There’s unlocked potential within traditional Welsh cuisine, though you wouldn’t think it to look through some of the cook books that list these recipes. Too concerned with presenting the authenticity of historic recipes that were borne of poverty, they rarely adapt them for modern tastes. Take The Miser’s Feast (Ffest y Cybydd, or Gwledd y Cybydd, or Ginledd y Cybydd, apparently): a dish of boiled bacon and potato. Boring and simple, yes?
Well the beauty of Welsh cooking lies in its simplicity. What we have here is the basis for a cracking, stomach warming dish that takes seconds to prepare and takes a good while to cook with little supervision, allowing to go to the pub, watch a film, brew some beer – whatever you like, and afterwards you have a genuinely, tasty dish.
Ingredients (per person)
1 small onion, or half a large onion
3 rashers of bacon
Handful of potatoes, cut into thick rounds
Slice of bread, grated into breadcrumbs
Handful of grated cheese
1 bottle of SA Brains, Reverend James or similar sweet, malty ale
Optional: anything else you like. This type of dish lets you use up leftover vegetables, old newspapers, VHS cassette tapes and so on.
- Chop the onions and layer on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Layer the bacon, and then add the potatoes. Cover the ingredients entirely in beer.
- Cook on gas mark 6/180c/200c for 90 – 120 minutes. Halfway through, turn the potato over.
- About 10 minutes from the end, top the dish with the breadcrumbs and cheese.
Normally the recipe uses water. The ‘secret’, and my main change from the original recipes, rests with the beer. The typically sweet, malt biscuit profile of Brains beer complements the potatoes and bacon. You’ll know it’s cooked when most of the beer has evaporated, leaving a gravy-like sauce of beer, bacon fat and dissolved onions. Pour it over your dish, or let it cool and spoon it down like soup. What takes two hours to cook will be devoured in two minutes.