Welsh and Irish Recipes from Alison MacRae
Above: The recipe box my husband made me.
One day while looking at my recipes I came across the ones handwritten by my mum. Stained with the ingredients and memories from many uses I cannot bring myself to transfer them to recipe cards. Reading the recipes brought back such loving memories in the kitchen with mum teaching me how to bake. Lots of laughter, and yes disasters while learning, it was like going down memory lane. At the time I’d had “Domestic Education” at school, which I thought gave me the expertise to be in the kitchen. While reminiscing I decided it would be nice to bring back into circulation these old and not so old Celtic recipes for everyone to enjoy.
I will never say I am "the best" but I can promise you if I can make these recipes without the fire department then you as well can easily go into the kitchen with confidence.
Since it is the month of March I am sharing a Welsh and an Irish recipe.
Above are my Welsh cakes!
The 1st of March is St. David's Day, "Dydd Gwyl Dewi" or feast day of St. David, Patron Saint of Wales. St.David lived from circa 500 AD, until his death in 589AD. Although it is not a national holiday a number of cities across Wales celebrate with parades. Other traditional festivities include daffodils and leeks.
If you have never had Welsh Cakes you are certainly in for a treat. Close your eyes and imagine for a moment a scone, pancake and cookie all in one. Without the texture or the taste of any of them though, Intriguing isn’t it. They are cooked, not baked. The amount of sugar is adjustable. If you have a sweet tooth you add as much sugar as you like. If you prefer savoury add much less.
They are usually a tradition in the household that is served with afternoon tea, and the children often have them for their school lunches.
I was also curious how many famous chefs have come from Wales. I came up with eight although I am sure there are more.
My Mum loved to make these and I can tell you my sister and I loved to eat them. Sometimes as a treat, we had them instead of our potato scones or oatcakes. Those recipes, as yummy as they are, will be posted in upcoming issues.
Now for the Welsh Cakes. I have taken a photo so you can see the finished cake, and yes, they taste as good as they look. Not only are they delicious they are effortless to make.
1 cup self-raising flour
(If using all purpose flour add 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt )
1\2 cup salted butter
3 oz.(85 grams) sugar
a handful of currants to taste
1 egg beaten
milk if needed
extra butter for greasing
Flour and butter diced. Rub with fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add sugar, currants and beaten egg and mix well to form a dough using milk if needed to help the dough mixture. Roll dough out on floured board to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut into rounds. Use a heavy iron griddle with the butter. Cook the Welsh cakes 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from the griddle.
Preparation time 30 minutes
On a scale of 1/8 teaspoon (being easy) to one tablespoon being very difficult I rate this as 1/4 teaspoon.
Now for my Irish Recipe - Boxty Pancakes
St.Patrick was the Paton Saint of Ireland and like all the other saints it is the day he died not the day he was born that is celebrated.
Celebrated inside and outside of Ireland, it is considered a religious and cultural holiday. In the dioceses of Ireland, it is both a solemnity and a holy day of the obligation it is also a celebration of Ireland itself. It is not a national holiday. We celebrate it also with green beer, in some places they make the river green for the day. Parades, four-leaf clovers and leprechauns all come to mind for me on this day.
In conjunction with the 17th March, a day well known around the world, I thought, why not make the Boxty Pancakes? These are an old tradition that likely came about along the time of the potato famine to stretch the potato. Made almost entirely of potatoes with not too not much flour. Boxty is not like any other pancake. My Irish Grandma made these for her children, and my Dad continued with the tradition in our house. Boxty was well enjoyed, being a potato lover I especially took a liking to them, and as soon as I learnt how to cook, I began to make them myself.
A very outdated little lyric that Mum and I would sing while preparing Boxty pancakes. Truly outdated but I will share it with you in jest, not to be taken seriously, although it shows just how easy they are to make.
Boxty on the griddle,
Boxty in the pan,
If you can't make Boxty,
You'll never get a man.
I have passed this recipe to my daughter. She has never sung the lyrics to her children. It wasn’t fitting as she has 3 boys, but the pancakes still get made with much love. I mean, who does not love potatoes?
My mum would always tell me to take the time to read the recipe first before I started baking it. I must say they were very wise words. As at the beginning I would just read the ingredients and go forth with a burst of energy, then find out because I had not read the recipe all the way through it was not done right, sometimes I would even leave some of the ingredients out, so I started taking her words of wisdom, got all the ingredients out read the recipe all the way through and did not have any more problems in the kitchen. Mum does always know best it seems.
Fun fact. I found 42 famous chefs listed from Ireland, although there could be plenty more.
1 cup raw grated potato
1 cup mashed potato (Make extra as it is needed for a group)
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup mil
Butter or oil for frying.
Place the raw grated potato in a cloth and twist to remove excess moisture. Combine flour with the raw mixture and mashed potato and the eggs. Add enough mix to make a batter now the extra mashed potato on the side roll the batter in it to make the patties. Heat skillet and add butter or oil. Drop potato batter by the tablespoon in the hot pan. Brown both sides about 4 minutes per side. You can butter each Boxty and serve hot and you can add your own topping if you have a sweet tooth, i.e. Pancake syrup, Maple syrup.
Preparation time about 30 minutes.
I rate this as 1/2 teaspoon out of 1 tablespoon.
If you noticed the size of the recipe box, I had asked my husband to make me a recipe box a long time ago, and when he presented this, I thought this was enormous why did he make it this big? Then when I started putting my recipes in the box. I sure figured out fast, as it was exactly the size I needed for my recipes. So all my recipes are now in this beautiful box that he made me. Another wonderful keepsake to have from him.