Now Playing: I wish I could mail some of this to you, Ma!
Every year on this date the Welsh celebrate St. David’s Day by sporting leeks on their caps and lapels, a tradition that dates to a sixth century battle against the Saxons when soldiers wore leeks in their helmets to cut down on friendly fire (actually sword slashes). You’ll find the leek in many Welsh dishes. I love them in this Cawl (pronounced "cowl"), a rustic, rib-sticking lamb stew often eaten by the Welsh to celebrate this day, and which I just whipped up for us to eat tonight, either by pure coincidence or psychologically suppressed on-purpose.
Here are the assembled vegetables awaiting surgery. Clockwise from top: leeks, white turnips, Yukon Gold potatoes, carrots, and rutabaga.
Cawl Mamgu, or Granny Broth:
Welsh lamb and root vegetable stew
This delicious potage will fill your belly happily and sustain you through the rest of the winter. Traditionally it’s served with crusty bread and rich Welsh cheese, and in parts of the country the broth is served as a first course, the meat and veggies as the main. Cawl is best made ahead of time so the flavors will blend in the refrigerator overnight. You can start two days before you serve it, or the morning of the day before. Serves 6-8.
3 lbs. lamb neck or shoulder pieces, on the bone
3 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use canola)
9-10 cups (2 ½ quarts) water
9 whole peppercorns
1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
1 lb. white turnips (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into chunks about 1” wide
1 lb. rutabaga/yellow turnip/swede (about 1 small), peeled and cut into chunks about 1” wide
3 fat carrots, peeled and sliced 1” thick
3 sprigs fresh thyme
¾ lbs Yukon Gold potatoes (about three medium), peeled and cut into chunks about 1” wide
1 lb. leeks (about 3/one bunch), root ends and dark green or wilted parts trimmed off, the remainder sliced lengthwise, rinsed well and sliced ½” thick
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat) parsley
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Sprinkle lamb chunks evenly with 2 teaspoons of the salt and set aside.
2. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or thick-bottomed heavy pan. Brown meat on all sides, without crowding pan; this will take about three batches, depending on the size of your pan. When all meat is brown, return it to the pan with its drippings. Add water and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, skimming scum, then lower heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Let cool and chill in refrigerator three hours to overnight.
3. Skim off layer of fat that has risen to the top, then add the turnip, rutabaga, carrot and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook 1 hour. Add potatoes, leeks, parsley, remaining teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cook a half hour more. Vegetables should be tender at knifepoint and meat will have ceased to cling fiercely to the bone. Remove thyme sprigs and serve.