Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Vegetable Cawl

I have learnt a lot about my children over the couple of months since we moved, and this will probably sound like a bit of a boast, but they are my kids, and if I can't boast about them occasionally, well who can?

They have shown themselves to be resilient, adaptable, tolerant, good natured and enthusiastic in the face of not inconsiderable challenge and come out mostly smiling. I say mostly because there have been moments, especially for Blue, when it's all got a bit much, but even then, they have managed to get it all back together and on track. I've had moments too (as the fruity peanut butter cookies are testament to), but I've had years of 'character building experiences' to help me deal with this particular one (although, when does ones character stop being built??), where they haven't. And yet, they have done more than just cope.

Another thing I've learnt about them - or perhaps, been reminded of - is that, food-wise,  you can dress something up in another guise, repackage it - rebrand it if you will - and get them to eat something that they would otherwise not have touched.

Now (and yes, another boast) my kids are pretty good eaters - well, Blue certainly is, and in true sloppy attitude to second child - Pink's occasional fads simply don't bother me any more (I've come along way from the woman who once chased a 9 month old round a room with a spoonful of brocoli in cheese sauce...)

But less of the self-congratulation. Good eaters or not, there are some things that just aren't that popular with children, and as far as mine are concerned, this includes soup - lumpy soup in particular. We've made progress over the years, but a soup including barley, chunks of veg - something I would have called vegetable broth, for want of anything more imaginative to call it? You're having a laugh.

So this is where the repackaging comes in. Cawl is a traditional Welsh dish - pronounced cowel (as my kids inform me, with all the authority of those who have been learning something their parents have not yet had time to get to grips with, and not 'call' as I had thought). It's basically a broth which can have anything in it, depending on what's available, but usually includes barley type grains, making it more substantial than a simple soup. It can have bacon or gammon in it, left over chicken, pieces of lamb, or just be vegetables.

Just right for an easy supper. Except I never for one minute thought the kids would go for it, and how wrong I was. The 3rd day at their new school saw them celebrating St David's Day. I had to work hard to persuade the Husband that they could be permitted to go to school dressed in Welsh rugby shirts, but may be the very 'welshness' of the occasion (and the rugby shirts) rubbed off on them, because they came home pronouncing that cawl was so delicious that they had had thirds. Well, you can't let an opportunity like that go to waste, so armed with a packet of country soup mix, this has become a staple of the weekly menu. Not soup, not vegetable broth, but cawl. 

When in Wales, and all that.

Vegetable Cawl

Serves 6, approximately. 

Remember that you need to start this 8-12 hours before you actually want to eat, to soak the country soup mix.

150g country soup mix
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, peeled & finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 bay leaf
4 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
1.5 litres hot chicken stock (or veg stock if you're vegetarian)
Chopped parsley to garnish if desired

The night before, soak the country soup mix in 500ml water - it needs to soak for 8-12 hours at least.

Heat the olive oil gently in a large pan, and gently fry the onions and garlic for 10 minutes or so till softened, then add the carrots, bay leaf and sliced leek and cook for another couple of minutes.

Drain the soup mix, add it to the pan, then tip in the stock and bring it to the boil. Boil the soup for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 20 minutes or so.

Serve in big bowls, garnished with chopped parsley, and with crusty bread.


  1. Good dish to have in the freezer to for those blanket in front of the fire moments. Well done kids - knew they could do it. Elinor x

  2. :-) thanks ELinor - yes it does freeze well too.

  3. My Father in law is Welsh, although he now lives in the US, he often talks fondly of Cawl and I had no idea what he was talking about. Now I know though! :)

  4. LIKE the idea of rebranding - I'm a bit fed up with the reaction I get when I make anything soupy, so I shall try a relaunch, and call it cawl! (we're practically in Wales anyway) Glad the kids have settled in so well :)

  5. My mum stood for no nonsense when it came to eating... Eat it or go hungry. I was never hungry. I would have lapped up this gorgeous bowl of goodness too I'm sure. Glad you've survived the big move to deepest darkest nowhere!

    1. Dom, that's what I do, but it's always a little galling when they grimace before eating it, which is why I was so pleased that this sort of thing now gets the thumbs up!


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