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What happens in St Davids on St David’s day?

It is the smallest city in the UK, has a population of around 1,500 people, and has a Cathedral that is slowly sinking, but what really happens in the city named after the patron saint of Wales on St David’s day? Blas y Tir took a trip to this historic city to investigate…

St David's Sign
St David’s City Sign in the Pembrokeshire Sunshine

Sitting in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park on the western coast of South Wales and surrounded by golden, sandy beaches and the rugged Pembrokeshire coastline you would be mistaken to think that St Davids city is a quiet, sleepy town with very little to see or do. The reality is that the sense of community in the smallest city in the UK is strong, with a variety of weekly clubs, sports activities and community activities, as well as café’s, pubs and restaurants keeping the residents and some of the thousands of visitors each year entertained.

whitesands photos
Whitesand’s beach in the sunshine

With the sun shining we head into the centre of the city, a small, bustling square with unique shops of interest, colourful houses, cafés and olde-worlde pubs.

Colourful Houses St David's
Colourful houses in the centre of St David’s

Almost forgotten in time, the centre of St Davids also retains a family-run butchers, green grocers and newspaper shop. Unable to resist, we had to pop into both the butchers and green grocers to pick up some final ingredients to rustle up a traditional St David’s day dish, but more about that later!

Veg Patch St David's
There are lots of independently owned shops in St David’s – we just had to visit the veg shop!

With St Davids City Hall located further along the main road, and St Davids Cathedral a short walk down the hill in the opposite direction, the centre in between, you can understand why there is a strong sense of community, with both the city council and church retaining a high level of support locally. With golden daffodils in bloom, St Davids city flags flown around the centre and boutique shop windows decorated for the annual St David’s day window-dressing competition we start to get an idea of the festivities that unfold at this time of year!

Welsh Flags in St David's
Welsh flags fly in St David’s

Heading towards the Cathedral you’re able to get a sense of the importance of St David’s day to the city, and the traditions celebrated on this day. A bed of daffodils lines your way towards the entrance of the Cathedral, where a program of events stands outside, informing visitors of various services and community events happening throughout the weekend before St David’s day and on the day itself, welcoming all.

Cathedral with Daffs
St David’s Cathedral surrounded by daffodils

Of course, it is not just the Cathedral that holds celebrations for St David’s day, but also the community as a whole. We headed into the St David’s Cross Hotel, the only hotel on the cross square in St Davids, to find out more from local boy and hotel manager, Alex Perkins.

“There is always lots of things going on around St David’s day here in St Davids. We’re so lucky that everyone gets involved with lots of different activities and makes it a real event in the calendar, with people travelling in from other local villages and towns to see what’s happening.” He explained. “There is such a calendar of events in the run up to St David’s day to really get everyone involved – with a whole calendar of events published in our local newsletter”. Events in the city run through from the annual window display competition, ‘Ras Dewi Sant Coastal Marathon’, ‘Dragons Parade’ and ‘Mini Rugby Challenge’, as well as Cathedral events such as a ‘Choral Eucharist’ and ‘Prayers at Shine of St David’.

Among all the events, one in particular caught our eye, the ‘Annual St David’s Day Cawl Competition! We asked Alex to explain further “The annual St David’s Day Lamb Cawl competition takes place every year and is held in the town hall. Most businesses in the local area get involved, as well as individuals, with the judges being the local residents. It is free to go along and taste some of the best lamb cawl you will ever try, and you can try your hand at judging and picking your favourite, last year there were over 15 entries, and it is getting bigger every year. I must admit it is very hard to judge 15 or so different lamb cawl’s and remember which ones in particular stand out! It is a great event and also any money that is raised goes back to the local primary school, so you can say you’ve tasted cawl for charity!”

Now that sounds like something we would want to get involved in! Although the entry deadline for this year’s St David’s day lamb cawl competition may have closed, we’ve rustled up our own lamb cawl using Blas y Tir Maris Piper Potatoes and Leeks – a cawl that we like to think would stand a good chance at the annual St David’s Lamb Cawl competition!

Blas y tir Lamb Cawl

This Lamb Cawl recipe is really simple, will make approx. 8 portions, and takes about 2 hours to cook – definitely worth trying!

You will need:

  • 1 onion
  • 850g Lamb Shoulder, cut into 5cm chunks (you can ask your butcher to do this for you)
  • 1kg Swede
  • 2 Medium-sized Carrots
  • 3 Large Blas y tir Maris Piper Potatoes
  • 2 Parsnips
  • 3 Large Blas y tir leeks
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Pepper

How to make:

  • In a large saucepan (or a stock pot if you have one) place 2 litres of water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Place your pan over a high heat and bring to the boil.
  • Peel the onion and add it whole to the water, along with the lamb meat. Bring the mixture to the boil and use a spoon to clear any scum from the surface, should you need to. Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes, or until the lamb is cooked through. If you have used meat containing bone, remove the meat from the pan using a slotted spoon, allow to cool slightly, then remove the bone and add the now de-boned meat back to the pan.
  • Peel and cut the swede into 1cm chunks. Add to the pan and bring it to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the swede is just tender.
  • Peel and slice the carrots into 1cm chunks. Add to the pan and bring it to the boil, then simmer for a further 15-20 minutes with the lid on, or until the carrot is tender. While the carrot is cooking, peel the Blas y tir Maris Piper potatoes and cut into quarters, making them all a similar size if possible.
  • Once the carrots are tender, add the chopped potatoes to the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes with the lid on, or until the potatoes are tender.
  • Peel the parsnips and chop into 1cm chunks. Strip and discard the outer leaves from the Blas y Tir leeks and cut into 1cm slices. Add the parsnips and most of the leeks to the pan. Bring the pan to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on or until the parsnip is tender.
  • Taste & season the cawl, adding the remaining sliced raw leeks.
Blas y tir lamb cawl with chunky bread and a chunk of cheese is always a winner

To serve, gently simmer the cawl in a saucepan until warm, ladle into bowls and serve with fresh buttered bread and a wedge of your favourite strong Welsh cheese!

You can eat this cawl immediately, but to develop the further why not try placing a lid on top and putting it in the fridge to chill overnight?

Happy St David’s Day!

February 2016

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