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Bacon and Beef Broth

Pren-gwyn, Ceredigion

Mary Howells preparing cawl

Mary Howells preparing cawl

Cawl (broth) was the dish most commonly served for dinner on the farm during the winter months and it was regarded as a very nutritious meal. It was served in wooden bowls and eaten with wooden spoons. Apple dumplings and oatmeal trollies were sometimes boiled in the broth along with the meat and vegetables. (See respective recipes.)

Pren-gwyn, Cardiganshire.

Cawl Awst was the best broth of the year when a wide variety of fresh garden vegetables were available. A feast known as Cawl Awst was held, primarily for sailors, on New Quay beach on the first day of August. The broth, boiled in a large cauldron, would be prepared under the supervision of one woman and most families in the neighbourhood would supply the required meat (fresh beef occasionally) and vegetables.

New Quay, Cardiganshire.

Cawl ffwt a berw. This particular name was given to the broth that was prepared rather hurriedly by cutting the meat and vegetables into small pieces and boiling them all together until they were cooked.

Tre-lech, Carmarthenshire.

Cawl pen lletwad was the name given to a vegetable broth prepared only when meat was in short supply.

Cwm-bach, Carmarthenshire.

Cawl twymo. It was generally the custom to reheat the broth that was left over from the mid-day meal and to serve it for supper on the same day, or for lunch on the following day.

Pren-gwyn, Cardiganshire.

The Recipe

You will need

  • one joint each of bacon and beef
  • carrots
  • swede
  • cabbage
  • potatoes
  • leeks
  • parsley
  • oatmeal
  • water

Method

  1. (Salted meat should be allowed to stand in cold water overnight to remove excess salt.) 
  2. Put the meat joints in a large saucepan, cover with water and boil for an hour or more.  
  3. Then add the carrots, swede and cabbage, all coarsely cut. (Leaves of nettles and savoury may be added in the spring when green vegetables are scarce.)  
  4. Boil for another fifteen minutes before adding the potatoes.  
  5. Continue to cook and then add the leeks and parsley, finely chopped, within ten minutes of serving. (The meat joints may be lifted out of the broth before adding the leeks and parsley.)  
  6. Finally, thicken the broth with a tablespoon of oatmeal (or plain flour) mixed with a little cold water. 
  7. Serve the broth clear, with small pieces of bread, in basins or bowls.  
  8. Serve the vegetables with slices of meat as a second course.

Pren-gwyn, Cardiganshire.

Film/Recording

Many consider cawl to be the national dish of Wales. Traditionally it was the staple diet for numerous families, and as with most recipes, varied from family to family and region to region according to what was available and in season. In some parts of Wales the broth was served as a first course, whilst the vegetables and boiled meat was served as a main course. A similar dish, known as lobsgows was served in north Wales. Here's Rhian Gay demonstrating how to prepare cawl.

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