As a child I learned Irish dancing; we ate lots of potatoes and cabbage, drank a lot of tea and my father was a Socialist. So it came as quite a surprise when, years later I started to uncover the real family history. No trace of Irish anywhere!
I've found a brief but unexplained encounter with King Charles II and the Holt Family of Aston Hall, but no Irish. So I'm a bit bemused to understand why I feel so at home when I visit the Emerald Isle.
|Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland|
There's not one good reason to visit Ireland, there's many. Wonderful scenery, the greenest green countryside, a torturous history and the very friendly Irish themselves.
|Powis Caste, Ireland|
|Portballintrae, Northern Ireland|
But if you are not able to visit, I have a suggestion. You can have a hint of the country by baking a Barmbrack, (Irish teacake) . This has been a family recipe for a very long time, although I must admit it's a fair time since I have cooked it. (And why my non-Irish family had this recipe is still a total mystery.)
I'm feeling a little homesick (for a country I don't come from) so I've rustled up some dried fruit and lots of cold tea and here is the result.
375g dried fruit - I use currants, sultanas, raisins, cranberries and peel
250ml cold tea - I use Irish Breakfast Tea
225g Plain Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg, beaten
100g soft brown sugar
3/4 tsp mixed spice
1 tablespoon of whiskey extra ( optional)
- Soak dried fruit in whiskey and cold tea, overnight.
- Preheat oven to 160/320º. Grease and line a loaf tin (about 750g)
- In a large bowl add sugar, plain flour, baking powder, mixed spice.
- Using a wooden spoon mix beaten egg to the flour mixture.
- Now add any remaining liquid from the soaked fruit.
- You need to have a reasonably wet looking batter.
- Now add the fruit and mix until everything is even.
- Spread this into your prepared tin and bake for 30 - 50 minutes.
- Check with a skewer to see if it is cooked through, leave in the tin to cool slightly, then finish on a rack.
- I added 1 tablespoon of whiskey to the base of the cake, then wrapped in foil for 2 days before slicing and eating. Delicious with a strong cup of tea and shared with friends.
Eat it as it is or slather it with butter, either way it's very Irish.
* In Ireland, whiskey is spelt with an 'e' but in Scotland it is spelt without.