Happy St Davids Day!
Unfurl your dragon, display your daffodils and pinon a leek with pride as today is St David’s Day! There is not much known that can be historically proven about Dewi Sant and most of what we know is taken from an C11th document written about 500 years after he lived. However this does not diminish his importance to the Welsh people and the day of his death was officially recognised as a national festival during the C18th.
A festival vibe certainly prevails for the St David’s Day celebrations today. The story goes that Dewi travelled on many pilgrimages, even as far as Jerusalem, and was created an Archbishop. On his return to Wales he established a strict religious community, which developed into the cathedral town of St David’s. Many miracles have been attributed to David including, through prayer, restoring the sight of his teacher and having the ground rise up beneath him so he could be seen and heard by all when preaching. Growing up in the south of England, apart from the annual St George’s Day marching parade, which to be honest my fellow Girl Guides and I just used as an excuse to flirt with Scouts across the cathedral green, I didn’t really experience any major celebrations for Saints Days.
My daughter will definitely not be able to say the same thing! St David’s Day is a big deal and I think it wonderful that traditional Welsh culture is such a big part of everyday life. This year our village school held their Eisteddfod (a festival of music, literature and performance) on Friday so the standard Welsh lady costume was not required. If you have never come across this phenomenon before Laura, our office manager, has kindly provided an old class photo from a ‘few’ years ago.
The St David’s Day parade can be the highlight of the spring social calendar in many cities and towns so if you are out and about today look out for giant Welsh dragons, choirs bursting into rousing renditions of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and tasty Welsh treats on offer. What are your best memories of St David’s Day celebrations? I would love to hear about them all! And what would be better on St David’s Day than to have a go at making Welsh Cakes.
They really are ever so easy and you don’t have to have a store cupboard worthy of Mary Berry to have the ingredients to hand.
All you need is 225g plain flour, 85g caster sugar, 100g butter, 1 egg, a pinch of making powder if you have it, a splash of milk and whatever favourite spices, dried fruit, or any other flavouring that strikes your fancy.
Now I have a Thermomix (which I am very lucky to have and could talk about for hours if anyone is interested!) so it only takes me a few seconds to mix all the ingredients together if I am in a rush.
But for the traditionalists, put the flour sugar, any spices, and baking powder in a bowl and then rub in the butter.
Next mix in the dry fruit, chocolate or anything else you are using and then work in the egg to create a soft dough.
If the dough is still a bit crumbly add some milk.
Now all you need to do is roll it out, cut into your desired shapes and, presuming you don’t have a bake stone to place over your range, cook both sides gently in a frying pan over a low heat until golden brown.
There was some debate in the office when I asked what was considered the best topping for the cakes. We are split between a sprinkling of sugar or a generous helping of Welsh butter. Join the debate and let us know your favourite Welsh cake accompaniment!