Welsh Cawl

Cawl pronounced ‘cowl’, is Welsh for broth or soup. Like all traditional country soups the ingredients are governed by what is to hand or in season. It appears from early Welsh manuscripts that originally the main meat used was bacon, or even kid, for as with Irish Stew, no cottager would dream of using valuable lamb or mutton for soups. Nowdays, however, mutton or lamb best end of neck chops are most generally used, which make it into a delicious soup-stew. This cawl recipe includes lamb.

“Cystal yfed o’r cawl â bwyta’s cig” – It is as good to drink the broth as to eat the meat': from a collection of proverbs attributed to Cattwg Ddoeth (Cattwg the Wise).

Cawl should be started the day before so that any fat can be skimmed off and all the flavours amalgamate.

2-3 lb. Welsh lamb best end of neck cutlets
1 large sliced onion
3 leeks
2 medium sliced carrots
1 medium parsnip
1 small swede turnip or 2 white turnips
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
6 small potatoes
salt and pepper
4 pints (8 cups) water
If in season cabbage, celery, etc., can all be used.

Trim the meat of fat so far as possible, cover with cold water, add salt and pepper, bring to the boil, and simmer slowly for 1 hour, then leave it to get cold and skim off all the fat. Put in all the vegetables except 1 leek, the potatoes and half the parsley, cover and simmer very slowly for 1 hour, then add the potatoes cut in half and continue cooking for 20 minutes. Then add the remainder of the parsley, taste for seasoning and finely chop the remaining leek (green and white part) on top. Let it cook for not more than 5 minutes and serve. Some families treat it as a French pot-au-feu – that is, they serve the clear broth first, then the meat and vegetables as a second course. Traditionally Cawl was eaten in wooden bowls with wooden spoons so that there was no fear of burning the mouth. Serves 4-6.