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.

Moroccan-spiced tea loaf
Adapted from a recipe by Helen Goh in The Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend

Ras-el-hanout is a North African spice blend (sometimes labelled "Moroccan spice") available from most supermarkets and delis. If you don't have any you could make up your own using this recipe - if you don't have all the spices in the ingredients list, I daresay you could wing it with what you have.

75g currants
75g raisins
75g dried figs, in small dice
75g prunes, in small dice
75g dried apricots, in small dice 
250ml hot black tea
225g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ras-el-hanout
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g soft light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
milk, if needed (I didn't)

Put the dried fruit in a bowl and pour over hot tea. Leave covered overnight for fruit to plump up.

Preheat oven to 190 deg C (or 180 deg C fan-forced). Line a 1-litre loaf tin with baking paper.

Measure dry ingredients into a large bowl and add the soaked fruit (and any soaking liquid) and egg. Stir to combine, adding a splash of milk if mixture is too dry - the batter should be at dropping consistency.

Scrape mixture into loaf tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer/toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave cool in tin for 10 minutes then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.

Slice thickly and spread with salted butter.


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