Those of you who regularly read my blog will know that I am a bit obsessed with food. In fact I have made a pact not to write any more about my latest diet or the iniquities of supermarkets (Do you know I have lost 7 lb in 15 days and now shop at Aldi? No. Stop!)
There are three things that I think about nearly all the time, unless I am at work of course. They are Food: I’m hungry, what do we need, hope we can try that restaurant some time, those flavours would go well together, what shall I cook for friends/dinner/pudding; Relationships: I’m such an idiot, he’s such an idiot, I wish I hadn’t said that, I wish I was as nice as so and so, that person baffles me; and writing: I could write about that, and that, and that, bugger, I’ve burnt the dinner! Full circle.
Dinner parties were what we did for fun in the ’70s. After eating at Bernie Inns and Bistros we would attempt to emulate their atmosphere at home: Mantovani in the background, low lights, best frocks, white table cloth, wine glasses for different wines, a dinner service, cutlery for each course – starting from the outside and going in towards the plate.
The food would be copied too. Prawn cocktail or egg mayonnaise, Steak Diane or au poivre, Black Forest Gateau or Sherry trifle. You know what? It was great; I love those foods. I have a sudden desire to re-introduce the 1970s to my younger friends.
Years ago, when I lived in Sheep Country, I belonged, thanks to Husband Number Two, to the Austin Healey Club. Through that group I made many friends, including Tarn and Fit, with whom I still keep in touch, mainly through Christmas Cards and occasionally with visits.
I met Dianne Jones, a great cake baker. We didn’t keep in touch but her typewritten, much smeared recipe is in my recipe folder along with many others shared with people who, like myself, love to cook. There were always home made cakes in the Jones household and in particular there was a wonderful Bara Brith (fruit loaf) that was served buttered and could not be eaten by the single slice.
Dianne was tragically diagnosed with an auto immune attack on her liver. I don’t know what has happened to her, but every time I bake this cake, I think of her and wonder.
This weekend I decided to sort out my ‘Baking Cupboard’ which was overflowing with so many bags and packets they rained down on anyone who opened the door. Onto the counter I gathered currants, raisins, sultanas, goji berries, glace cherries, dried apricots, ground almonds, crystalised ginger and more. Mrs Robins’ Fruitcake sprung to mind and I weighed the fruit and ginger, multiplied up the other ingredients and made 4 loaves of Bara Brith. Half of one was immediately devoured by Whizz and Mavis and pronounced good.
So here is the recipe, in the hope that Dianne has overcome her illness and with fond memories of irresponsible days B.C. (Before Children).
Mrs Robins Fruit Cake
4 oz margarine or butter
6 oz granulated sugar
2oz chopped peel
1 cup/8 fl oz water
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped tsp ground mixed spice
2 beaten eggs
4oz self raising flour
4oz plain flour
place margarine, sugar, fruit, peel, water, bi-carb and mixed spice into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for one minute. Allow to cool.
Line a 1lb loaf tin.
Beat eggs, flours and salt into the cooled mixture and pour into tin.
Bake in middle of oven, gas 4/350F/180C for one to one and a half hours until a skewer poked into the middle comes out dry.
Cool in tin then turn out. Improves with time so if you can resist, keep it overnight before cutting. I never manage this!