The 1st of March is on its way, and for those of you who don’t know, that means one thing for Welsh people everywhere…it’s St David’s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi)!
St David is the patron saint of Wales, and every March the 1st Welsh people celebrate the feast of St David to commemorate his life and death.
But St David’s day has grown over the years into so much more than that. It has become a day when we all truly embrace and celebrate all things Welsh. We gather with our families, wear a daffodil or leek on our shirts, sing some truly banging Welsh tunes, and eat our weight in some delicious dishes.
Welsh children also dress up in traditional welsh dress, which is possibly the cutest thing ever. So if you’re a Welshie that wants some fun ideas on how to celebrate, or a Welshie lover, then here are some glorious ways to ‘slay’ St David’s Day!
1. Bake some Welsh Cakes
There is nothing more delicious, warm and scrummy than a Welsh cake. Dating back to the late 18th/19th century, Welsh cakes were traditionally baked on a bakestone, or griddle on an open fire. As Wales had a huge mining community, traditionally when the men would work down in the pits their wives at home would make them Welsh cakes to eat as they were pretty durable and easy to carry.
They could easily fit in a miner’s pocket to provide that little boost of joy during a hard day. Obviously, having your own bakestone or griddle is a bit of a stretch (but pretty awesome if you do!), so they can also be made in a frying pan! Here is a delicious Welsh Cake recipe to try out for your loved ones!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons well-chilled lard
2 ounces butter, chilled and cubed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dried currants
2-3 tablespoons milk
Granulated sugar for garnish on finished cakes
Important Recipe Notes:
There are a few things in this recipe you really must know. For starters, don’t substitute the caster sugar. If you can’t find it, take some granulated sugar and pulse it in your food processor until it has an ultra-fine texture. No, it’s not acceptable to use powdered sugar here.
Another thing is that unless you can’t find it anywhere, you should stick to using the ground mace. This spice is very aromatic and brings out the traditional flavours of this heavenly teacake.
Welsh bakers everywhere will tell you that lard is essential for getting that texture just right. If you can’t find it though, you can substitute it with butter.
One last thing…you can substitute those currants for something else if you’d like, though it’s best to keep things dry. Wet ingredients can throw off the balance of the
recipe, leaving you with an undesirable texture. Try chocolate chips, coconut shreds, dried cranberries, and things like these to experiment with new Welsh cake flavours.
Mix the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, mace, salt, and cinnamon together. Then add the lard and butter, mixing in by hand or if you’d prefer with your food processor. It should look like coarse crumbs when all is said and done.
Add in the currants (or whatever other item you’re using), then the beaten egg. Work in the milk little by little until the dough is soft. It shouldn’t feel wet or sticky. Wrap it and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll it out onto a floured surface so the dough reaches about 1⁄4-inch thickness. Using a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds. Re-roll the scraps again and again until you use up every last bit.
Once your rounds are ready, heat your Welsh cakes griddle over medium heat. You can butter the griddle or lightly grease it with lard. Cook each Welsh cake 3 to 4 minutes per side. They should be lightly browned. If they start cooking too quickly, turn down the heat to prevent burning the outsides before the insides cook.
Allow them to cool for a minute or two after cooking, then as they’re still warm, stick them in a small bowl with the granulated sugar to coat it. And then, enjoy these delightful Welsh cakes!
2. Wear a leek or daffodil with pride
There are many legends and no end of folklore around the special wearing of the leek in Welsh traditions.
One such piece of lore suggests that the soldiers serving under British King, Cadawaladyr, were encouraged to wear leeks in their helmets to recognise fellow countrymen during a battle with the Saxons. Another weird and wonderful anecdote tells of a battle against France during the 14th century where Welsh archers were said to have fought bravely in a field of leeks.
Over the years, the leek has become a prominent symbol of Wales, which is why you will find a lot of them being worn on the lapels of Welsh people on March 1st.
As an alternative to the leek, many Welsh people wear a daffodil on St David’s Day. The daffodil is thought to be the first flower of spring and just so happens to be the national flower of Wales.
So whether you go for fresh or fake, pop a daff on your coat this March to show your Welsh joy!
3. Make a big bowl of Cawl
Believed to have burst on to the Welsh scene in the 14th Century, cawl is one of the oldest and most delicious dishes to have originated in Wales. Every grandmother in Wales will have a different recipe for cawl, passed down to them through the generations of strong Welsh women. Made mostly of root vegetables, cawl is traditionally made in the winter. However, as it is probably the Welshest dish ever, it’s only right to have a delightful bowl of it on March the 1st. Here is a delicious recipe for you to share with your loved ones.
1 kg lamb neck , bone in, cut into 5cm chunks (ask your butcher) 1 kg swede
500g Maris Piper potatoes
3 large leeks
Mature Caerphilly cheese , to serve
Pour 2 litres of water into a large pan with 2 teaspoons of sea salt, then bring to the boil over a high heat. Peel and add the whole onion, along with the lamb.
Bring back to the boil, skimming away any scum from the surface. Simmer on a medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the lamb is cooked through.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb to a plate and leave until cool enough to handle.
While it’s cooling, peel the swede, chop into 1cm chunks, and add to the pan to get a headstart. Peel the carrots and parsnips, slice at a slight angle 1cm thick, and drop them into the pan. Now peel the potatoes and cut into 4cm chunks.
Strip all the lamb meat from the bone, and return the meat to the pan with the potatoes. Bring back to the boil, then simmer it all for 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost tender, while you wash the leeks and cut them into 1cm-thick slices.
Now you can eat this straight away if you want to – simply stir the leeks into the pan, bring to the boil again, then simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on, or until tender. Taste and season to perfection.
For even tastier results, let it chill overnight. In which case, simply stir in the raw leeks, cover, and pop into the fridge, where it will keep for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to serve, gently simmer the cawl until warm through, then season.
Either way, ladle into serving bowls and serve with lots of black pepper, a wedge of mature Caerphilly cheese and a slice of good bread and butter for dunking.
4. Make a delicious loaf of Bara Brith
Bara Brith, or “Tea Loaf” is a traditional Welsh cake that is made mostly of dried fruits such as raisins or sultanas. However unlike a generic cake, bara brith is best eaten in cut slices which are slathered with butter, making it similar in a way to a type of bread.
Every time I go back to Wales to visit my family, my mamgu (grandmother) sends myself and my husband home with a bara brith, which we shamelessly consume almost whole, while cruising down the M4.
Simply put, bara brith is a must-have for anyone looking to enjoy a traditionally Welsh St David’s Day. It’s easy to make (provided you follow the recipe you have chosen!) and above all it is absolutely delicious! If you’re looking to fully embrace St David’s Day, bara brith is the only way to go!
400g mixed fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currants) 300ml strong hot tea
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
100g dark brown muscovado sugar
1 free range egg, beaten
Honey to glaze
Put the dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the tea, mix in the sugar and stir well to dissolve. Leave to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Next day, sift the flour and spice into the soaked fruit (no need to drain the tea) and stir in the egg. Blend well together.
Preheat the oven to 180°C /Gas 4. Line a 900g loaf tin with bakewell paper and pour in the mixture.
Bake for approximately 1 hour until the cake has risen and cooked through. Leave to cool on a rack and store for 2 days before eating. Serve sliced with butter.
This mixture can be doubled to make 2 loaves and will keep for up to 7 days.
Warm a little honey to drizzle over the surface of the warm cake for a glazed topping.
In conclusion, whether you’re a Welsh wonder yourself, know a Welsh person, or just really like Wales, adding these little sparkles of Welshness to your St David’s Day is sure to bring joy to all! Above all, this day is all about celebrating the patron saint of Wales, who was known for his kindness, charity, and ability to work miracles. I’m always here for a cheeky miracle or two, and something we can definitely share is the joy and kindness of the day! So get those daffodils on!
Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus i chi gyd!