Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Welsh cakes

I fear I am turning into a moany old cow. On and on I go, whinge whinge whinge, with no good reason. Either life is so boring, yawn, isn't motherhood a drudge, I've got no work on, I'm a total failure - or !!! everything is chaos !!! Kitty is ill!!!! and I haven't a MINUTE to myself and GOD MAN ALIVE if only someone would HELP ME.

I'm worried that it's all getting a bit samey, that I'm starting to repeat myself, going on, getting boring. And I also think I might be starting to repeat myself.

That reminds me of my mother's favourite story about the Queen Mother, which goes like this:

The Queen Mother is visiting an old people's home and she says to an old dear: "Do you know who I am?" The old dear smiles and points a trembling finger yonder: "Oh, if you don't know who you are, you go and speak to that lady over there."

Then my mother cries with laughter.

I am jolly lucky that my mother is alive, in good nick and living just up the road. She is catnip for toddlers, my mother. She lets them make a terrible mess and break things, pick food off her plate and put marbles in their mouths. When children reach a certain age, (about two and a half), she takes them out collecting sticks and then they bring them back to the house and set fire to them.

So as you can imagine, the last ten weeks living at my mother's house has been like paradise for Kitty. She calls my mother Gagu (pronounced Gah-gee), which is a mutation of the Welsh for granny, "Mamgu".

"GAH-GEE?!" shrieked Kitty every morning. "GAH-GEE! GAH-GEE! GAH-GEE!" We are back home now and Kitty wanders the echoey rooms saying "Gah-gee?" sadly.

Living in my childhood home has made me start to really fetishise childhood in a way I never thought I would. There are millions of children at my mother's house, all the time. Never fewer than two, under five. So there is Play-Dough smelted against almost every surface, boxes of Lego, Charlie and Lola videos and an audience of stuffed toys wryly watching the action in every room.

Now Kitty is walking and talking I've turned into one of those mothers who wants to preserve their child's "innocence" and bang on to myself about wanting her to be able to be "free" to "be a child".

I'm being an idiot, though. I remember clearly the grim games of "grown-ups" that used to go on in the playground, my own yearning from about nine years old, to be several tens of years older than I actually was. Being small feels so unimportant. You are liable to be laughed at by grown-ups, they just won't take you seriously - it's dementing. You long to be older so that people will treat you with some fucking respect.

But I still plan to forge ahead with manufacturing a neat little cosily conventional childhood for Kitty, (even though it's actually for me), with Peppa Pig box sets, tea at 5pm, strict bedtimes, bucket and spade holidays, picture books, rocking horses, baking fairy cakes, wellies with frog eyes on the front. All that crap.

And I could do worse in my quest to shape Kitty's memories to my liking, than getting to be a dab hand at Welsh cakes, verily the taste of my childhood. They are also known as, I think, drop scones or griddle cakes. It's basically a sort of scone batter cooked in a dry frying pan. They are as delicious as they sound.

You cannot buy these, they do no exist commercially - and what I mean by this is that you CAN buy things that claim to the Welsh cakes on the packet, but the whole point about them is that they have to be eaten about half and hour off the griddle, still warm, with salted butter. Once they are not freshly made, piping hot, they cease to be Welsh cakes. At least that's my view.

They're alright the next day but not as good. My mother makes a batch when there is about to be an extra large kiddie invasion and we all stand at the kitchen counter at 3.15pm shoving them in our faces with both hands, before swinging on the curtains, daubing ourselves with mud and fighting each other with sticks.

Please note the self-raising flour.

Mamgu's Welsh cakes
Makes about 20

8 oz self raising flour
4 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
2 oz currants
1 egg

1 Put the flour, butter and sugar into a bowl and then cut in the butter (this is easier if the butter is soft. Yes I know this is a pain in the bum, but butter only takes 30 mins to soften up in a room temperature kitchen, so go away and fold some laundry or something).

2 Rub the butter in with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs.

3 Beat the egg, add in and mix until there is a pliable dough.

4 Roll out to a thickness of 1cm and then cut with a pastry cutter

5 Fry in batches in a hot, dry frying pan for about 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown, and then transfer to a cooling rack. My mother claims to have seen these baked on a hot hoe over an open fire in a field, but I think she might be having me on. You can never quite tell with her.


  1. Oh I love Welsh cakes. M&S do sometimes have them but I've never tried them. Making them is so easy and comforting.

  2. Of all the things you need to make sure your daughter gets, wellies with frogs eyes are at the top of the list. I never got them as a kid - I got boring green dunlop wellies - and I have always held a grudge about it. To be honest the ridiculous therapist bill* I have accumulated in the last 10 years could most definitely have been avoided had I just got the sodding wellies as a child.

    Ach well, live and learn.


    *I suspect the therapy is less to do with the wellies and more to do with my sister dying when I was 14, but in my head it's all about the wellies.

  3. BWHAHAHAH! What a story! You've cheered this moany old cow up. Thanks!

  4. I have just moved full-time to mid-Wales, now my husband has taken early retirement/been made redundant aged 56; we can't afford the Hertfordshire prices/mortgage any more so we are selling up there and moving to our little holiday home. I needed to know how to make Welsh Cakes, so Big thanks. However at the moment our garden thermometer reads 80F in the shade, so I will leave off for a while before frying anything.

    Give Kittie a UK childhood, and don't worry for a second if it's the right thing or not - she will thank you for it one day. We do it so well here, childhood, that we never really completely leave it, spend forever trying to recapture it. The best UK meal is meant to be breakfast (the first meal of the day) and maybe we do childhood well too (the first stage of life).

    Bucket and spade holidays are unique to these isles. Especially ones taken in raincoats. You can do it! Attagirl!

  5. I love welsh cakes! My childhood food memory growing up in South Wales. Never been brave enough to make them myself but I do buy the inferior version from M&S when I see them. We used to call my grandpa "Bampy" and I always thought that was a welsh thing?

  6. Mmmm, I'd love to try these. You can get Tan Y Castell welshcakes in Waitrose, but homemade ones are bound to be superior.

  7. I miss Welsh cakes.

  8. I love this - I discovered them a few years ago at an Eisteddfod and inhaled so many. Delicious.

  9. I'm going to try these for the "in from school" treat.
    What's that saying... if you build it they will come"? probably wrong but the idea is there. You should stick with the idea of childhood, children love the feeling of comforting things.
    I (in my self righteous rant) one day took the decision that for "friends for tea" meals, the construction of ones own pizza - from dough to toppings - was the way to go.
    Then - in complete arrogance - children would go home singing how wonderful doo-dah's mum is...
    Now EVERY time a child comes - mum can we make pizza? It's not so much the hassle of making it because after 160 times we're getting quicker, it's the bloody mess...
    However... my girls ALWAYS talk about these things in nostalgic warm words, so I think, keep going with it.
    Childhood is really a lovely gift to give your children.

  10. Yes, but that's what being a mother is all about (sighs in a pained way). My mum is a similar child-magnet. When desperate, I have been known to sit them in front of the laptop with skype up (video on) and her at the other end reading stories to them. So much for the 'innocent, back to basics' childhood then.

    Love welsh cakes too - my OH is still on a quest to retrieve his great aunt's welsh cake stone. A fool#s errand, I expect but it keeps him going occasionally.

  11. When my son was at Uni in Swansea one of the greatest pleasures when visiting was buying fresh, warm Welsh Cakes in the market .. pure bliss! Has to be Welsh butter or you turn into a sheep or something (according to his Welsh girlfriend at the time ....... )

  12. BIG Love for the Welsh cakes...from Sunny North Wales!

  13. These cakes are lovely. There is a market stall near me on Saturday (East Dulwich) that used to make them to sell with their Welsh Cheese. The cake making stopped after the owner had a baby. I used to take them home and have them with some Caerphilly cheese. Wonderful.

  14. I love good recipes that contain few ingredients and this is one of them. You are so lucky to have a mother making such delicious treats for you and your daughter:)

  15. Bakestones is what we called them in Abertillery, because that is what they were cooked on, a bakestone. You have brought back so many memories for me, thank you so much.

    Kitty looks delightful by the way.

  16. Oh and just be yourself and let Kitty be herself. Funnily enough children grow up fine without hot housing or special programmes or mum's getting all anxious in case they're not getting things right. Just enjoy Kitty's childhood because it doesn't last long and let yourself be pleased and amazed at whet she get up to and the persin she turns out to be.

  17. She is so cute! I must learn how to make Welsh cakes - living with a Welsh boyfriend with a huge Welsh family contingent, it's pretty much compulsory. Will give them a go. Kitty seems to love them! x