Recipe for Welsh Griddle Cakes
- Credit: Archant
Frances offers tips for meals that can be whipped up from store cupboard ingredients including this traditional Welsh teatime treat
Bags of flour, nuts, dried fruit, cans of tomatoes, tuna, chick peas, packs of mince in the freezer … and so it goes, our hoard of ingredients.
I have begun to make inroads on mine, to make some space, but also with an eye to thriftiness and avoiding waste. And I’ve been making up larger quantities than usual, keeping in mind that one dish can lead to a string of others.
Last month I mentioned making ragú for pasta and freezing extra portions. As well as dressing a bowl of pasta, or layering in a lasagne, the meat mixture can also be used to stuff and bake aubergines, in an Imam Bayildi, especially with the addition of spices such as ground cumin, coriander and ginger. Cabbage leaves, blanched to a nice malleable tenderness, can be rolled around the cooked ground meat into neat parcels, bathed in a light tomato sauce and baked in the oven; warming and comforting served with jacket potatoes.
With cans of tomatoes I make a thick, richly flavoured sauce. The addition of onion, celery and carrots is the secret, giving more complex flavours than tomato alone. Sauté the vegetables, finely chopped, in some extra virgin olive oil and let them soften and almost caramelise before adding the tomatoes, which are then simmered until thickened, and the whole then puréed with a stick blender. A splash of red wine before you add the tomatoes also helps. As a guide, for three or four cans of tomatoes I use one onion, two celery sticks and a medium carrot. The sauce can be used thick or thin, to serve with fish – especially good with fish cakes, as part of a baked pasta dish and it can be let down with vegetable stock to make soup. One of my favourite quick dishes at the moment is to mix the sauce with mascarpone and plenty of torn basil and stir into fresh tagliatelle – soothing bowl food.
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On to the baking cupboard, a tray of scones is one of my favourite quick bakes, and afternoon tea one of my favourite meals. I like them pale rather than brown, and plain rather than fruity, all the better to enjoy the accompanying jelly or clotted cream. It occurred to me, last time I made them, to prepare a much larger batch and store the unused dry mix, of butter rubbed into flour, in the fridge. With the addition of some more butter rubbed in, some light muscovado sugar, flaked and ground almonds, I made a crumble topping for a compote of pears and blueberries. And then I remembered Welsh griddle cakes. Originally cooked on a hearth stone in the dripping from the roast, this was a traditional Sunday teatime treat. They are equally good with a mid-morning coffee. You don’t need a hearth, just a heavy-based frying pan; I line mine with a silicon sheet. It’s worth making a larger batch than you need because these small scone-like pastries are flat and take up little space in the freezer.
This recipe starts from scratch and don’t be precious about it. If you haven’t a lemon, grate some orange or mandarin zest. No nutmeg? Try cardamom. The dried fruit is traditionally currants, but dried cranberries, blueberries and sultanas work just as well. Try savoury versions; some grated Cheddar and slivers of chilli, or diced Manchego and chorizo, perhaps. No longer a Welsh griddle cake, but a tasty morsel nonetheless.
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One final item from the baking cupboard; black treacle. I keep it for making ginger cake, but have been using it lately when making gravad lax with a couple of tail pieces of salmon from Hampstead Seafood. As well as the salt and pepper and treacle, you need a good bunch of dill. Smear black treacle over the flesh side of the fish, liberally salt both sides, and grind on some pepper. Sandwich the two pieces with a generous helping of dill. Place more dill in the bottom of a container into which the fish just fits, put the fish on top, and then cover with more dill. Cover with cling film and weights, and refrigerate for at least a day before slicing. The fish is even better after two or three days. I always make sure there are some left-overs to freeze; yet one more ingredient to be stirred into freshly cooked tagliatelle, this time with crème fraiche, a splash of vodka and chopped dill, instant pleasure.
Welsh griddle cakes (Makes 12 – 18)
250g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Grated zest of a lemon
75g raisins, currants or sultanas
1 tablespoon plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon lightly beaten egg yolk
Put the flour in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a palette knife, then rub together with the finger tips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. I find it easier to use butter from the freezer and grate it into the flour, then rub lightly. Stir in the sugar, nutmeg, lemon zest and fruit. Add the dollop of yoghurt, the egg and enough milk to make a soft but not wet dough. Knead lightly for a couple of minutes on a floured work top and roll out to just under 1cm thick.
Cut out with a fluted pastry cutter and place on a greased or buttered hot griddle or thick frying pan. Cook until the underside is golden brown, with darker flecks in places, then turn the cakes over and cook for a further five to seven minutes, taking care not to scorch the base.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool and lightly dust with caster sugar. Eat warm, with or without butter.
© Frances Bissell 2020. All rights reserved.