Friday, 24 February 2017

Welsh - Irish Soda Bread

In reality this is simply a classic Irish soda bread with a bit of bacon, leek and good strong Welsh cheddar thrown in for good measure!  The leek and Welsh cheddar are what make it a Welsh soda bread!

275g wholemeal flour (I used spelt wholemeal for its nutty flavour)

75g plain flour

50g oatmeal

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 ½ tsp salt

1tsp sugar

1 egg

1 x 284ml carton buttermilk

100g strong Welsh cheddar

3 rashers of bacon

The green part of a medium leek

Cut the bacon rashers into strips and dry-fry until crisp, leave to cool and then chop finely.

Halve the leek lengthways, half lengthways again and then slice across to dice fairly small and then cook in appx 1tsp of butter for a few minutes until softened and starting to brown.  Add the finely chopped bacon and combine.

Grate the cheese and add to the cooled leek and bacon mixture.

Combine the flours in a mixing bowl with the oatmeal, salt, sugar and bicarb.  Stir in the cheese and bacon mixture.

Beat the egg in a large-ish basin and then add the buttermilk and mix well together then add to the flour and cheese mixture.  Mix together gently and then tip onto a well floured worktop, shape into an oval and pop onto a greased baking sheet.

Brush with a little milk and then scatter a little more grated cheese over the top.

Bake at 190oC for 50 – 60 minutes. 

(190oC / 375oF / gas mark 5)

Cawl - Welsh Lamb Stew

The only real difference between a traditional Welsh Cawl and its Celtic cousin Irish Stew is the more broth-like consistency, lack of barley and inclusion of leek, swede/turnip and dumplings in the Welsh version.   

It’s a delicious stew which benefits from being made a day in advance so that it as it sits in the oven overnight the flavours meld and mature.

For two to three people :

2 lamb leg steaks
1 stick of celery
1 large or two small leeks
2 medium carrots
½ medium swede / 2 small turnips
2 medium potatoes

Scant ½ tb flour
2 pints of lamb stock
1tb olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the dumplings you need :

1tb self raising flour
1tb suet
Salt and pepper to taste
Enough water to bring together to a slack dough. 

Firstly cut the leg steaks into large pieces, coat with the flour and fry in the olive oil to brown on all sides.  Remove to a plate as they are browned.

Slice the leek/s lengthways and rinse well under running water, then cut into slices approximately ½ an inch thick.  Finely chop the celery stick, peel the carrots and swede/turnip and cut into coarse dice and then do the same with the potatoes.

Add a little more oil to the pan if needed, and gently sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes.  Return the lamb to the pan and add the lamb stock then add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on a very low simmer for two hours, or pop it into the oven to cook at 150oC for two hours.

At the end of the cooking time make the dumplings by adding the flour, suet and seasoning to a small basin and mix with enough cold water to combine to a slightly wetter dough than bread or pastry.  Scoop tablespoonfuls onto the stew and pop back into the oven.  If you’re cooking ahead of time and you have an electric oven, you can turn the oven off now and the dumplings will cook in the cooling oven.  If you have a gas oven they will need about half an hour cooking before you can turn the oven off.

* I had this delicious Cawl recently on a short holiday to the lovely coastal town of Aberaeron, and they serve it in the 'Brecon Style'.  Instead of a suet dumpling, you get a lump of cheese on the side and a bread roll.  For those of us obsessed with maintaining our cheese intake, this method is highly recommended, and probably better for the cholesterol levels too!

(150oC = 300oF = gas mark 2)

Friday, 3 February 2017

February - Transitions

With January behind us, things are starting to look a bit brighter at last.  Little by little the days are starting to grow a little longer and our outside lives can start to take shape again.  Hopefully the shock of January’s parsimony is behind us and we’ve adjusted to smaller portions (adjusted to, lost hope – potayto, potarto!) and the excesses of Christmas a dim and distant memory. 

Cheese and Potato Pie
Outside we can begin tidying up the garden and gearing up for a lovely spring and then a glorious summer.  Already in my garden the bulbs are showing through now, snowdrops and crocuses at first, daffs and tulips to come.  As pretty as the little snowdrops are, the crocuses are my real favourite, the golden yellow and glorious purple flowers always raise a smile.

n the kitchen not much has changed yet, soups, casseroles, mashed potato topped pies and pasta bakes are still very much the order of the day.  We need the comfort and sustenance. 

Spaghetti Carbonara

One of my favourite winter treat pies is the very calorie laden cheese and potato pie that I first learned to make in cookery lessons in school.  I replaced the onion (which used to be boiled up with the potato!) with chopped leek which I slowly sweat in butter before adding to the mashed potato and cheese.  Another one of my favourites is good old spaghetti carbonara.  A classic treat and it takes next to no time to prepare - it can all be done in the 10 minutes it takes the pasta to cook.

At least February is a nice short month, and the last one of the winter season too!  Spring is just around the corner with all its the promise.