Laverbread is the cooked mash of Porphyra, a variety of north Atlantic seaweed similar to that eaten as nori in Japan. In this form it is used (with lemon) as a sauce for mutton, and also mixed with oats into an oatcake called laverbread cake, eaten fried with bacon. Older cookbooks describe laverbread as a tempura-like preparation of laver, made with oatmeal batter. It seems that the presence of "bread" in "laverbread" has caused misidentification with the oatcake; based on the publications of Welsh seafood purveyors laverbread seems, however, to be the name of the cooked laver itself.

Although laverbread cakes are now associated with Wales, they are a relic of vastly more ancient Celtic cuisine.

Laverbread, or bara llaw in Welsh (thanks jasstrong), is perhaps the most famous Welsh traditional dish. Sometimes called Welsh Caviar, it is made from local seaweed called laver. There is doubt as to why it is 'bread', and it has nothing to do with caviar either, although it is black in colour.

Laver weed, also known as red laver or tangle, is a flat type of seaweed (the same as Japanese nori) which grows on the rocks in the south west of the country. It used to be collected by locals, stored and dried in seaweed huts on the shores before being sold at market.

Before use the seaweed has to be washed in copious amounts of water to remove sand and silt, then boiled for at least 5 hours until it becomes a gelatinous mass - after further chopping or mincing, this then becomes the laver bread. It is usually mixed with oatmeal to make cakes, then fried, preferably in bacon fat. It is best served with bacon, but is sometimes used as a vegetable accompaniment with Welsh mutton. In Cornwall laverbread is often served cold with vinegar.

Laver bread is a good source of iron, zinc, iodine and other trace elements. It is rich in vitamins A, C and B and contains significant amounts of taurine.

Laverbread cakes

  • 200g laverbread
  • 200g oatmeal
  • Bacon fat or lard
  • Add the oatmeal to the laverbread, blending it until you arrive at a texture that will hold its shape (You may not need all the oatmeal).
  • Shape into small cakes.
  • Fry the cakes in bacon fat (otherwise lard) for 3 - 4 minutes on each side.

The deceptively named lava bread is a Welsh delicacy. (Or it is in the south at least, I cannot speak for those strange people in the north.) It has nothing to do with volcanoes nor does it meet the commonly accepted definition of bread.

Its basic ingredient is in fact a kind of seaweed, the variety known as Palmaria palmata, or dulse, which is collected from the seashore, boiled into a mush, rolled in oatmeal and then fried. It is normally served as an accompaniment to the traditional British breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages etc, in the same way as black pudding is served in the North of England.

It crops up all over South Wales but is particularly big in Swansea.

To be perfectly honest, lava bread is a vile, disgusting concoction that tastes of nothing more than salt and sand and ought really to be banned under the UN chemical Weapons convention. I have no idea why people persist in eating the stuff and why restaurants in Wales will present otherwise edible food with 'leek and lava bread sauce'. Perhaps the tourists like it.

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