A Simple Swper Mam, or Mum's Supper
I thoroughly enjoyed a simple but filling Welsh supper last night, one that fit the weather here in Kansas (a bitter 12 F/-11 C with snow and ice on the ground). As is so often the case with old-fashioned Celtic cuisine, the quality of the raw ingredients makes a lot of difference to the taste of the meal, and I was lucky to have on hand two excellent local products: Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farms back bacon, and Skyview Farms’ fantastic Caerphilly Cheddar.
The dish crying out for my attention last night can be found in the late Bobby Freeman’s nifty little Welsh Country Cookery: Traditional Recipes from the Country Kitchens of Wales. Many of these recipes were originally collected by Freeman as she investigated little-known Welsh foodways. She published First Catch Your Peacock in 1980, the first contemporary Welsh culinary history, and she followed it with by a number of other books and scholarly articles on Wales.
Swper Mam, or Mum’s Supper, is classic Welsh comfort food. I altered Freeman’s recipe only slightly. Gather together 6-8 slices of high quality back bacon (take off any excess fat), chopped onion, and roughly 2 cups of grated Caerphilly or a good quality farmhouse cheddar cheese. Layer these ingredients in a casserole, starting with the bacon and ending with the cheese (Freeman suggests ending with the bacon, but I think the cheese on top browns nicely). Sprinkle each layer with fresh ground pepper and top the casserole with parsley. Bake it in a hot oven alongside a jacket potato, and it’s all ready in roughly 40 minutes. For the first twenty minutes, I would suggest covering the casserole to keep the cheese from browning before the bacon is cooked. Uncover for the last twenty minutes. Consumed greedily in front of a roaring fire on a frigid night, the dish cannot be beat.