; the country boasts an array of award-winning cheese, Caerphilly, Tintern and Y Fenni amongst them; the Pembrokeshire coastline provides some of the finest fresh fish; edible seaweed (known as ‘Welshman’s caviar’) is collected from the Gower; and the mussel farms of Bangor and Anglesey oysters are also well-known for their quality shellfish.
When it comes to eating out, Wales is also home to some fantastic restaurants – from The Walnut Tree in Monmouth and Tyddyn Llan in Llandrillo (both of which boast a Michelin star) to Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth to The Checkers in Montgomery. You’re completely spoilt for choice.
This St David’s Day (or Dydd Gŵyl Dewi), I’ll be rustling up some classic Welsh dishes – it is a feast day after all.
Ingredients (serves 8)
1 Leg of Welsh lamb or best end or rump
1 stick of celery
Clove of garlic
Sprig of rosemary
For the potatoes
500g old potatoes
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
30g butter, melted
Seasoning – salt & pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
2. Roughly chop the vegetables and place in a roasting tin with the herbs, garlic and leg of lamb – if using a rack or rump seal the outer surface in hot oil before placing in the roasting tray.
3. Baste the leg with a little oil and season well with salt and cracked black pepper, place in the hot oven for 40 minutes until well coloured.
4. Meanwhile peel and finely slice the potatoes and onion, do not place in water or wash the potatoes after slicing. In a large bowl add salt and pepper. Place into a casserole dish arranging the top layer decoratively and barely cover with the stock, brush with the melted butter.
5. Turn down the heat to 160°C and place the leg onto the potatoes to finish roasting for a further 60 minutes or so depending on the size of the leg, allow 20 minutes per ½ kilo as a guide. By cooking the lamb on top of the potatoes the juices provide extra flavour and it becomes a one pot dish. If using the rump or rack adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure the lamb is kept pink and moist. In all cases remove from the oven and wrap in foil and keep warm for at least 15 minutes before carving to allow the joint to rest.
6. The roasting tray with the vegetables can be de-glazed with a little lamb stock, re-boiled and strained to give a nice roast gravy to accompany the lamb
Glamorgan sausages (traditional vegetarian sausages)
Ingredients (makes 16 small sausages)
225g/8oz fresh breadcrumbs
125g/5oz grated cheese
3 medium size free-range eggs
A little milk
Salt and white pepper
1/4 tsp dry mustard
175g/6oz leek shredded finely and sautéed in a little butter for 2 minutes
1 heaped tablespoon of fresh, chopped parsley
100g/4oz fresh breadcrumbs
1 medium size free-range egg
4 tbsp milk
Vegetable oil for frying
1. Place the breadcrumbs, cheese, seasoning, mustard, leek and parsley into a mixing bowl, mix well. Beat together the eggs, and add to the ingredients. Mix the ingredients to form a firm dough, you may need a little milk if the mixture is a little dry. Divide the mixture into 16, and form each portion into a sausage shape.
2. Coating the sausages is optional, however this does give a wonderful crispy texture to the sausages. Beat the egg and add the milk. Place the breadcrumbs on a plate and season lightly. Take each sausage and roll it in the egg mixture, drain a little, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Repeat until all the sausages are coated, chill for 30 minutes.
3. Heat a heavy base frying pan, add a little oil, add the sausages a few at a time and cook over a medium-low heat until golden all over. The sausages should fry gently, if the heat is too high they will brown too quickly and not be cooked through.
4. These sausages are delicious served with a tomato salad. Use ripe tomatoes, sliced together with a little red onion. Dress with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, freshly ground black pepper.
Bara Brith (‘speckled bread’)
450g/1lb self raising flour
1tsp mixed spice
175g/6oz Muscavado sugar
1 medium size free-range egg
1tbsp orange zest
2tbsp orange juice
300ml/½pt cold tea
450g/1lb mixed, dried fruit
Extra honey for glazing
1. Put the mixed dried fruit into a mixing bowl, pour over the tea, cover and leave to soak overnight.
2. The next day mix together the sugar, egg, orange juice, zest and honey, add to the fruit. Sift in the flour and spice, and mix well.
3. Pour the mixture into a buttered loaf tin.
4. Bake in a preheated oven at gas3/160c/325f for about 1¾ hours. The loaf should be golden in colour and firm to the touch in the middle.
5. Baste with honey whilst still warm. Allow to cool thoroughly before storing in a cake tin.
6. The recipe for Bara Brith can be altered slightly by adding a few flavours. When soaking the fruit, substitute ¼ of the fluid with a whisky liqueur. Replace the honey and fruit juice with 2 tablespoons of marmalade. Alternatively, replace two tablespoons of fruit with chopped stem ginger, and replace the juice and honey with lemon marmalade, and the orange zest with lemon.
Looking for more inspiration? Try The Welsh Cookbook (Amberley Publishing, 2014).