The last two weeks have whizzed by in a blur of cold wet weather, school holidays and peeps laid low with a nasty chest cold. That said, highlights of the past fortnight include dinner with Kylie Kwong, two days styling a photo shoot for Feast magazine, and my kitchen featured on one of my favourite blogs Bleubird Vintage. All good!
This enforced time indoors was meant there's been a lot of cooking on the still to be named cooker. Some results triumphant, and a couple of less than successful efforts. The later a result of spending too long at the local pub with a friend for some much needed mama time out - oops!
Funny enough, this weather has seen an awful lot of Welsh cookery appearing on the menu. Mainly because these recipes are so fast and easy...they must be a busy lot those Welsh folk. Think Welsh rarebit, because I'm always running late for dinner and it sounds much posher than grilled cheese on toast. Welsh cakes because they're quick and cooked in a frypan on the stove, rather than having to wait for the oven to heat up. And my favourite, bara brith, meaning speckled bread in Welsh. This has to be the easiest cakie/bread type recipe you can make.
I use a recipe from Matthew Evans' book The Real Food Companion. Not only is it a doddle to make, but Matthew's inspired addition of marmalade gives the bread a bitter edge that I find irresistible. Matthew is happy for me to share his recipe.
500g mixed dried fruit such as sultanas, golden raisins and currants
300ml hot black tea, strained
500g self raising flour, sifted
2 tablespoons marmalade
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 egg, beaten
1-2 tablespoons honey, warmed to glaze
Mix the dried fruit and sugar together in a bowl and pour the still hot tea over the fruit. Stand until the fruit is swolllen. Leave overnight if you can ( I'm never that organised!) or warm it in a saucepan to help speed up the process. There should be still be some liquid when you go to make the bread.
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 20 x 12 x 11 cm loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Put the tea soaked fruit in a big bowl, stir in the flour, marmalade and mixed spice and then the egg until well combined (I sometimes add a little milk here if it's too dry or stiff). Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, pressing to avoid air bubbles and to even out the top. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Brush the top with the warmed honey just as it comes from the oven.
Allow the loaf to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Bara brith keeps well, stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Cut into slices, spread thickly with soft butter and served with tea, bara brith hits the spot after an afternoon spent in the cold wet garden. Which is where you can usually find this mama pottering until it's too late for anything but grilled cheese on toast for dinner. Again.