When I was working, one of my colleagues was one of the hyggeliest people I knew. She had the skill of letting you into her home and making you feel secure, cosy and safe. This, despite the fact that she was married to a Grinch and struggled with feeling inadequate herself. I don’t think she knew how good she was to be with, but I often told her so and we spent many a happy hour talking through life, love and the pursuit of happiness.
We also spent many an hour eating her homemade welsh cakes. She had teenage sons and said they were the best thing she’d come across for hungry mouths at the end of a school day. I don’t know how many times a week she made them, but the tin was always full one day and empty the next.
Welsh cakes (as the name implies) come from Wales, but regional variations can be found all over the British Isles and (I suspect) the world. Nothing is entirely unique to one area or another: with subtle variations you can find most really good ideas in one form or another all over the world. Except perhaps for Surströmming. I can’t imagine that’s big many places.* In the North East of England, the cake would be a Singing Hinny, in Cornwall it’s a Heavy Cake and associated with the herring harvest, when a huer located on the cliff top to spot the shoal coming into port would call out “Hevva!” to alert the fishermen to the presence and then go home to bake Heavy Cakes for the fishermen’s return.
I still owe the blog a piece on the word ‘cwtch’ and what it really means. I will do it, one Friday. I know it means both the seat and the cuddle on the seat, and is used by a lot of welsh people to convey a sense of warmth, love and togetherness. We must cwtch sometime.
So, with thanks to my old friend Margaret, whom I sadly lost touch with, here’s the recipe.
225g plain flour
85g caster sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp baking powder
50g butter, cut into small pieces
50g lard, cut into small pieces, plus extra for frying
1 egg, beaten
A splash of milk
- Tip the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Then, with your fingers, rub in the butter and lard until crumbly.
- Mix in the currants.
- Work the egg into the mixture until you have soft dough, adding a splash of milk if it seems a little dry – it should be the same consistency as shortcrust pastry.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of your little finger.
- Cut out rounds using a 6cm cutter, re-rolling any trimmings.
- Grease a flat griddle pan or heavy frying pan with lard, and place over a medium heat.
- Cook the Welsh cakes in batches, for about 3 mins each side, until golden brown, crisp and cooked through.
The cakes are delicious served warm with butter and jam, or simply sprinkled with caster sugar. They are supposed to stay fresh in a tin for 1 week, but I can’t say as they never last that long.
The Hygge Nook on Facebook has over 5,000 members now. That’s way more than I ever expected. We’ve also done really well at getting along together in the year it’s been up. I hope that all the members are supportive, kind and treat each other with respect, but it’s been a lesson for me in how different people feel they have to ‘find’ their hygge. For some, they need people around them, for others the close family make them feel hyggely. For quite a few the sort of hygge you feel when you have me-time is important. I think one of the things that drew me to hygge was the idea that there was not one ‘set way’ to hygge: that you could be racing across the hills on a mountain bike with your friends and feel hyggely or sit with a tea and feel hyggely by yourself. Am I understanding this right? What’s your take on hygge? When do you get the feeling mostly? I’d love to know.
Hope you enjoy making the welsh cakes: let me know if you do. If you’d like to read more of my ramblings, then why not try my books? They’re all available from Amazon.
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*Except for Japan, Iceland, Egypt and other Nordic/Scandinavian countries. Oh, and Worcestershire sauce has a fermented fish ingredient. There is nothing in the world completely unique but wishing makes it so.