“When times are hard people look for comfort, people look for something that is close to them.” – John McKenna on the topic of Digging Ireland out of Recession at Savour Kilkenny FoodCamp, 22nd October 2010.
And what could be more comforting than the smell of baking filling the house or more warming than a cup of tea in the ‘good’ china cup? A lot has changed since the downturn hit our economy and while undeniably hard, there has been a shift away from the bullion worship and back to our traditions. Why have I made a Christmas Cake for the first time in 10 years? Why did my kids never get to wrap up the coin, the rag, the pea, the stick and the ring and make a wish as they got stirred into the hallowe’en brack until yesterday?
For me the recession has been a cliched wake-up call. A realisation that although my local supermarket may be more expensive than the competition, it is my local supermarket. It is a supermarket yes, but it is a supermarket that stocks Irish and local products, employs local people and is 100% Irish owned.
When I get the opportunity to shop in farmer’s markets I do that and yes there is comfort in buying that handmade bread or cheese. To quote John again “Speciality foods convey intrinsic values..goodness, honesty, community, family.”
Along with a self-made commitment to buy Irish and local as much as possible I have also rediscovered home-baking over the past couple of years. It is fun, it is comforting and it is traditional. I’ve no idea where the origins of this teabrack recipe lie as it was one that I’d scribbled on the back of an envelope but it is full of plump, warm, tea bathed fruit, scented with the zest and juice of an orange and is comfort in a mouthful. (The fruit needs to soak overnight.)
You Will Need:
300g mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, currants)
225ml hot tea
125g light brown sugar
225g self-raising flour
A ring, a pea, a rag, a stick & a coin all wrapped in parchment paper.
Juice and zest the orange and make up the hot tea.
Place the dried fruit in a bowl and pour over the juice, zest and the hot tea and leave to soak overnight covered with a tea towel.
Heat oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4.
Lightly grease a loaf tin and line the base with parchment paper.
Beat the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg and the flour.
Stir in the fruit mixture (including tea and oj) and pour into the loaf tin.
Note: Tradition in our house was to make a wish as each child got to stir the mixture and the wrapped treasures are added.
Bake for 1 hour. Test the mixture with a skewer and it if comes away clean the cake is cooked.
Til next time, Sheila