St David’s Day Fare: Attempting some classic Welsh dishes

On March 1st, the Welsh celebrate St David’s Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant) – St David being the Patron Saint of Wales.  Daffodils or leeks are worn (or if you’re going the whole hog, traditional Welsh costume), songs are sung and welsh fare is consumed.

While I’ve eaten plenty of welsh food over the years, apart from welsh cakes, I’ve never really tried to cook any at home (unless you count spreading premade welsh rarebit on bread and grilling it!).  I decided that it was time to change this and for me to tackle two (cheese based!) classic: Glamorgan sausages and Welsh rarebit.

Glamorgan Sausages – Selsig Morgannwg

These are vegetarian “sausages” made from cheese, leeks and breadcrumbs.  Traditionally Glamorgan cheese would have been used, but these days it doesn’t exist anymore.  Most modern recipes opt for Caerphilly cheese instead (although occasionally cheddar seems to be used instead).   Caerphilly cheese is not very common round my way, so my parents kindly brought some over for me!

Caerphilly Cheese!

Caerphilly Cheese!

After reading various websites for inspiration, it seems that a lot of people like to add “extra”s to their Glamorgan sausages, with chillis and spices being particularly popular.  While most of these sounded great, I fancied a recipe which seemed both fairly straightforward and traditional for my first attempt so I stuck with the plain old cheese and leek option.   I also decided to put a little more cheese in my mix because, well, I really like cheese!

Assembling the sausages was a very easy task, which makes it all the more surprising that I managed to leave out the mustard poweder!  I don’t think it affected the end result too much, but I know from making cheese sauces that then mustard helps to “bring out” the cheesiness so it’s probably worth including if you can remember it!  I personally like a chunky sausage, so where many website recommended make 8 smaller sausages, I opted to make 4 giant ones instead!

Glamorgan Sausages - Ready to cook

Glamorgan Sausages – Ready to cook

In the recipes I found there was also a split between frying or baking the sausages.  I thought I’d split the difference and fry them at first to give some colour and crispness, then bake them to cook them through (I figured this might take a while given the size of my sausages).  Being largely made of breadcrumbs the sausages ate up the oil in the frying pan, so I can see how baking would be the healthier option.  It was also hard to colour them evenly.

Glamorgan Sausages - Frying

Frying the sausages

With hindsight, I recon the only way to get these nice and golden all over would be to go the whole hog and just deep fry them!  Maybe I’ll give that a go next time.  While not the golden hue I was hoping for, my sausages still turned out pretty well.  The oven had crisped the outer breadcrumbs well, the insides were cooked through and the cheese lovely and gooey.  They weren’t as green as I hoped (I guess with the breadcrumbs and the cheese both being white that’s to be expected), although the leek flavour came through well.

Glamorgan Sausages - View inside

The view inside

Because I’m a greedy so and so I had two monster sausages with some salad and plum chutney, but for a lunch (or starter) I think that one would probably be enough.

Welsh Rarebit – Caws Pobi

Welsh rarebit is basically posh cheese on toast!  However instead of cutting slices of cheese, putting them on bread and grilling everything, you make a sort of cheese “paste” first and this is what goes on the bread.  Of course, making the cheese paste means you can add extra flavours (like the ale), but it also means that a bit more time and effort is required.

As with the Glamorgan sausages, I had a good look round the internet before having a go at making this and the traditional ingredients are (Welsh!) cheddar cheese, ale, mustard and eggs.  I also fancied adding some leek to up the “welshness” so decided to add a soft leek layer under the cheese on one piece of bread.

The instructions for the making rarebit seemed fairly straight forward: melt the cheese in the ale, allow to cool a bit, add the eggs, cool some more, spread and grill.  However I found that even after adding the eggs, the ale (and melted butter I guess) and the cheese wished to remain separated.  No amount of heating, stirring or cooling seemed to fix this (I did try for quite a while)

Welsh Rarebit - Not quite combining

Not quite combining

In the end I decided to opt for the trick used in making fondues – adding cornflour!  1 tsp stirred through was enough to bind the whole mix once a little heat was added.  It was also still holding together once it had cooled once (again!) so I could crack on with the spreading and grilling stage.

After adding cornflour and cooling

After adding cornflour and cooling

This bit luckily went really well with no more hiccups.  Something I was very grateful for as by this time I was starving!  The plain version was really nice, but for me, the leek one was even better!  With the cheese mix being so rich the leeks helped to stop this getting all a bit much.

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit

While not perfect, I really enjoyed making these dishes.  I think I probably just need a bit more practice!

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