April 14, 2020 3 min read

What is Cawl?

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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What is Cawl (continued)

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. 

How to pronounce Cawl

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”!

Another meaning of the word Cawl

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!

A Traditional Cawl Recipe

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...


  • 1 kg middle neck or shoulder Welsh lamb
  • 0.5 kg of ham
  • Vegetables
    • 1 onion
    • 2 leeks
    • 1 small suede
    • 3 carrots
    • 6 potatoes
  • Vegetable stock, salt and pepper to taste


  • Place the meat in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 2-3 hours over a low heat. Leave overnight to cool and the following day skim off any fat that has risen to the surface.
  • Cut the meat off the bone and return to the stock then add the potatoes, onions, carrots and swede and simmer until cooked. Add more vegetable stock if required at this point. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Finally add the shredded leeks and just before serving throw in the roughly chopped parsley.

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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Our company, FelinFach Natural Textiles is located in the heart of the Preseli area of Pembrokeshire near to Boncath. We design Welsh blankets and the iconic Welsh Tapestry blankets which are traditionally woven at Welsh mills. We also design and make natural hand dyed yarn, cotton, silk and wool scarves and other handmade products. We are a proud supporter of the Campaign for Wool and Global Welsh.

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Last update 27th September 2020

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