Pastai Bysgod, A Taste of Wales Fish Pie
Some Sports Teams have a way of bonding people together, not just among players, but between their families as well and this is how I met my friend Nicola from Wales. As it turns out, Nicola, a family physician, is quite an accomplished cook herself and has always (well, according to her daughter ‘Becks’ that is) daily prepared healthy, fabulously spectacular and brilliant food for all of their family.
Becks and my youngest daughter, Alex, are college field hockey teammates. Along with our common team association, Nicola and I both share appreciation of culinary quality in all its forms, including those of a cultural nature as well as healthy, fresh foods too that Nicola has cooked not just for one, but for four scholar athletes in the family over the years.
One of these, Luke, is a Rugby player and in case you follow Rugby, Nicola’s son was one among that team bringing the winning World Cup to Wales this year so there you have it, the ‘Well-Done’ Shout Out for Wales, and the Welsh Rugby Players!
One of the special preparations I do each year during the sports season Team Family Tailgates is to prepare special dishes of the country our team international players are from, so about half way through Beck’s Freshman year, a little homesick for Mom’s cooking and something that might resemble a special food of her homeland, I first prepared Cottage Pie.
Looking back, I think I must have read at least a hundred Cottage Pie recipes until I finally came up with a version combined from among the various assortments. Preparing a very large deep tray, we lugged my late Grandmother’s over twenty-year-old convection oven to bake and serve it steaming hot and fresh following our Post Game gathering.
Becks was thrilled with joy approaching the table, spooning out the first hearty square, but her big huge smile shortly gave way to shock when Cottage Pie, the much loved dish shared among her Welsh Countrymen went over so well leaving all that remained of forethought leftovers on taking back to the dormitory, a single pea.
Since then I have prepared Cottage Pie a number of times for Becks, and we always serve it alongside the other dishes at the Team Family Dinner. Cottage Pie has also become a favorite for my own family and now, once removed from the hot oven, also includes sending over a side dish to my next-door neighbor who coincidentally, is also from Wales.
In the following season, Nicola and her husband, Chris visited the states to see Becks and attend the Team sports matches, along with her she shared a special gift with me, A Taste of Wales cookbook filled with plenty of colorful photographs and easy directions for 33 Classic Welsh Recipes. The author is Annette Yates and if you are interested in learning more about Welsh food, I’ve provided the information here.
Today I prepared Pastai Bysgod, Fish Pie and it turned out quite good, the cookbook provides conversions so it is easy to follow. I did make adaptations but with each change believing Nicola would approve. The dish resembles a thick, creamy seafood chowder with a crust, and in this recipe the crust calls for Puff Pastry. My seven year old Grandson the J-Dude rolled the pastry and created the lovely decorative fish atop, a pretty good job I think.
Now, the following year, Nicola and her husband Chris made another visit to the states attending Becks matches this time along with their lovely family and Nicola shared yet another special gift, the cookbook: Great British Puddings.
This cookbook is another that I will be sharing with you at another point of time. Did you know there is actually a “Pudding Club.” Well, yes there is and it was solely created to preserve the tradition of the Great British Puddings of past. Many of the recipe ingredients within the cookbook leave me to chuckle in not being so commonly available locally or requiring substitutions. Some of these recipe ingredients include ‘Demerara’ which is hard to find but easily substituted for brown sugar, then there are ingredients such as gelatin leaves, double cream, caster sugar, and vegetable suet.
Speaking of Suet, another recipe ingredient that left me in a whirling attempt last Christmas season trying to procure what ultimately required a week’s advance ordering. I only learned the details on this little shopping tip after having planned to prepare a classic Christmas Pudding from a recipe that Nicola had sent me before the holiday season. There’s just not a lot of demand for suet around here these days I suppose. I think Nicola thought I was kidding her, but nonetheless, Becks pulled through with an amazing Christmas Pudding photograph I was able to share and so that served our warmly felt across the pond holiday exchange. Now, if only we had a Pudding Club.
As the seasons move forward, like our special sports team, food too still bonds us together.
This year we will miss our now graduated player Gina from Germany but I now have a recipe to share with you from there too so our table together continues even still. If you are lucky enough to have some international players on your team they will always appreciate the love and care you showed them in that little extra effort sharing the foods of the homeland that they may be missing.
You may even make a new friend and get a cookbook from one of the international players Moms who from another part of the world cooks healthy, fabulously spectacular, and brilliant meals on a daily basis.
On the menu for the upcoming Tailgate season ahead, Holland Stamppot. Belgian Mussels.
For now we share the delicious: Pastai Bysgod. Thanks to Nicola for sharing the wonderful food of Wales.