We’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go to Wales twice, both times for weddings of close friends. It is such a beautiful country, particularly if you head outside of Cardiff where you will see picturesque rolling hillsides, lush green farms and, if you make it that far, magnificent coast lines.
On the first occasion, I recall the bride telling stories of how she had stayed up the night before cooking batches of Welsh cakes to give to guests as wedding favours. If I recall correctly, they were even heart shaped! At the time, I happily consumed my wedding favour on the way back to our hotel room that evening, not giving another thought as to why it was called a Welsh cake or what significance it held, if any.
It was only recently – two weeks ago, to be precise – that I was gratefully re-introduced to these Welsh cakes when we went back to Wales for the wedding of a school friend of mine. After arriving at Cardiff airport, we hopped into our rental car and made our way out west, excited about our drive to the Welsh countryside and the fun and relaxing weekend that lay ahead. All was well until our GPS directed us off the highway and onto some narrow one-lane roads which produced several moments of sheer panic when we were confronted with cars approaching us. Tiny and slight shoulders (i.e. bushes) on the road allowed us to somehow pull over to let the other cars pass us. Escaping these narrow roads and finding our way back onto the highway was a welcome relief, until we saw the speed limit signs and weren’t sure if they were in kph or mph … hmmm …
Upon arriving at our B&B, a quaint country house near St. Clears, our host showed us to our rooms which had gorgeous views overlooking the Welsh countryside with glimpses of cows and sheep grazing in the distance; one could only feel relaxed in such surroundings. A quick peek around the room revealed Cath Kidston mugs and homewares, and even Molton Brown products in the bathroom – this city-slicker instantly felt better!
Either sensing our state of frazzledness or, more likely, as a sign of hospitality, our host offered to make us some fresh tea and Welsh cakes, and we happily accepted. And so if I didn’t appreciate the comfort of Welsh cakes before, I certainly understood them this time around. As a traditional tea-time snack, they are lovely with a cup of tea and will do wonders in helping you to unwind. That and the fresh, country air.
I happen to really love afternoon tea, that time when the day starts to wind down but isn’t quite over yet, that one cuppa and sweet treat to get you through until it’s time to shut-down your computer and head home. I also love morning tea, lunch, dinner … breakfast not so much because I’m always in a hurry so I never quite get to enjoy what I’m eating.
The next time you think about making scones, perhaps you might like to try your hand at these Welsh cakes. Both recipes require more or less the same ingredients but, with Welsh cakes, you make something more like a shortcrust pastry which is then pan-fried on the stove. The texture is somewhat like a scone, but a bit more crumbly like a shortbread biscuit. They are wonderful served warm from the pan with just a sprinkling of sugar or even with some jam, but they also taste great cold.
I was rather surprised that I didn’t have a recipe for Welsh cakes in any of my cookbooks, but thankfully I picked up a postcard in Wales which had a recipe for it on the front, and I adapted accordingly.
The recipe calls for lard, thereby guaranteeing that melt-in-your-mouth texture that you can’t always get with just butter. I had never bought lard before in Zurich so I wasn’t even sure what it was called in German, but sitting amongst the bottles of oil, I found this darling tub of Schweinefett and instantly knew that it was what I was looking for!
This is one of the things I love about travelling – discovering foodie treats that I can try to recreate when I get back home, a taste memory if you will.