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Welsh Cuisine and Recipes

Welsh Recipes and cooking

Cooking by Country - March 2008



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Go to:-  Welsh Featured Ingredient   |  Welsh Speciality Dish   |  Cooking by Country Main Page  |   St. David's Day



Wales is situated in Northern Europe and is part of the United Kingdom. 


It and has a land boundary with England to the east and a coastline of 1,200 km  on three sides along the Welsh Channel to the south, St George's Channel to the west, and the Irish Sea to the north. There are also several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey (Ynys Môn ) in the northwest.


Its terrain  is mainly  hills and low mountains with areas of fertile lowlands and about 12 percent forest. Much of the land in Wales is used for agricultural purposes, mainly the raising of livestock such as beef, dairy cattle and sheep and the growing of crops such as barley, oats, potatoes, leeks and cabbage.


Wales has a temperate climate similar to that of England .

Ancient times,  influences and history of Welsh cooking

Whilst small, Wales has a diverse terrain which together with its rivers and long coastline, has always yielded a bounty of fresh foods, in particular wild animals and seafood.


Archaeological evidence shows that there were people in Wales at least as far back as  50,000BC however due to a  6,000-year-long ice age in the region,  the  further development of society was curtailed until humans re-entered the area  by 10,000 BC   at which time the peoples were most certainly hunter gatherers including fishing. Harpoons and spears carrying stone barbs (microliths) were in common use for hunting and fishing and at this time the area was heavily wooded and home to wild hogs, deer and cattle. It is believed  that these people were semi-nomadic and spent at least part of the year following herds of animals.


By 4,000 BC organised farming was in full swing including the keeping of livestock and growing of crops such as oats and barley with large areas being cleared to facilitate the practice. Around 2000 BC   people known as The Beaker People, began to arrive in the area who introduced bronze tools and cooking pots.

The people we now call Celts began settling in Wales around 600 BC  originally from Ireland where land shortages forced them to travel across the sea. Importantly, they introduced the iron plough which made it possible  to more easily cultivate the rich valley and lowland soils. Vegetables such as cabbage and  cereals such as oats and barley were grown on numerous small holdings with oats being a staple of the time. Pigs were kept by most farmers and were heavily relied upon for everyday use, including preserving it as bacon.


Stewing or boiling meat became a widely practiced method of cooking giving rise to the recipe "Cawl",  which many consider to be Wales' National Dish. See Wales Speciality Dish


Another method of cooking which is still used today was on a bakestone.  Originally exactly what the name implies, this was a flat stone which was heated on the fire and used to griddle items such as cakes, scones, pancakes and oatcakes. The stone was superseded with metal, and iron bakestones are still in use in many Welsh kitchens today. 


As the majority of people in the early development of Wales were workers -  initially farmers or fishermen then later labourers with the opening of slate quarries and coal mines - the cuisine of Wales has always reflected the need for substantial and  filling food, unlike its English neighbours whose upper classes had a substantial  influence on its cooking traditions.

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Welsh cuisine today still reflects the country's Celtic roots. Popular  ingredients follow this tradition with bacon,  Pork, cabbage, leek, fish and seafood still being widely used although the addition of welsh lamb which was previously mainly eaten on special occasions, has gained popularity and the excellent grazing pastures have also encouraged the making of  cheeses. Oats remain a firm favourite.


Teatime is another tradition which the Welsh take advantage of to produce a host of pancakes, teacakes etc., many of which which are still made on bakestones.


Perhaps one of Wales' most famous dishes today is laverbread which is prepared seaweed.  As well as being used in recipes, it forms part of a traditional welsh breakfast. Your can read more about laverbread in the Welsh Featured Ingredient section.


As with the rest of the UK, typically there are 3 main meals of the day. A traditional breakfast consists of bacon,  pork sausages, black pudding, eggs and fried laverbread with oats. The main meal of the day can be either at lunchtime (any time between 12.30 and 2pm) or in the evening and traditionally consists of meat or fish with side vegetables followed by a dessert.


Click here for lots of Welsh Recipes on this site



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