Laver Bread – celebrating a true Welsh delicacy

Posted: March 22, 2022 in Life, Popular Culture et al
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

As we celebrate cultural diversity, we sometimes fail to recognise the unique cultures that go to make up Great Britain. Everyone always talks about the English, of course – which is their reward for conquering their near neighbours, I guess – but the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh are actually quite separate cultures, and each with their own distinct cuisine, for example.

The three Celtic or Gaelic nations (depending on which part of them you’re in) were always historically much poorer than the dominant English. So many of their peoples lived off the land, at least in part, for centuries, and still do, at least to some extent.

For example, these three countries all have a tradition of eating seaweed, gathered from their shorelines. Everyone knows that Asian countries have seaweed as a part of their staple diet, but very few know that some northern European people do, too. And good on ’em:  seaweed is highly nutritious: a natural superfood that is packed with vitamins and minerals. It is high in iodine, prebiotic fibre, antioxidants and plant protein. Indeed, for the vegans amongst you, it is one of the only viable vegetable sources of vitamin B12 – and it comes at a relatively little cost to the environment, when harvested sustainably. It can be eaten raw, boiled or stewed, or dried and added to many other foods as a condiment.

Many different types of seaweed can be eaten, although Atlantic Dulse (also known as dillisk, in Ireland) is the commonest in the Glamorgan and Prembrokeshire areas where my family are from.

Fresh dulse resembles a leafy, red lettuce.
Photo: Stephen Ward/Oregon State University
Looks weird, tastes delicious.

If you are of Welsh descent, like me, then you’ll know and love your seaweed as an anthracite black, dense, strongly flavoured puree, called Laverbread or bara lafwr in Welsh.

It tastes something like a cross between olives and oysters and is traditionally eaten fried in a pan with salted bacon and cockles (a small shellfish similar to an Australian ‘pipi’) at breakfast-time.

It’s also eaten cold as a salad with lamb or mutton and is a wonderful and nutritious snack when spooned onto hot buttered toast.

Once freely available from docks and local markets, it’s now mainly sold in tins, but not, sadly, in my adopted home of Australia, although one can buy dried versions to add to soups, meats and teas.

Laverbread and Australia do have one very significant connection, however.

At 11.07am on 28 April 1770 Captain James Cook was midway through his cockles and laverbread breakfast when he ‘discovered’ Australia for the crown. Likening the coastline of the new found land to that of South Wales, and influenced by his breakfast, no doubt, Cook imaginatively called the area ‘New South Wales’.

Comments
  1. John Tilley says:

    I did not realise that Captain Cook “discovered Australia” on my birthday.
    So I share my birthday with an entire country !
    Unless of course you are one of the original Australians who were there a few millennia before Captain Cook turned up in 1770. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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