As promised, the recipe for this traditional Welsh stew/soup. This is a country dish, made in Welsh farmhouse kitchens with the ingredients that are available, so quantities are approximate, but the important ingredients are meat and leeks. Like other similar dishes in other countries – pot au feu, ragout d’escoubille, and so on – when times were hard the meat was eaten at one meal, the stock and vegetables at another. Where I come from in west Wales, cawl is usually made with lamb or with a ham joint, but in the more fertile areas of south Wales it is made with beef too. For me, though, it’s not the real thing unless it’s made with lamb.
serves 4 to 5:
1 kilo lamb shoulder on the bone (you can use other cuts, like breast of lamb, but the meat would need longer cooking and you would probably need a bit more per person)
100 grams bacon or salted pork, thickly sliced (optional, but I think it adds an extra flavour to the broth)
250 grams carrots
250 grams leeks
150 grams onions
250 grams potatoes, roughly cut into chunks
a bunch of parsley, stalks chopped and leaves finely chopped
3 bay leaves
water to cover
Peel and roughly chop the vegetables into chunks. Cut the lamb shoulder into large pieces, but don’t take the meat of the bone yet. Put all the ingredients except the leeks and the parsley leaves in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about an hour. Remove the lamb pieces, take the meat off the bone and cut into bite-sized chunks. Return the meat to the pan and add the leeks. Cook for a further 30 to 45 minutes. Serve garnished with the chopped parsley leaves and slices of rustic bread. You can also serve pieces of cheese with it.
We were catering for larger numbers today – at least 35 people and maybe 40 will be there tonight for the meal. So we had to cook our cawl in a large preserving pan on a gas burner in the garage, but it’s only a difference of scale.