picau ar y maen
My mother’s heritage was Welsh and she and my father were both talented amateur singers who were brought up in Ipswich, in Queensland, a town with a proud heritage of coal mining, Welsh immigration and eisteddfodau. As a child she went to a Welsh speaking church and one of my favourite memories is attending the centenary celebrations of that little church as a teenager and having numerous white-haired elderly ladies calling her “little Greta Griffiths” in their sing-song accents. When I was born my parents considered naming me Myfanwy, but chose the very English Margaret instead, citing spelling difficulties as the reason. All my adult life I have nursed a secret desire for a more interesting name and wished they had called me Myfanwy instead, despite my sister Bronwyn’s assertion that no one can spell and many have difficulty pronouncing her very Welsh name. I comfort her by bringing up the Welsh names she could have been called – including one of my mother’s friends, who was named Blodwyn.
I love to hear Welsh spoken as it is ancient and beautiful and melodic and mysterious; and as Jan Morris states, in her book Wales: The First Place “The language itself, whether you speak it or not, whether you love it or hate it, is like some bewitchment or seduction from the past, drifting across the country down the centuries, subtly affecting the nations sensibilities even when its meaning is forgotten.”
We never ate Welsh cakes when I was growing up, but one of my closest friends from university is also Welsh, and Geraldine introduced me to this unique afternoon tea time treat, traditional, and for me, a wonderful link to my family heritage, along with competing in the Queensland eisteddfod and listening to Bryn Terfel with my father – even if my name is not Myfanwy. Serve Welsh cakes dusted with caster sugar, or spread with a little butter. Hot, warm or cold they are very delicious, especially with a cup of tea.
Makes about 24
225 g plain flour
70 g caster sugar, with a little more for dusting (optional)
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100 g chilled butter, cut into cubes
50 g currants
a little milk, if needed
In a food processor whiz together the flour, sugar, butter, spice and baking powder until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. You can also do this by hand, rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients as you would when making scones. Tip out into a medium sized bow and add the egg and currants. Knead lightly until the dough comes together and is similar in texture to a pastry dough. add a tiny splash of milk if it is too dry. Dust a work surface with a little flour and roll out the dough until it is about 15 mm thick. Use a round plain or fluted cutter to cut out the cakes. Cook on a griddle or thick based frying pan over medium heat, until golden brown, turning once. Don’t have the heat too high or else you will have gooey insides to your Welsh cakes. A bit like a scone, and a bit like a biscuit, Welsh cakes have a very distinctive, slightly crumbly and not very moist texture and they are best eaten within a couple of days.
The comment by Anon was from me – Elise
Thanks so much Elise. It is nice when people connect with family stories that I share on the blog. marg
I loved this post mostly because of your family history as I can’t see me being able to get the right touch on the griddle pan! I will stick to scones and share them with my daughter Meredith who is named after my wonderful grandparents from Gympie. I also have 2nd cousins called Lenore, Vivien and Bronwyn – such lyrical names.
Wow – I love this post so much. The Welsh cakes look beautiful and are a favourite of mine. I grew up in the north of England but live in Canada now. My Yorkshire grandfather took me to Wales and Jan Morris is my FAVOURITE writer. Wonderful!!! Thank you.
You are so welcome! It is so great to make connnections with people across the web. margaret
Theses look delicious! x
Thanks Madelaine! margaret
Margaret, One of my fondest memories of my grandmother in Pontyberem is making Welsh cakes with her. We made the dough and rolled it out on her huge kitchen table and then cooked them on the hot plate of the Aga in her kitchen. The cooking seemed hot and interminable at times, but I remember sitting down afterwards, having a cup of tea, and eating them while they were still warm. When she turned ninety, we made well over a hundred for visiting family and friends. So Welsh cakes will always be for me the essence of Welsh-ness and a direct connections to my Granny. Geraldine
Geraldine, one of my favourite memories is holidaying with your family for the first time at Bagarra and being entranced by your dad’s wonderful accent, and hearing you talk of your granny in Wales. Never to be forgotten, and always cherished. margaret