It is surprising how thinking of food can bring back so many memories and evoke a time long past when food preparation was slow and eating was a delayed gratification.
A strong childhood memory is trudging home from school in the depths of a dark British winter, snow on the ground, with red nose and ears and frozen to the bone. But on those days the thought of a warm and comforting bowl of traditional Welsh broth or ‘cawl’ (pronounced ‘cowl’) was happily warming.
Cawl has a long history first mentioned for its king-making qualities in an 11th century.
Tumbling through the front door and welcomed by the blast of an open coal fire and the aroma of cawl simmering on the hob was a delight just as great as eating the stew with bread and dripping as an accompaniment.
So what is Traditional Welsh Cawl?
Cawl can be considered a workingman’s food and may have been served as a compliment to the main meal of the day, in Wales it was called supper not dinner.
Cawl is a soup-cum-broth/stew made from root vegetables, leeks, onions, a little parsley and perhaps a touch of wild garlic. The meat is cheap cuts of either mutton or lamb. A brimming bowl of cawl is warming from the top of your head to the tips of your toes as well as the cockles of your heart.
There is even a cawl making competition held in Saundersfoot, west Wales.
To make this hearty broth is easiness itself just a few pieces of mutton or lamb on the bone – get the cheapest cuts.
Cawl is best prepared the day before eating this is to allow the fat to separate and so that the flavours can mingle.
Four large potatoes, four or five carrots and either a small suede, parsnips or turnips, three to four large leeks, one onion, salt and pepper to taste. You will also need four pints of water.
Trim excess fat off the mutton or cheap piece of lamb cover with the water and bring to the boil afterwards simmer for slowly for an hour. Leave to get cold and skim of the fat.
Add the vegetables except the leeks and potatoes and simmer for another hour, adding the halved potatoes continue simmering for 20 minutes after which add the leeks and a sprinkling of parsley and cook for a maximum of five minutes longer.
Serve either as a stew complete with meat and vegetables in the liquid or strain the liquid from the vegetables and eat that as a first course with the vegetables and meat to follow.
Some insist that cawl is best left to cool overnight and re-boiled the next day as this brings out the strength of the flavours.
Welsh cawl is a real winter warmer and good old-fashioned comfort food guaranteed to give you a glow as clear as the winter’s sun.