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Spring might be on the way but an icy wind reminds us that Winter is not fully over. On such a day in Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion or Carmarthenshire, there is nothing more comforting than a Welsh winter warmer, a bowl of traditional Welsh Cawl served up with fresh bread, farmhouse butter and some good Welsh cheese.

Welsh Cawl

Eaten during the winter months, the original Cawl was made with salted bacon or a little beef plus potatoes, carrots and any other seasonal vegetables to hand.  Nowadays, the more economical cuts of lamb or mutton are frequently used along with leeks and sometimes cabbage or celery.

The diced meat is boiled in water, the vegetables added and the stock thickened with some oatmeal or flour. Cooked in an iron pot and eaten in wooden bowls with special wooden Cawl spoons, originally the stock was served as a first course and the meat and vegetables as a second course.  Today it is served as one dish, often with a separate plate of bread and cheese.

It is best to start Cawl the day before to allow the flavours to blend and improve – here is our version of a Cawl recipe.


900g lamb (best end of neck Welsh lamb)
1 small swede, peeled and diced
1 medium parsnip, cleaned and diced
3 – 4 cleaned and sliced carrots
900g potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 leeks sliced

1 tablespoon butter, lard or bacon fat
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
50g flour or pearl barley
salt and pepper to taste

Place the meat in a large stock pot and cover with water.  Simmer for 2 hours until tender and then leave to cool.  Skim off the fat, remove the meat and dice it up into cubes.  Strain the stock.

Melt the butter or fat in a pan and fry the onions, carrots, swede, leek and parsnip until just browned.  Add the meat, potatoes, flour or barley and the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1 hour.

Add the parsley and seasoning and cook for another 15 minutes.  Put on the lid and leave to cool.  Reheat thoroughly the next day for a delicious taste of Wales.

In Welsh, gwneud cawl o [rywbeth] (“make a cawl of [something]”) means to mess something up.

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