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A beautiful confluence of events: Coming back from collecting plums from (and beneath) my friend Pippa’s very laden trees, I stopped to drop a bag of outgrown school uniforms at one of our much-appreciated local charity shops.  And what should be there, just on the counter before my very eyes– a water-stained, truly-in-tatters, mended-with-yellowing-tape, pages-in-the-wrong-order copy of Croeso Cymreig, A Welsh Welcome, a small book of traditional Welsh foods, first published in 1953, my copy a revised 1959 edition.  Published by Wales Gas Board (Bwrdd Nwy Cymru).  A true treasure for 30pence!

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This is the kind of book that lifts my heart, even if I felt a brief pang of disloyalty to S Minwel Tibbott, whom I’d pledged would be my guide to old fashioned Welsh cooking through all her wonderful writings and ethnographic gatherings.

(To repent straying, I hereby vow to finally get around to writing a Wikipedia entry for Mrs. Tibbott, because she deserves one for her important work documenting Welsh domestic culture. If you beat me to it… GREAT!)

There are loads of pamphlets and small books, for tourists perhaps, and people who’ve moved away from their roots, and most of these books are useful but not standouts.  Croeso Cymreig feels special because, as a publication of the gas board, it represents a real change of cooking technology.  The recipes seem to negotiate the moment between old ways of cooking (maybe stoves and ovens that had to be stoked with wood or coal) that themselves derived from cooking over fire in pots which Welsh Cawl (soupy stews) really remind one of.  But they are old recipes.  So many call for lard, or simply “fat,” which seems to vanish for the most part in more recent books.  You, Kitchen-Counter-Culture readers, will be hearing about many dishes represented in this booklet.

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And so, with that load of plums, how could I not try A Welsh Welcome‘s very simple and old-fashioned and for these very qualities utterly compelling Plum Tart — Tarten Eirin.

Filling
1lb plums, cut in half and stone removed
4 small apples sliced 
4 ozs. of sugar for sweetening, and a little water
 
[Intervention here– I had to add a little starch– in this case gluten free flour because it was on hand– knowing that the juiciness of the  plums would create a liquid problem,.  Interesting that the recipe didn’t specify this.  And of course I didn’t add any extra water. And of course, used windfall apples, cutting off all the brown bits…]
 
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 Pastry
The pastry is spiced– using 8 ozs. flour and 4 ozs. fat, and 1/2 oz. sugar and a little water; with 1/4 teaspoonful of cinnamon and a pinch of mixed spice.
Line a plate or shallow tin with half the pastry.  Fill with fruit, cover with sugar and add a little wter. Cover with the rest of the pastry and bake for 45 minutes.
 
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 The recipe asked for the pie to be baked at Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes then Gas Mark 4 for the rest– I approximated this at quite hot at first, then lower for the remaining.  My pies were sloppy as I didn’t seal them well enough.
 

May I say that Mixed Spice and cinnamon in the actual pastry dough is faintly mysterious, believe it or not?  And that it was really relaxing and comforting to eat a pie with such natural flavours — sweet and tart and buttery in such inviting pastry — and so homespun.

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I reckon this will become something I make every year, and I really recommend it — for all the romance of vintage china and teacups, and that whole world of wishing things were simpler (as if they ever were),  this is a real vintage recipe, definitely inspiring a sense of sweet nostalgia. Star Anise nowhere in sight.

Stay Tuned (is this a completely nostalgic phrase too, meaningless to the youth of today?) for:

Welsh Tarts Episode 2: Marrow

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