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Wales . . .

Traditional Welsh Food

By Suzan Flanagan

Leeks, laverbread, and lamb flavor Wales' cuisine.

As the national emblem, leeks spice up hearty soups, Anglesey eggs, Glamorgan sausages, and roast joints. Since the 10th century, if not longer, leeks have easily grown in Wales. (The medieval ruler Hywel Dda, who consolidated Welsh laws, mentions leeks and cabbages in the Laws of Hywel Dda.)

Traditional Welsh dishes incorporate "food of the land." Common staples include oats, leeks, cabbage, fresh fish, pork, and lamb. Those foods and other local ingredients have shaped Welsh cookery.

Native to the south and west coast of Wales, laverbread is derived from laver seaweed, which is rich in iron and iodine. The fine, silky weed grows beneath other seaweeds and is often confused with sea lettuce. Once harvested, the laver weed is rinsed, boiled, strained, and minced.

Seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper, laverbread goes well with dry toast. Laverbread is usually served fried with oatmeal, bacon, and cockles, or added to sauces that complement fried foods and meats. (Some claim that laverbread is an aphrodisiac; others believe it extends one's life expectancy.)

With Wales' sheep-dotted countryside, lamb is a given on most menus: roast Welsh lamb, spiced mutton, Welsh lamb pie, or even lamb with honey, garlic and white wine sauce. Alternate sauces include mint sauce, laver sauce, rowanberry jelly, and gooseberry or rhubarb mint jelly. (Welsh mountain sheep yield sweeter meat than other breeds.)

Traditional Welsh breakfasts consist of local eggs and bacon, cockles and laverbread, grilled tomatoes and Anglesey eggs (mashed leeks and potatoes with boiled eggs and cheese), Glamorgan sausages (a vegetarian blend of cheese, leeks, and breadcrumbs), and fried mushrooms and potatoes.

Come teatime, nibble some pice ar y maen (Welsh cakes) or bara brith (speckled bread). Served sliced with butter, speckled bread is a rich fruit loaf made of marmalade and dried fruit that was steeped in tea. Welsh cakes are sweet-dough, griddle scones with currants and sultanas.

Snack on farmhouse cheese, or the old standby, caws pobi, better known as Welsh rarebit (melted Caerphilly cheese on toast).

For dinner, sample the Welsh black beef, venison, cawl (a hearty broth made with winter vegetables and meat, usually Welsh lamb), or cawl cennin (leek soup made with potatoes, leeks, milk, and butter). Salmon, shellfish, and sewin (sea trout, often cooked in folded leek leaves or wrapped in bacon) tempt seafood lovers.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with homemade ice cream, teisen lap (a moist cake enjoyed by Welsh miners), or Snowdon pudding (a mixture of cornflour, breadcrumbs, raisins and lemon marmalade, served with white sauce).

Finally, cleanse your palate with Welsh whisky, wine, or ale.


Epicure, A. The Food of Wales. Helen's Internet Book of British Cooking. Retrieved May 27, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.hwatson.force9.co.uk/regional%20cooking/welshfood.htm

Freeman, B. (1997). Traditional Food From Wales. New York: Hippocrene Books.

Owen, T. (1991). A Pocket Guide: The Customs and Traditions of Wales. Cardiff, Wales: University of Wales Press.

For recipes, refer to these Food and Drink resources.

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