Recently while on a trip to the UK, S4, the family’s equivalent to Jane Austin, surprised me with a trip to Wales. In my excitement I set out to research our destination so that I would be a bit informed and not a typical obnoxious American tourist.
Being the fabulous cook that I am, I started my Welsh research with food and traditional Welsh cooking. I lived in the UK in the days before gastro-pubs and Gordon Ramsey so I had to draw from a short list of food favourites to obsess, hanker over and long for after my relocation to the States. My all-time favourite food from across the pond are to-die-for sausage rolls; pork sausage wrapped in crispy pastry. The second is the Scottish shortbread. Imagine my delight at discovering that a very traditional Welsh food is also a baked good.
Being a bit of the gourmand...I would love to be including a high-faluting recipe for Welsh rarebit. But let's face it; Welsh rarebit is cheese on toast.
So we will focus on the Picau ar y mean. No, I did not intend to write Pictionary mean, Picau ar y mean ( look S4, vowels) is Welsh for Welsh cakes. A small cake, similar to a scone and almost as dry, the Welsh cake has been popular since the 19th century. Made from flour, lard or butter, sultanas, eggs milk and assorted spices, the Welsh cake is baked on a griddle or bakestone then sprinkled with Castor sugar. The traditional cake is 7-8cm in diameter and 1-1.5cm thick and resembles the silver dollar pancakes of my youth.
Unlike scones, Welsh cakes are not traditionally served with accompaniments such as Britain’s glorious clotted cream and unlimited flavours of jam. When we were in Portmeirion, we were persuaded to buy gooseberry jam or blackcurrant marmalade to go with our Welsh cakes. When you open the cake and add jam, it is called a Jam Split. There are also new twists, such as adding apples, to this little cake as foodies try update, and ultimately fail to improve this little bit of Welsh heritage.
As an American with a sugar dependency, I found the cakes to be a bit blah. However, they are adorable and I’m glad to have met them. I’m firing up the griddle to test this recipe I found on line offered by the Welsh Tourist Board. http://visitwales.com
8 oz. self-rising flour
2oz. Castor sugar
4oz. Butter or margarine
1-2. Handfuls of sultanas
Makes 10-13 cakes
Sieve flour...you won’t, but that is the instruction
Add sugar and sultanas to the mix.
Add one egg. The mix needs to bind so if it’s crumbly, add the second egg
Roll on a floured surface to 1/4” thickness and cut circles with a 2” cutter...or in my house, a drinking glass does the trick.
Cook on a greased griddle pan or a bakestone over medium heat, 4-5 minutes on each side.
To test for doneness, press the centre; it should be springy. If there is ooze keep
cooking and if there is no spring, start over.
Dust with sugar and enjoy warm or cool.
*read about our Portmeirion adventures in the Travel category of this blog.
**FEL RHECH MEWN POT JAM translates into 'like a fart in a jam jar.' I thought that was funny.