Location: Great Britain
Population: 3.2 million
Geography: A mountainous nation in south western Great Britain
Language: Welsh, English
Signature flavours: Lamb, mutton, beef, dairy, leek, seafood, potato, cabbage
Eric’s Wales assignment marked our first foray into British cuisine. He went in having heard only of Welsh rarebit — cheese on toast — which he learned was a put-down suggesting that to Welsh people, cheese was as fancy as rabbit.
“We will not be having Welsh rarebit,” he told me, and went on to curate a menu that touched on the varied flavours of Wales (including cheese!), mostly drawing from online sources.
We keep Wooden Spoon Wanderer pescatarian, and some assignments are more difficult than others when it comes to meatless recipes and meat alternatives. Because of its peasant past, Wales has many meat-free or nearly meat-free recipes, and Eric found plenty that were already pescatarian or easy to convert.
Glamorgan Sausage: Breaded and pan-fried Welsh cheddar cheese “sausages” served with a tangy red onion and chilli relish.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Leek and Mustard Vinaigrette with Buffalo Brie: A salad of fried leeks in a light mustard dressing, which Eric served with water crackers and a thick slab of creamy brie made from buffalo milk. The leek is a symbol of Wales, and is even featured on the national emblem.
Prep and cooking time: 10 min
Cockles and Laver: Cockles are small shellfish, which Eric found jarred in brine. Laver is stewed seaweed, sometimes made into an oat loaf called laverbread. Cockles and laver are a traditional pairing, and we ate both with crackers.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Tatws Pum Munud: Translated as “five minute potatoes,” this is a traditional scalloped potato dish (which Eric reports takes much longer than five minutes) made with potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, ham, broth, and Worcestershire sauce .
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Welsh Cakes: Scone-like cakes studded with citrus peal and dried currants, topped with raspberry compote and brandy-infused whipped cream.
Prep and cooking time: 90 min
The Shopping List
Eric found everything he needed locally except the cockles. These he ordered from Blighty’s, a store in Orangeville, Ontario, that offers a comprehensive catalogue of all things British.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the meal when I sat down at Eric’s table for our Welsh feast.
The Glamorgan sausages were crunchy on the outside, and soft and cheesy in the middle. The cheese inside was a young Welsh cheddar, aged just 14 months. Though Caerphilly would have been more traditional, Eric was unable to find it where we live. The relish added a nice bit of heat and tanginess.
We enjoyed Carr’s crackers with heaps of brie and leeks, and then with scoops of laver and a few cockles. The cockles and laver, as you can imagine, were very ocean-forward. I found them very salty together, but enjoyed them a lot on their own.
I’m a potato aficionado, and the tatws pum munud was no exception — tender potatoes with carrots, peas, and salty ham was a hearty treat for a potato lover like me.
Dessert was a Welsh cake each, slathered with compote and heaped with brandy-flavoured whipped cream. It was decadent without being overly rich, and would have gone perfectly with a cup of strong tea.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.