This simple traditional Welsh lamb cawl or soup is a real winter warmer with chunky vegetables and tender lamb. Serve with crusty fresh bread and some cheese for a really hearty family meal.
Celebrating British Food & Cooking
The nights are drawing in and temperatures are cooling so our thoughts turn to those hearty filling meals for autumn and winter.
Make Your Cawl The Day Before
Look no further, this really easy but ever so tasty recipe using neck of lamb fits the bill beautifully. It is slightly unusual in that a traditional Welsh cawl is made the day before eating to get the most flavour out of its simple ingredients.
There are some other recipes on the web which have all sorts of extra vegetables, seasonings, sometimes bacon, and may use a chicken or similar stock but those are not a traditional Welsh lamb cawl. Historically this was a simple farmhouse meal for Welsh hill farmers using root vegetables and parts of the lamb not going to market.
Neck of Lamb
A lamb cawl is made using a cheaper cut of meat suitable for long slow cooking, mostly the neck which if you can’t find it at the local supermarket you can always ask your local butcher.
Welsh vs New Zealand Lamb
Just because it’s a Welsh dish doesn’t mean you have to use Welsh lamb. In the UK the bulk of our lamb is imported from New Zealand so I try to buy my lamb from a local butcher who stocks meat from closer to home to keep the air miles down.
Locally produced lamb is obviously seasonal in whichever country the animals are raised so sometimes we have to buy imported meat. I may be a meat snob but I do like to get the best meat I can afford. I have to say Welsh lamb tastes better than New Zealand. It hasn’t been frozen or deep chilled for a couple of months during its 10,000-mile journey and is leaner without any loss of flavour despite having less fat.
It’s Welsh, It Must Have Leeks
Yes, I know it’s a stereotype but there is a historical precedent of the Welsh association with leeks. So true to form the recipe contains leeks. It wouldn’t be a traditional cawl without them.
Frequently Asked Questions
In Welsh what does cawl mean?
Cawl (pronounced [kaʊ̯l]) is a Welsh dish. In modern Welsh the word is used for any soup or broth; in English, it refers to a traditional Welsh soup, usually called cawl Cymreig (literally ‘Welsh soup’) in Welsh
What’s the difference between cawl and stew?
Cawl’s are stews native to Wales.
Can cawl be frozen?
Leftover cawl can be kept in the freezer for 3 months.
What is lamb cawl made of?
Lamb cawl is made from cheap cuts of lamb like the neck and root vegetables.
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Don’t Forget The Crusty Fresh Bread
You can’t afford to waste any of the delicious juices left in the bottom of the bowl so don’t forget those slices of crusty fresh bread to mop them up. It’s the best bit!
Here’s the Recipe …
Welsh Lamb Cawl
- 1 onion
- 1 kg lamb neck bone in, cut into 5cm chunks (ask your butcher)
- 1 kg swede
- 2 carrots
- 2 parsnips
- 500 g Maris Piper potatoes
- 3 large leeks
- mature Caerphilly cheese
- Pour 2 litres of water into a large pan with 2 teaspoons of sea salt, then bring to the boil over a high heat. Peel and add the whole onion, along with the lamb.
- Bring back to the boil, skimming away any scum from the surface. Simmer on a medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the lamb is cooked through.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb to a plate and leave until cool enough to handle.
- While it’s cooling, peel the swede, chop into 1cm chunks, and add to the pan to get a headstart. Peel the carrots and parsnips, slice at a slight angle 1cm thick, and drop them into the pan. Now peel the potatoes and cut into 4cm chunks.
- Strip all the lamb meat from the bone, and return the meat to the pan with the potatoes. Bring back to the boil, then simmer it all for 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost tender, while you wash the leeks and cut them into 1cm-thick slices.
- Now you can eat this straight away if you want to – simply stir the leeks into the pan, bring to the boil again, then simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on, or until tender. Taste and season to perfection.
- For even tastier results, let it chill overnight. In which case, simply stir in the raw leeks, cover, and pop into the fridge, where it will keep for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to serve, gently simmer the cawl until warm through, then season.
- Either way, ladle into serving bowls and serve with lots of black pepper, a wedge of mature Caerphilly cheese and a slice of good bread and butter for dunking.
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