When Sandra Phinney signed up for a tour of Wales, she didn’t realize she’d be eating her way across the country.
I learned some new phrases when I travelled to Wales this year, like “Iechyd da.” Pronounced icky da, it means “Cheers!” or “To your good health!” Another common toast is “Mwynhewch eich bwyd” meaning “Bon appetit” but I’m still trying to figure out the phonetics on that one.
I was there for the Travel Media Association of Canada’s annual convention and we had a choice of a five-day tour before our meetings. The one I selected was “Fine Food & Fresh Air.” It was originally set up as a hiking and food tour but as we proceeded to eat our way across the country it became evident that it was all about food.
Authentic Flavours of the Welsh
Picture this: as soon as we landed, we were whisked off to The Crown in Whitebrook in the Wye valley for a six-course lunch that included goat cheese with beetroot, basil, and fig puree — followed by a baked pumpkin dish with pine nuts, fresh parmesan, and truffle ice cream — followed by a pan fried sardine with baby tomato, polenta, olive oil, and black olive tapanade … and that’s only the first half of the meal.
In between feasting like that for five days, we travelled through rolling expanses of field and stream featuring ancient hedgerows in lieu of fences. (Do you know there are 12 million sheep in Wales?) We dropped in to visit small specialty producers like Black Mountains Smokery in Crickhowell and Caws Cenarth Cheese, prize–winning artisans in Lancych. Between food stops we waddled around abbeys and castles, trying to shed a few calories while soaking in some fascinating history.
Meeting a Culinary Expert and TV Host
We also met Nerys Howell, a culinary expert and chef who operates a food consultancy business and hosts a nationally televised cooking show. Nerys gave us a cooking class inside a huge glass dome at the Welsh Botanical Gardens.
Until recently, there has been little written about Welsh cooking. It seems that the Welsh way of cooking has been denied on the grounds that it lacks sufficient distinction from the rest of Britain and Ireland.
“There are also other reasons such as the effects of a self-denying Puritanical religion and much past hardship which understandably colour our attitudes to our native cookery,” Nerys says.
The good news is that Nerys has just published a book titled Wales on a Plate: Traditional and New Recipes for Welsh Produce. It’s a gem of a book. I’m working my way through it, one meal at a time. The recipes below are easy and oh-so-yummy. If you’d like more, just leave a comment and send me your email.
Now it’s time to try a taste of Wales. Won’t you raise a glass and join me? “Iechyd da!”
Welsh Cheese and Leek Soup
1.5 pound leeks, washed and chopped
1 onion chopped
8 oz Welsh cheese, cubed (you can use more than one kind)*
2 oz butter
2 tbsp flour
2.5 pints turkey or chicken stock
½ C thick cream
2 tsp Welsh wholegrain mustard
salt and ground pepper
* You can substitute your own top quality cheeses. Can be soft or hard, including cheddars, blue and brie.
Melt butter in a large saucepan and add onions. Cook until soft. Add the leeks and cook for 15 minutes (stir from time to time). Add flour, mix until smooth then add the stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in cream and mustard. Add cheese in three or four batches, allowing it to melt. Season and serve.
Cockle (Clam) Cakes
Mix a cup or two of freshly cooked clams (canned if you must!) in a light pancake batter and fry spoonfuls in hot oil or butter. Great snacks or appetizers!
Tintern Abbey © Sandra Phinney. All Rights Reserved.
Caws Cenarth Cheese © Sandra Phinney. All Rights Reserved.
Nerys Howell © Sandra Phinney. All Rights Reserved.
Did you enjoy this article?
Please let the author know by leaving them a comment below!
And, subscribe to our free weekly digest!
Simply add your email below. A confirmation email will be sent to you.