Today is the 1st of March (you probably noticed), Saint David’s day. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales, land of song, rugby, daffodils, leeks, welsh cakes and bara brith. No-one really wants me to sing, and we can draw a veil over the rugby right away, as Wales emphatically beat France in their 6 Nations match last week, and I’m still sore about it. Leeks are fine, but daffodils are finer (although not to eat, obviously)
We don’t have our own in flower yet. There is one little clump nestled right against the house that is sometimes out in time for a St David’s day vase. I don’t know what kind of daffs they are, they were here when we came to the house. They aren’t a variety I like very much, but they are perfect for the first vase of daffodils of the season, so I keep them. Elsewhere in the garden we have the ones I put in. There are two kinds. Firstly there is “Thalia”, which won’t turn up for a good while yet, being more of an April flowerer here. There is a great puddle of them in the rough grass on the way to the treehouse, a delicate, not glaring white and sweetly, if gently scented. No matter what abuses they put up with – deep shade at one end, baking at the other, flooding in winter, ducks, hens, pheasants, geese, children, cutting and later in the season mowing, they still keep on coming back. I love them, they are my favourite daff.
Behind the house I am trying to establish an area of the classic narcissus poeticus, the pheasant’s eye daffodil. This is one of the oldest daffodils in cultivation. It is a very attractive one with its white petals, shallow yellow cup with a green throat and orange-red edge. So far they are doing well, but then they have a reputation for being good naturalizers.
However none of these daffodils are even close to flowering, so it’s back to cake.
Welsh cakes are not my thing. I don’t hugely enjoy them. Perhaps this is because I was made to cook them every year in school for the compulsory cookery entry in the annual Eisteddfod (sort of traditional Welsh cultural festival-y competition thing) we had on Saint David’s day. They are not what I think of as a true cake, but are really a small sweetened griddle cake with raisins. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, then I can do no better than direct you to Delia Smith’s recipe.
Bara brith on the other hand is lovely. Bara brith is Welsh for speckled bread, with the speckles being provided by dried fruit. There are lots of recipes, some very cakey (perhaps more modern), some more like a fruit bread with yeast in the mix (probably more traditional). All are good, but my true passion is reserved for the richer, spicier, and fruitier ones. To taste what is quite possibly the finest bara brith on the face of the earth, you need to travel to Cardiff (or get someone else to for you), to the Museum of Welsh Life at Saint Fagans, and buy the stuff they make there in the old bakery, from flour milled in the old mill. It is perfect.
Failing that, it is pretty easy to make. I have about three recipes I play with in search of the St Fagans replica of my dreams, the current favourite is here.