Cawl Ffa

Makes 5 generous servings (serving a crowd?)

3 lbs lamb, cut into medium-sized chunks
2 rashers of bacon
¼ cup flour for dredging
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 bayleaf
1 teaspoon summer savory
2 quarts of water
3 medium carrots unpeeled carrots, diced (½ lb)
2 large leeks, chopped (about 1 lb)
3 small parsnips (6 oz), cut into ½ inch chunks
1 medium (12 oz.) rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 lb unpeeled potatoes, quartered as needed
1 lb broad beans
2 Tablespoon pearl barley
flour for thickening (about ¼ cup)
1 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly chopped parsley
crusty bread on the side

Special equipment

A large heavy saucepot or cauldron


Fry the bacon in the base of your kettle till crisp while you trim the fat from the lamb and debone as necessary. Dredge the lamb pieces in the flour, salt and pepper. Remove the bacon and set aside, and brown the lamb well in the bacon fat over moderately high heat. Add ample water, the bay leaf, sage, and bacon, now crushed, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for half an hour. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the top of one leek and the parsley. Bring the broth back to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Just prior to serving, cut the remaining leek tops into fine rings and toss them into the pot along with the parsley. Serve with a crusty bread.

Cawl ffa is literally a ‘summer stew’, a basic staple of Welsh cooking. Cawl is usually translated as ‘soup’, but a cawl is hearty, a full meal in a bowl. In olden days the meat was eaten at one meal, and the leftover broth at the next.

The parsnips help make this stew surprisingly sweet, and the greens added at the finish make it, well, vernal. Mild, yet satisfying, it makes a clever, almost deceptive, dish. The recipe is a combination of Davies's favourite and Luard's.


Lamb, of course, is the preferred meat of the Welsh, whether Cheviot, Welsh Mountain, Blue-Horn Leicester, or some lowland cross. Just remember the pilsey wafter's ditty:
Mountain lamb is sweet,
Valley lamb is fatter.
I therefore deemed it meet
To carry off the latter.

— Thomas Love Peacock, ‘The War-song of Dinas Vawr’


You may use any form of lamb: neck bones, shoulder slices, chunks cut from a leg, or even mutton if you're willing to simmer it ahead for an extra hour or two. Tradition requires marigold petals sprinkled liberally across the top.

This is the summer version of a cawl; a winter version would lack the beans and include more root vegetables and probably some salt pork or ham; a harvest cawl would have new potatoes and lots of fresh herbs. If you can't find broad beans (also called fava beans, as they're known in the Middle East) where you live, substitute butter beans, the closest New World equivalent.

First served: Beltane 1993
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Last modified: © April 1993