It’s very easy for those who live outside the United Kingdom to think of everyone living in the British Isles as ‘English’ but that is absolutely not the case. Wales, Northern and Southern Ireland, England and Scotland all have distinct national characteristics and a strong sense of patriotism for their own individual countries. And for centuries, for those who live in Wales or who consider themselves Welsh no matter where in the world they might live, March 1st has been a celebration. It’s held to be the date of the death of Wales’ patron saint, St David, and this is the day his memory is celebrated, along with a healthy dose of national pride.
In Wales itself, there are parades, concerts and parties, but as far afield as New York, Monaco and even China, you will find celebrations in honour of this special day. It’s traditional to wear a daffodil in your lapel, as the daffodil and the leek are the official symbols of St David’s Day. It’s also traditional to eat national dishes such as Welsh cakes, a teatime treat, and main dishes containing lamb, leeks and other produce found in Wales.
This year, Prince Charles, who is of course Prince of Wales, celebrated St David’s Day in Camarthenshire, accompanied by the Chinese Ambassador to the UK. As always, the Welsh dragon flag flies above Westminster on this day, in tribute to St David and to Wales, and the Welsh Secretary to Parliament reads the St David’s Day Chapel Service at the House of Commons. To read more about the celebrations and see some photographs from the BBC, please click here.
The food of Wales truly is delicious, and I fondly remember attending a high tea at a farmhouse there some years ago which is among the most wonderful meals I have ever eaten. I have never seen so many cakes, pies and treats, and the hospitality was such that I was pressed to try a bit of everything – and it was all scrumptious. If you would like to try your hand at a bit of traditional Welsh food in honour of St David’s Day, there are some great recipes on the BBC Good Food website which you can find by clicking here.
Or try one of my recipes, a family favourite,
Chicken with White Wine and Leek Sauce
St David’s Day
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
The recipe make enough sauce for 4 to 6 chicken breasts or a similar number of chicken pieces and makes a wonderful family meal.
4 to 6 chicken breasts drizzled with a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 leeks, finely sliced, washed and drained
¼ cup good white wine
2 generous tablespoons flour
1-¼ to 1-½ cups milk
½ cup frozen peas
salt and pepper
Bake the chicken in a hot oven (about 375℉ or 190℃) until done. Chicken breasts take about thirty minutes; when cooked, the meat should have an internal temperature of at least 330℉ or 165℃ and there should be no pink meat remaining at all.
Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the drained leeks and stir to coat with the butter. Fry gently for three or four minutes until softened.
Add the white wine, turn up the heat and allow the wine to reduce for a minute or so. Turn the heat back to medium, and sprinkle the flour over top of the leeks, stirring to coat them thoroughly. Cook gently, stirring constantly, for a minute or two.
Gradually add the milk, a bit at a time, stirring after each addition. As the sauce thickens, add a bit more milk, continuing to stir. You want the sauce to be fairly thick, so that it stays on the chicken when you pour it over top (not runny like gravy) but not too thick or “gloopy”. (You may not need all the milk, or you may find you need a tiny bit more. Just go carefully.)
When the sauce has reached a nice consistency, lower the heat and stir in the frozen peas. Cook for two or three minutes, still continuing to stir the sauce regularly, until the peas are heated through. If the sauce has thickened a bit more, you can always add a tiny bit more milk and stir it through.
Serve the sauce over the chicken with extra in a sauceboat on the side so people can add more if they like.
I served this with roast potatoes and turnip when my son photographed it, but it would be really lovely served on a bed of rice as well, although potatoes really are a bit more authentic.
Happy St David’s Day!