Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Welsh Tea Houses and Traditional Recipes

"Lets do a tea crawl in Gaiman today!"

"What is a tea crawl?"

"It like bar hopping, but in tea houses filled with cakes and cats. Each tea house gives you an endless supply of tea, and an elaborate assortment of handmade cakes. We stuff ourselves full of sweets until our blood begins to shake, and then we crawl our way to the next tea house, to eat more than we thought was humanly possible."

"This doesn't really seem like a good idea, but I'm down."

The town of Gaiman is the centre of the Welsh settlements in Argentina. It is a quiet little town where everything always seems to be closed for siesta. Tucked in corners around the town are tea houses, started by many different Welsh families. Directions to the tea houses are marked with signs containing the Welsh dragon from the national flag of Whales.

Despite our desire to comatose our selves with tea cakes, we only ended up making it to one tea house, Plas y Coed. We spent almost three hours there, eating, drinking, and getting to know Ana, who runs the Casa de Té. The house was started in 1944 by Ana's great grandmother, Dilys Owen.


Within Gaiman, Dilys was known for her baking, especially her cacen ddu (black cake), which was often served at local weddings. The Welsh settlers in the Chubut region of Patagonia perfected their version of Welsh cake to reminisce of home, and create a food that would last for months while the settlers were struggling with supplies.  After Dilys, the tea house was passed down to her son Gwyn Rees and his wife Marta Roberts.

Ana learned how to cook the pastries and cakes served at the tea house from her grandmother, Marta Roberts. Ana is now responsible for running the tea house, and has made some changes to the menu to focus on her Welsh roots. The cakes themselves are what makes this tea room special, because the recipes have been passed down through the family. Even the homemade jams come from fruit trees planted by her grandparents.


Ana speaks Spanish, English, and Welsh, attending Lampeter University in West Wales on scholarship. She works hard towards preserving the Welsh culture in Patagonia. Visiting her tea room is a trip through the history of the first Welsh families in Patagonia. But above all, go for her cakes. I will be forever impressed by her amazing cakes, which I have been continually craving since I left her tea house.

Ana gave me a small booklet containing some of the recipes she uses at her tea house, to share with my readers. I have not yet been able to make these recipes myself due to travel constraints. Please let me know how they worked for you, and any adjustments you made based on your particular cooking appliances. Ana's uses these recipes every day, thus most of her cooking is done by memory or taste, and the recipes reflect this.


Tarten Hufen (Cream Cake)
This cake is in the photo below on the left side, towards the back of the middle of the plate. It has a brown top with the cream visible underneath. 

For the filling:

  • 1 litre of double cream
  • 2 eggs whites
  • 150gm of sugar
  • 1 tbs of gelatin (flavourless)
  • cup of raisins of fresh raspberries

For the pastry:

  • 1/2 kg flour
  • 100gm butter
  • 50gm sugar
  • warm water

For the filling, combine the sugar and gelatin. Add the double cream to the sugar and gelatin. In a separate bowl whisk in the egg whites until they become stiff and begin to stand up. Then add the egg whites to the cream mixture.

For the pastry, mix the flour and sugar.  Mix in the butter and add a little warm water until a fairly smooth, soft dough is achieved. Place the dough in the fridge for a half an hour. Roll out the dough and use it to line the baking dish. 

Place the raisins or the raspberries on the pastry, and then add the the filling on top.  Cook at a very low temperature for about an hour or until the tart has become lightly brown. Ana suggests, if possible, leaving the oven door slightly open. The low temperature is a must to prevent the cream from boiling and bubbling over. 

Makes 2 small tarts or 1 large (Ana normally makes 1 large cake in a square tin and then cuts it into smaller squares afterwards.)


Pice ar y maen (pica bach)
This is the circular bread in the right hand photo, behind the black cake. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup butter
  • Milk
  • 1 egg

Mix together the dry ingredients, and then fold in the egg. Add a little bit of milk at a time until a soft but not runny mixture is produced. Roll the dough out with flour until 3/4 inches thick. Cut out circles and place them on a heated greased griddle pan until brown on both sides. Making these cakes reminds me of cooking pancakes, but these cakes are stiffer and full of wonderful spices. 

3 comments:

  1. Love the culture and food mix. What a great story. I can't wait until you come back to make us the recipes you learned from Ana. : >

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  2. i would love to hear their accent in English after all this time!

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  3. What an neat idea, tea house hopping. Very interesting that there's a Welsh community in southern Argentina. I searched and found that around 100 Welsh came over to establish a colony in the mid 1800s because they thought they were going to lose their culture to the English. They speak what they call Patagonia Welsh. Did Ana say if her relatives were part of that original colony? Looking forward to what you come across in Ushuaia.

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