Cawl, or Welsh cawl is a Welsh word, also known as ‘lobscows’ in north Wales, and is recognised as a Welsh National dish. It is used to describe a hearty stew of meat and vegetables - the nearest English translation of the word is a soup or a broth. However, cawl is a meal rather than a soup. When accompanied by freshly made bread and Caerphilly cheese, it is a definitely a meal and not a just a ‘starter’!
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As a National dish, cawl has been in existence for many hundreds of years. Recipes have been handed down from generation to generation and this has naturally led to variations in the recipes throughout Wales. It is often said that there are as many varieties of cawl as there are households where it was cooked.
Cawl was traditionally eaten during the winter months. Today it describes a dish dish containing lamb and leeks but historically it was made with either salted bacon or beef, along with swedes, carrots and other seasonal vegetables. With the introduction of potatoes into the European diet in the latter half of the 16th century, this too would become a core ingredient in the recipe.
Cawl is pronounced in a similar way to the English word "cowl" as in a chimney cowl or as in wolf "howl". It is also similar to the English “ow” as in expressing a sudden pain, as in “ow, that hurts”!
It is also used in everyday Welsh language when describing making a mess of anything. So the phrase “gwneud cawl (or cawlach) o bethau means to make a mess of something. This mess can mean a physical mess of something but it is also used, for example in sport, top describe a situation when a player has messed something up!
As explained above, there are a multitude of different cawl recipes. But here is a traditional version, using lamb, bacon/ham and suede to try...
It is often better to use a cheaper cut of meat on the bone so that maximum flavour is obtained.
Lastly, make sure you have some freshly made or bought crusty bread and Caerphilly cheese - together this will make a fantastic, hearty and healthy winter meal.
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Last update 27th September 2020
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Born on 27th October 1914 Dylan was a Welsh poet and writer whose works include the poems, Do not go gentle into that good night, And death shall have no dominion, and Under Milk Wood. Thomas left school to be a junior newspaper reporter and in 1932 he concentrated on his poetry full-time. He became popular in his lifetime and remained so after his death at 39 in New York City.