A Welsh breakfast using laverbread (bara lawr) from Swansea Market. Laverbread is formed into lavercakes and eaten for breakfast with eggs and bacon.

Welsh lavercakes

Laverbread, or bara lawr (bread of the floor)  is not a bread at all, but a type of seaweed harvested from the south Wales coastline.  It’s not your typical breakfast ingredient, but is a popular ingredient sold in the covered market in the small south Wales city of Swansea.  I’ve known what laverbread was for as long as I can remember, but until now been to afraid to taste it.  My Mother grew up near Swansea, and my Grandparents lived there until they passed so most childhood trips to south Wales included a shopping trip to Swansea and a dip in the sea in the Gower – a peninsular of land jutting out from Swansea and a named area of outstanding natural beauty.

Rhossili Bay | The Three Cliffs Bay

Rhossili Bay | The Three Cliffs Bay

A few weekends ago my brother and I achieved a lifelong ambition to walk the entire peninsula of the Gower along the designated Welsh Coastal Path. No mean feat since we clocked up almost 50 miles over 2 half, and 2 full days stopping overnight in various B&B’s and hotels along the way.  This gave us the opportunity to explore the previously unexplored (for us) territory of the marshy north Gower, and the glorious beaches from Rhossili all the way to Swansea we’d spent many a happy (and wet) family day on all those trips as children.

At the end of the trip before we left for London we decided to stop off at Swansea market with the intention or grabbing a bag of cockles, to snack on as our Dad so often did.  Swansea market is the largest indoor market in Wales, a fact they are very proud of, but since only Cardiff is the larger city this does make me giggle a little.  The Welsh like to be proud of anything!   It’s not just laverbread and cockles that are sold in the market, there are also Welsh cakes (which I have featured before on the blog), meat – faggots a speciality, fruit and veg and other household wares.   I never had an intention to buy some laverbread that day, since it is usually sold fresh but when I saw a long-life tin I thought it would be a great opportunity to try it at some point in the future. That time is now.

Laverbread and cockles at Swansea Market

Swansea Market Goodies

So what to do with a tin of pureed, gelatinous boiled seaweed, rich in vitamins and low in calories?

Some trendy chefs are using it in fusion Welsh cooking these days, but I decided to go traditional and make the lavercakes that were written on the side of the Parsons packet, along with the serving suggestion of bacon and eggs, I could have included cockles too if I’d been able to get them in London. Traditionally the laver is mixed with oatmeal, formed into patties and fried in the fat from the bacon that you cook just before it. I used chunkier porridge oats instead of oatmeal, and feared the mixture was still too sloppy so added an extra bit of buckwheat flour. Extra oats or plain flour would also do the trick if necessary, and actually helped form a lovely crust on the top.

So what does it taste like?  It tastes like you’d expect seaweed to taste.  A little claggy, a little mucilaginous (my favourite food word), a bit chewy, not ultimately disgusting, but perhaps something you grow to love over time.

I don’t actually expect you all to rush out and make this stuff, but I really enjoyed creating this post and sharing some of my heritage and stories with you.  Perhaps if you ever have the opportunity to visit Swansea you’ll be tempted to give it a try.  For the braver amongst you, you can buy tinned laverbread on Amazon here (affiliate link).

Lavercakes, a traditional Welsh Breakfast

The Full Welsh (minus cockles)

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Welsh Lavercakes with Bacon and Eggs
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A Welsh breakfast using laverbread (bara lawr) from Swansea market. Laverbread is mixed with oats and formed into patties that are called lavercakes and eaten for breakfast with eggs and bacon
  • 2 rashers free range bacon
  • 120g tin of laverbread
  • black pepper
  • 30g gluten free oats
  • 2 tsp buckwheat flour
  • 2 free range eggs
  1. First fry the bacon in a pan until it reaches the desired crispiness, do not drain the pan, you need the fat to cook the lavercakes. Set aside
  2. While the bacon is cooking make up your cakes. Mix the laver with some black pepper, the oatmeal and buckwheat flour until you can form into 2 patties roughly 2 inches in diameter.
  3. Place each patty in the bacon fat, shaping with your spatula as you go, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the top is brown and slightly firm.
  4. Remove and drain whilst you quickly fry your eggs to go with.
  5. Plate up and eat!
You can substitute the oats for oatmeal, and buckwheat flour for traditional flour. Only add extra flour if the cakes are too sloppy and look like they won't hold together in the pan.There is salt in the laverbread so no need to add more.

For other Welsh inspired savoury dishes how about trying

Would you be brave enough to try laverbread?