Tuesday, September 21, 2010


by Sheila Connolly

Have you ever come across a dish in a restaurant that you couldn’t forget? And the place doesn’t sell cookbooks and it isn’t online and the chef doesn’t walk to talk to you? I found one of those recipes at a restaurant in the small town of St. David’s in Wales.

St. David’s is notable because it is the smallest city in Britain. Located on the western tip of south Wales, just across the sea from Ireland, it has a population of only 1,800, but it does have a spectacular medieval cathedral, which is what gives it claim to the title “city.”

My husband, daughter and I traveled there more than a decade ago, and during our stay we ate at the Cartref Restaurant (and, yes, actually took a picture of it—if you’re ever there, it’s on the corner of Goat Street and Nun Street). I was blown away by the chicken dish I had for dinner and have been trying to recreate it ever since. “Cartref” is the Welsh word for “home;” “chicken” is “cym iâr” which comes out sounding like “coom-yar.” So here’s my take on Cartref Cym Iâr, or home-style chicken.

BTW, the leek is one of the symbols of Wales (along with the dragon).

2 large leeks
3 slices thick bacon
4 chicken breasts (bone in or boned)
One cup crumbled blue cheese (your choice—I used a mix of French Roquefort and Salemville Amish Blue)
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

Slice the white part of the leeks thinly and wash to remove any sand. Let drain.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and simmer in water for five to ten minutes (this reduces the saltiness). Drain on a paper towel. In a large pan, sauté the bacon until it renders most of its fat (but not until it is crisp). Remove from the pan and set aside.

Sauté the chicken breasts in the bacon fat until lightly browned (you don’t need to cook them through). Remove from the pan. Sauté the sliced leeks until they are limp.

Return the bacon pieces to the pan, and add the heavy cream and the crumbled cheese. Stir until the cheese is dissolved. Return the chicken breasts to the pan, along with any cooking juices. Baste the chicken pieces with the sauce, then cover and simmer until the breasts are done (low heat, please!). This will vary depending on how thick the chicken pieces are, but probably no more than 10-15 minutes.

To serve, place the chicken breasts on plate, stir the sauce in the pan, then pour the sauce over the chicken. I like to serve this with boiled potatoes (yes, some of the ones in the picture are pink--but I grew them myself!), although you could use rice.

Serves four.


  1. 1800 people in the town! Talk about your small villages. Sounds like the perfect setting for a cozy mystery!

    Thanks for sharing the Welsh chicken, Sheila. I've been looking for a good recipe to cook some leeks with, and this sounds like just the ticket.

  2. Sheila - I am loving the *virtual* trips that you're giving us. Last week Galilee, RI, and this week St. David's in Wales. Small fishing villages are the most charming places on earth, and I thank you for letting me *virtually* join you in your travels.

    Your recipe is a must-try for me. I'm especially intrigued by the blue-cheese cream sauce and (like Elizabeth), leeks are a veg that I like yet don't cook enough. And kudos to you for the homegrown potatoes. :)

    Eat with joy,
    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. Sounds heavenly and easy, too. A hearty dinner for the cold days coming up.

    ~ Krista

  4. Love the trip, Wales. I spent time in Ireland, England and Scotland but haven't made it to Wales yet. I love leeks. Thanks for sharing.

  5. BTW, looked up why leeks. Found this: It is in such times that the leek's reputation as a medicine to cure a variety of illnesses would have been most appreciated and perhaps even revered. It was highly regarded as a cure for the common cold, alleviating the pains of childbirth and was a tasty, healthy ingredient in cawl, the traditional Welsh broth. It could seemingly offer protection against wounds in battle or against being struck by lightning, and was also a means of foretelling the future and for keeping away evil spirits It is also claimed that by placing a leek under a pillow at night, young maidens could see the features of their future husbands.

  6. I wouldn't eat onions as a child, much less scallions, and I'd never even heard of shallots and leeks until I was an adult. Silly me! Now I grab leeks whenever I see them at the market.

    The one in the picture above came from the Plymouth farmers market. Lest you think I'm obsessive, the farmers were the ones who trimmed it so nicely, not me.

    So now I'm safe from being struck by lightning? And colds? Good to know!

  7. That look's FABULOUS! I had the same aversion to Bleu cheese as a child and young adult, too strong flavored for me. Now that I am old....um. more mature...yeah, that's it, more mature, I find that I am enjoying the flavor quite alot. I really like the pink potatoes! What variety are they? I've had blue and gold potatoes but never pink.