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dygwyl cymreig: ‘Welsh feast day’

Dan BurkhartChopped leeks appear in many traditional Welsh dishes, and love spoons like Louise Jones' (above) are an art form from the 1600s.
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March 1 is the feast day of St. David, the patron saint of Wales. Daffodils and leeks also symbolize Wales and burst forth at this time.

The only Welsh saint to be canonized in the Western church, he has been the patron saint of Wales since the 12th century.



Louise Jones, our global gourmet, says, “Leeks are used in many traditional Welsh dishes, but it is unlikely that St. David actually lived, as legend suggests, on bread and wild leeks.”




He gained the name Aquaticus by the ninth century because he and the monks of his order were supposed to have drunk only water. It is thought that St. David founded 10 monasteries including Glastonbury, and that the monks were vegetarians.

According to Jones, “Wales is a land where the sun rarely shines. If you are a citizen of Wales, you likely have one of three surnames: Evans, Jones or Williams. The tune ‘All Through the Night’ serves as the national anthem.”

One of her treasures from traveling there is a hand-carved love spoon. “The carving of love spoons is a token of affection and is a national art form,” she says. “The tradition goes back to the mid-1600s.”

“Welsh cuisine tends to be a hearty ploughman’s style,” she added.

The following is an example of the kind of fare you are likely to find there.

Potato Cakes

(Teisennau Tatws)

1 pound potatoes

4 ounces self-rising flour

1 ounce sugar

1 ounce butter

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice

1/2 cup milk or 1 egg

Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water. Drain the potatoes and mix in all the ingredients. Turn out potato mixture onto a floured board and shape into rounds about 1 inch thick. Place on greased baking sheet and cook in a 400 degrees oven for 20 minutes. Serve hot.

If you blend leek and potato soup until it is smooth, it becomes vichyssoise. The Welsh people originally migrated from Brittany in France, hence the common origin. However, the Welsh prefer their soup as a “textured” soup.

Leek and Potato Soup

(Sop Cennin a Thatws)

2 large leeks

1 pound potatoes

1 ounce butter

11/2 cups of stock

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Peel and cut up the potatoes. Clean and slice leeks crosswise. Fry the vegetables in a saucepan in the butter for five minutes. Stir in the stock and add salt and pepper to taste. Put a lid on the pan and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the milk and reheat, but do not boil to prevent the milk from curdling. Add the parsley; season to taste. Serve garnished with grated cheese.

Baked Cothi Salmon

(Og Cothi O’r Ffwrn)

1 large fresh salmon

5 ounces butter

Salt and pepper

1/2 cucumber

1 lemon

2 egg yolks

1-2 tablespoons lemon juice or wine vinegar

Pinch cayenne pepper

Wash the salmon in salted water, dry, trim, and cut into steaks. Line a roasting tin with baking foil and coat the foil with butter. Place the fish steaks on the foil. Season with salt and pepper and top each steak with a knob of butter. Cover with foil and bake in a fairly hot oven, 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Peel and slice the cucumber and saute gently in butter in a saucepan. Set aside for garnish.

Whisk the egg yolks, vinegar and seasoning in a pan over hot water until the sauce thickens. Add 2 ounces butter, a small piece at a time. If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little hot water. When the fish is cooked, place it on a large plate and surround with cucumber slices. Serve with the egg sauce.

Welsh Gingerbread

(Bara Sinsir Cymreig)

This recipe uses some ingredients that are not readily available. For black treacle, which is a dark syrup, use molasses. For Demerara sugar, use natural sugar.

1 cup flour

6 ounces black treacle

6 ounces Demerara sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 ounces minced citrus peel

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup milk

Sift the flour with the baking soda and cream of tartar. Rub the butter into the flour and add the other dry ingredients. Add the treacle and milk. Mix well. Place in a greased 8-inch square baking dish and bake in a slow oven, 300 degrees for 11/2 hours. Let cool and serve with lemon curd.

Lemon Curd

(Ceuled Lemwn)

4 lemons

5 eggs

21/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup Butter

Scrub the lemons well. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out the juice and strain. Grate the rind. Pour the juice into a double saucepan. Beat the eggs and add to the juice with the sugar and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar; add grated rind. Continue heating and stirring until the curd thickens. To store, place in sterilized jars and cover and refrigerate.

Glamorgan Sausages

(Selsig Morgannwg)

2 cups fresh white bread crumbs

1 small onion, minced

3 ounces grated cheese

Salt and pepper

Pinch mustard

2 eggs

Flour to coat

Mix bread crumbs, cheese, onion and seasonings. Beat together one egg and one egg yolk and use to bind mixture. Mold mixture into 12 even-sized sausage shapes and roll in flour. Coat in beaten egg white and roll in flour again. Fry in hot oil. Serves six.

Serve with fresh green salad and red peppers.

Trout and Bacon

(Brithyll A Chig Moch)

1 rainbow trout per person

Fresh rosemary

Fresh thyme

Fresh parsley

Fresh sage

1 rasher of bacon per person

1 teaspoon butter per person

Clean trout, leaving head and tail on. Stuff with a mixture of fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage loosely chopped and blended with a little butter.

Wrap the fish in a long rasher of bacon. Enclose in foil and bake in a hot oven, 375 degrees about 25-30 minutes.

Open top of foil and shape like a boat, paint with a little butter and serve with boiled potatoes and plain fresh vegetables.

This dish used to be baked in an open fire with the fish encased in mud.

Bette Worth writes a column for The Union on Wednesdays. You can write her in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or she can be reached at


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