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  • Writer's pictureMartin Castle

Welsh Cake Synchronicity



When I sent this recipe to some family as an attachment to an email a couple of weeks ago it was to let them know that we were OK in NN, I had cooked the Welsh cakes to celebrate the mending of our boiler - we'd gone four days without hot water or heating so we were cold and smelly! Perfect weapons for self-isolating.


By return, two of my cousins replied to say they make them regularly, as did their mothers (my mum's sisters) and they are always in demand. My sister makes them as does George. He reminded me that part of the deal when visiting my parents was that grandad made Welsh cakes! It was a lovely way to reconnect - the power of food. I like to think my aunts learned this recipe from their mother who maybe took it from the previous generation. There must be many a recipe with a history we rarely think about. Maybe you could share just such a recipe in your wider family? Why not send one out to family and see what response you get back!


We have a Welsh connection in my family in that my maternal grandfather was born in Merthyr Tydfil in a South Wales that was is full swing as the producer of coal that was driving the industries of Britain and beyond. Can't really claim to any 'Welsh-ness' though as the family ended up in Wales because one of its number had previously fled there from Somerset in the company of a minor - yes the spelling is correct!


Merthyr's town motto in Welsh is Nid cadarn ond brodyrdde (meaning 'Only brotherhood is strong' - now there's a thought!


Welsh Cakes (in Welsh picau ar y maen) are also known as bakestones or pics, have been popular since the late 19th century with the addition of fat, sugar and dried fruit to a longer standing recipe for flat-bread baked on a griddle. Welsh cakes were traditionally made by the lady of the household as a treat to serve at afternoon tea, and were also given to children with their school lunches. Since they are durable, filling and delicious, Welsh Cakes also became a favored treat of the coal miner husbands of many a Welsh housewife. Indeed, they are the perfect size to be slipped into a coat pocket, a sweet reminder of the home above ground in a miners otherwise dark and physical day spent toiling underground. They also make a great pocket-snack for a gentle walk over the fields.

Welsh miners took their skills to many other parts of the world - that's why Argentina play rugby - and the Welsh cake (a griddle cake by another name) went with them. They are not usually eaten with an accompaniment, but Katayoun tops hers with butter.

Recipe

Makes 12


Ingredients

260g/(1¾ cups) self-raising flour

75g/ ⅓ cup caster (superfine) sugar or 25g/ ⅟9 cup [!] Stevia sugar substitute

120g4½oz chilled butter, chopped

1 egg, lightly whisked

80ml/ ⅓ cup milk

75g/ ½ a cup currants

Extra butter for cooking

Method

1. Sift the flour into a medium bowl and stir in the sugar.

2. Rub in the butter, lifting to aerate, until it resembles breadcrumbs (I use my mixer!)

3. Add the egg and milk and mix together (if by hand with a flat blade and a cutting action).

4. Continue mixing (add a little milk if needed) adding the currants until a dough forms.

5. Ball and then flatten, rolling out to no more than 1cm in depth (½”).

6. Use a cutter to stamp out rounds.

7. Melt some of the butter in a flat-bottomed frying pan (I use my crepe pan) and cook until brown, turning to cook both sides. You may need two cookings depending on the size of your pan.

8. Cool on a wire rack.

9. Sprinkle with icing sugar if desired and eat on the same day if not freezing them.

From my point of view should be eaten on their own with a cup of tea in the sunshine. If you want jam and butter get a scone.



Robert Macfarlane's Word of the Day is ...

"marram -- spiky grey-gold-green grass of dunes & coastal edges, the wefting roots of which together bind sands, stop shift & drift when the wind rises, when the storm lands".


A grey seal in the marram grass at Horsey Sands, Norfolk.



ps: I once had the privilege of visiting a working colliery, Snowdown in the Kent coalfield. It was an incredible experience and an unbelievably harsh working environment. Snowdown was a hot pit and the temperature at the coal face, even without running machinery in a space no more than 4ft high, was overwhelming. 3,000ft below ground and more than a mile out to sea!

The coal-mining family my dad was evacuated to and lived with in South Emsall, Yorkshire, (home of Frickley Colliery and its band) refused to let him go down the pit as he reached the right age."Your dad didn't save you from the bombs of Hitler for you to go down the pit." A wise man that Mr. Chapman.

My mum & dad paid back a little of the Chapman's kindness by hosting some Yorkshire miners' children during the 1984 miners' strike.

Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band can be found on YouTube and a lively tune is at:


You can find out more about Snowdown & the Kent coalfield at: https://www.dovermuseum.co.uk/Exhibitions/Coal-Mining-in-Kent/History/Snowdown-Colliery.aspx and if you haven't seen (or seen for a while) the film Brassed Off maybe it's time!


Quotes

"For all those people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine again and the clouds will go away." - Capt Tom Moore.
and I rose up, and knew that I was tired, and continued my journey” - Edward Thomas.
"Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi
“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well”. - Julian of Norwich


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