This is a recipe for a traditional Welsh cawl with dumplings (twmplen). In the Spring and Summer Cawl Awst was the best broth of the year in Wales; when a wide selection of fresh, seasonal vegetables and meat were available. Indeed, in Victorian times an annual feast, known as Cawl Awst, was held for sailors and fishermen on New Quay beach, on the first day of August, where this broth was served.
Traditionally the making and serving of this broth was a communal affair, and often it was for a celebration, feast or a marriage. Cawl Awst would be prepared under the supervision of one woman, normally the most respected in the rural community, and most families in the area would supply the fresh meat and seasonal vegetables needed to be cooked (in the local communities largest cauldron) over an open fire.
Many of these rich communal broths also included twmplen or tymplen (suet dumplings) a classic welsh recipe for a plain twmplen (tymplen ddall – blind dumpling) is given as an optional extra to include (highly recommended) – the only thing to remember when putting dumplings into a broth or stew is that the cawl needs to be hot, boiling and bubbling, when putting them in (to help keep the dumpling shape and integrity) and then the heat under the cawl can be turned down after 10 minutes or so, so the dumplings can simmer in the broth for about 90 minutes. At one time it was common in some areas to eat the twmplen first (as a first course) to take the edge off the hunger when waiting for the cawl to be ready.
Cawl Awst Recipe
Make the day before you want to eat it and leave for the flavours to develop in the broth overnight in the fridge. Add the dumplings in (if using) on the day you are serving, do not add them in the day before, the dumplings will need about 90 minutes to cook through.
- 1.2 Kg Lamb (steak, cut into cubes)
- 300g Potatoes (peeled, diced small)
- 150g Peas (fresh garden peas)
- 4 Large Carrots (peeled, diced)
- 1 Large Parsnip (peeled, diced)
- 1 Small Swede (peeled, diced)
- 1 Small Cabbage (shredded)
- 3 Large Leeks (sliced small)
- 1 Onion (diced small)
- handful of Parsley (finely chopped)
- 2 tsp of fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
- 2 tsp of fresh thyme (finely chopped)
- water (enough to cover everything)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
Optional: Twmplen – Dumplings
- 375g plain flour
- 150g lard (softened)
- 150g shredded suet
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 150ml buttermilk
First cut up your lamb into similar sized cubes, or ask your butcher to do it when ordering. In a very large saucepan add the cubed lamb and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil and simmer like this without a lid for an hour. Skim off any impurities that rise. Add more water if needed.
Prepare all the vegetables by peeling, chopping, dicing and shredding them, (according to the ingredient list). After an hour add the carrots, swede, onion, parsnip and cabbage to the boiling meat, season with the salt and pepper, add the rosemary and thyme, stir and cover generously with some more water. Bring to the boil and simmer for another hour, with the lid on the saucepan.
After this further hour add in the potatoes, leeks, peas and parsley, taste the broth and season with more salt and pepper, add any extra water if needed. Simmer for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and store in the fridge until the next day to allow the flavours in the broth to develop.
Twmplen – Dumplings: Into a mixing bowl sift in the flour then rub in the softened lard to make a mixture similar to breadcrumbs. Sprinkle in the sea salt and shredded suet.
In a cup dissolve the bicarbonate of soda into the buttermilk, and pour it gradually into the flour to make a light dough mixture. Add more flour if a little wet or more buttermilk if a little dry.
Shape the dough into small, similar sized balls in your hands. Let them rest in the fridge for 30 minutes then use them in the cawl on the day you are serving it. Carefully drop the dumplings into the boiling cawl, turn the heat down after ten minutes, and cook through for 90 minutes (they will almost double in size).
Serve: The next day reheat the Cawl Awst broth on a gentle simmer for 90 minutes (if adding in the dumplings) or just 30 minutes (if served without the dumplings) and serve in bowls with thick slices of buttered bread.