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!
8 oz SR flour
8 oz soft margarine
8 oz sugar
a dash of vanillla essence
Put all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until light in colour. If it curdles just throw in a handfull of flour.
Turn into 2 greased 8″ sandwich tins and cook in a medium oven, gas 5 for about half an hour. Don’t use a fan oven, or if you have no choice then turn the heat down. I have found the cake cooks on the outside but can be runny in the middle with a fan oven but I haven’t really experimented as I have a double oven and one is conventional.
If when you press the top of the cake it springs back then the cake is cooked. Keep an eye on it after 20 minutes but don’t open the oven while it’s sloppy.
Turn out onto cooling racks and then sandwich together with your chosen filling
Grandpa’s coffee butter cream
Beat together 4 oz softened butter, 8 oz icing sugar (sifted), 2 tsps strong instant coffee disolved in a bit of boiling water.
This is enough to put some in the middle only.
Plain butter cream
As above and leave out the coffee and add a dash of vanilla essence (make more if you want to cover the cake). Spread seedless jam on one layer and top with the butter cream.
Sift icing sugar on the top of the cake before serving
Now I’m hungry!
Fill a pan one third full of water with half a tsp salt and bring to the boil
When it is boiling hold your bag of basmati rice about a foot above the water and pour it in a stream into the middle of the pan until the peak just breaks the surface of the water.
Stir the rice and return to the boil then cover and turn the heat right down to minimum. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
When the timer goes off DON’T lift the lid. Turn off the heat and leave for a further 10 minutes.
It will freeze and chill so don’t worry if you’ve made too much. The microwave is a wonderful gadget.
Fry half a tsp cumin seed and a tsp black mustard seed in oil and when the mustard seeds stop popping throw in a chopped onion and stir. Cook gently until soft then add a large mug of rice and stir again.
Add half a tsp turmeric, a cinamon stick and a few cadamon pods and stir so the rice is evenly distributed across the pan. No heaps this time. Top up with boiling water until the water is about half an inch above the surface of the rice.
Stir the rice and return the water gently to the boil
Cover and reduce the heat to very low. Cook for 10 minutes with the lid on
DON’T lift the lid. After 10 minutes turn off the heat and leave for a further 10 minutes.
You can actually leave it for longer than 10 minutes now because all the water has been absorbed.
Fluff it up with a fork and serve with the chicken Korma. YUM
Start the night before
In a food processor or with a stick blender puree together:
1 tsp ground ginger
3 cloves garlic
150g thick natural yoghurt
half a fresh chilli, including seeds
1 tbsp ground corriander
1 tsp turmeric
175g creamed coconut grated
quarter tsp salt
2 – 3 tbsp ground almonds
juice half a lemon
pour the smooth mixture over three chopped chicken breasts and marinate in the fridge overnight.
Next morning put in a non stick saucepan and stew until the sauce has lost its firiness and the chicken is cooked.
Stir in a small tub of thick creamor creme fraiche and warm through.
Serve with basmati rice