Tuesday 31 July 2018

Moroccan-spiced tea loaf

Once a year, in December, I make fruitcake. It's my grandmother's recipe. In my family, it was first made by her, then by my mother, now by me, and mainly for my dad, who's been eating it at Christmas for pretty well all of his life. It requires a truck load of dried fruit, soaking it liberally in booze, and a sleep after eating a slice. Sometimes, in seasons other than summer, I have a craving for fruitcake but just thinking about what making it entails - a trip to the supermarket, an overnight soaking of fruit, an enormous cake that takes weeks to get through - is enough to quell that desire... or at least it was until I came across this recipe in the newspaper last weekend.

Miraculously, this is a fruitcake in loaf form that can be whipped up semi-spontaneously (granted you still need to a trip to the supermarket and to soak the dried fruit but ingeniously, in hot tea rather than alcohol), contains only one egg, and no dairy at all. I was dubious, at first thinking there must have been a typo in the recipe, but no. It works wonderfully. The resultant loaf is rich and fruity, warm with spice, and scrumptious sliced thickly and slathered in butter. My grandmother would certainly approve, even if she might swap the unfamiliar Moroccan spice for something more standard like cinnamon, and write it up in her recipe book as Fast Fruitcake.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Welsh cakes

Once upon a time, I went to Wales. Well, it was May to be precise but the faraway is for its fairytale feel. My memories are of lush green, soft sun and sea mist. There were single lane roads (taken up with travelling tractors), and leeks on toast and Sunday roasts and... Welsh cakes. They were everywhere in Cardiff and the countryside - in specialty shops, in supermarkets, pubs and road side stalls. Eaten equally by builders, children and toffs in tearooms, there's something charmingly democratic about the Welsh cake.

Like a cross between a scone and a pikelet, Welsh cakes are a friendly tea-time treat. The traditional type are studded with sultanas, but you can use whatever you like - chocolate chips, orange zest, or any sort of dried fruit... Easy to whip up at short notice, these will keep in a tin to sustain you through a week of school lunches, a month of middle of the night football matches, or indeed, just morning tea.

Wednesday 4 July 2018


Sometimes I stray across a recipe that I'm moved to make straight away. Such was the case last week when the ever-reliable Smitten Kitchen published a recipe for an Italian tea cake I'd never heard of called ciambellone. I have no idea really how to pronounce this but in my head it sounds like cymbals being smashed together as in look and taste that's its effect. Further cause for celebration - it's a one bowl affair, oil-based (so no melting or creaming of butter) and I had almost all of the ingredients already, including (as a bonus) eggs from my Dad's chooks he'd brought with him in his carry-on luggage for a weekend visit. We'd planned a drive and no road trip is complete without a thermos and a treat to have with it. We had ours at a point in a park looking out at endless water. And again, back at home, for afternoon tea.