September 20th, 2014

A couple of months ago my friend Tim invited me to Wales for the Abergavenny Food Festival. He said he’d sort out the tickets and accommodation, so frankly it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

welsh breakfast

welsh breakfast

I arrived on Friday and was promised a full Welsh breakfast and mountain climb, the following morning, before proceeding to the first day of the festival in the afternoon. I did think the mountain might finish me off, but the breakfast and perhaps more precisely, the laverbread (bara lawr) carried me through the day and late on into the night…

Incidentally, we listened to the live Radio 4 broadcast from the Abergavenny Food Festival while we ate.

laver label

laver label

 Laverbread is an ancient Welsh delicacy made from seaweed (laver). The main type of seaweed used is purple laver (Porphyra umbilicalis), actually a brownish colour, which becomes a dark green paste after washing (to remove sand) and boiling for several hours. A common method of serving laverbread is to mix it with oatmeal before frying it in cakes (see top photo). The above laver came from Penclawdd in Swansea, famous for its cockles since Roman times.

Laverbread is full of iron, iodine and vitamin B12. Supposedly it helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, while removing free radicals and aiding digestion. I really enjoyed the flavour, salty and savoury, reminding me of the Japanese nori seaweed used for making sushi (it is the same variety of seaweed, but prepared differently). The oats taste fairly neutral, but give the laverbread a good crunchy texture when fried (ideally with bacon or in bacon fat). It goes down very well with Welsh bacon, fried egg and Irish Clonakilty black pudding (how did that get in there?). No doubt laverbread is also good with fish. Richard Burton once described it as, “Welshman’s caviar.”

tim on the skirrid

tim on the summit

By 11 O’Clock we’d circumnavigated and climbed the Skirrid (Ysgyryd Fawr) on the eastern edge of the Black Mountains. I was hoping for a good shot of Abergavenny from the mountain, but everything was shrouded in mist and I couldn’t even get a decent shot of the Skirrid itself.

misty morning

misty morning

Things were brightening up as we descended and walked back to Tim’s house through fields of grass, corn and sheep. I did think several times about Cecilia’s farm in America  (thekitchensgarden), as the lambs bleated and ran away from us.

By 12.30, when we got back to the house, the mist had lifted, just in time to visit the food festival…

Here’s Keith Floyd in Wales, featuring cockles, laverbread and cawl.

About Mad Dog
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24 Responses to Laverbread

  1. You always seem to go to great places and eat well. The lambs probably thought you looked hungry 🙂

  2. MarkG says:

    Coincidentally I spent two weeks near Hay-on-Wye in July and purchased a couple of tins of laverbread from a deli. I have not eaten it before but I was told that it is traditionally served with cockles. Do you know of a fishmongers in North London that stocks fresh cockles by any chance?! I don’t spot them in supermarkets except for the pickled/jarred variety and the mainly Turkish-run fish shops near me are not big on shellfish.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Hi Mark, you might get them in Steve Hat’s fish shop on Essex Road and if not I’m sure he’d know where to get them 😉

      • MarkG says:

        Thanks for the suggestion! I had not thought of Steve Hatt’s. Fortunately it’s very close by. Cheers.

        • Mad Dog says:

          I’m sure I’ve seen them somewhere recently in London, though I can’t think where. They might have them in the Islington Farmers’ Market on Sundays and almost certainly in Borough Market 😉

  3. simon tyszko says:

    bloody yummy….. x

    **Simon Peter Tyszko* * * * * *Isotopica episodes on Resonance FM* *twitter*

  4. Amanda says:

    Very interesting. I’d love to try some laver bread. A typical Welsh breakfast looks amazing. Yum. Definitely gives you strength for a climb. Gorgeous photos. And who doesn’t love a food festival. Wonderful!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Amanda. I’m sure you could make it yourself if you can find the right seaweed, it must grow around the American coasts… You can definitely buy it online, though it’s probably not cheap. The taste is very nori and familiar if you like sushi 🙂

  5. Michelle says:

    Can’t wait to see your pics from the Abergavenny Food Festival. We were there last year and enjoyed it so much. Missed the laverbread, though, unfortunately.

  6. Conor Bofin says:

    That looks very interesting MD. The last time I was in Wales, a ferry breakdown kept us in Hollyhead for 24 hours. I still shudder at the memory.

  7. When I was a child we used to go a couple of times a year to North Wales to visit my grandfather’s family and they often tried to get me to eat laverbread….more fool me at that age for not realising what I was missing! Am curious to taste it now. Looking forward to reading more about the Food Festival and well done on the mountain climb 🙂

  8. I’m back and the first place I have come to visit is you. Of course I was not disappointed…I’d never heard of laverbread and now am dying to try it. Illuminating post, as usual!!!! I will try not to disappear again for so long!

  9. Pingback: Abergavenny Food Festival 2014 (Sunday) | Mad Dog TV Dinners

  10. abdun navi says:

    the cake look deliciouse,.

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