Sunday, 19 February 2012
Cold but no snow....
..... to speak of anyway. Snow showers and showers of tiny white frozen balls that hurt when they hit your face, but no soft snow to crunch underfoot. Not that I'm complaining really! I do fear for my plants which had thought it was Spring. Thee early daffodils are a dwarf variety but are WAY too early. The crocus are so fragile but have so far evaded the wind with protection from the stone dyke behind.
Pretty crocus among the willow trees
Daffodils (narcissi) among the willow trees - these are dwarf daffs - so the snail shell in the foreground isn't a giant one!
Definitely baking weather. I have returned to my Welsh roots baking Bara Brith. Well I'm only half Welsh, as my father was from Brynamman in South Wales, but I was brought up in a house full of Welsh culture - I still support Wales at Rugby! Sadly I never learned my Dad's native language. For him Welsh was his first language. In a rather poignant story - during his last few hours of consciousness at the end of his life he could only speak Welsh. As you can imagine this was a traumatic experience for him and us, his children, as we found it almost impossible to communicate. There was a bit of a bizarre pantomime with my brother rushing to a phone to try and repeat what Dad had said to a Welsh speaking relative. But it was like Chinese whispers and didn't work very well so we resorted to hand signals. He could understand US but we could not understand him. As you can tell it's something that has stayed with me over the last 20 years. But is an interesting reflection upon how our brains work - bearing in mind he hardly used to speak Welsh after leaving the valleys in the mid 1930s to find work in the south of England.
Anyway in a lighter vein, I've had a go at baking Bara Brith (translated this means speckled bread) - it is often made with yeast and is more of a bread, but I choose the one which is more like a cake (of course - given my passion for Cake).
The recipe is below - I eat it with a little butter spread over it, reminiscent of visiting elderly relatives in Wales for tea on summer holiday visits. I'd be sent up the road to "Frances the Baker's" bakery, knock on the back door and hand over some pennies for a lovely crusty loaf, which would then be sliced wafer thin by Great-Auntie Rachie and spread with Welsh Butter (quite salty), and eaten along with bara brith, and froice (welsh crepes), welsh cakes (more of welsh cakes another day) and accompanied by a strong cup of tea in delicate china cups. I loved watching Great-Uncle Lewis drinking his tea. His knarled miner's fingers would delicately hold the cup and pour the tea into a saucer and then he would drink from the saucer! I would watch round eyed at this, but politeness instilled in me by my parents prevented me ever commenting or indeed asking WHY?!
Bara Brith (note - you need to soak some of the ingredients overnight!).
1 mug strong tea
75g dark brown soft sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
350g self raising flour, sieved.
1. Soak the currents and sultanas overnight in the tea along with the sugar (warm tea, not too hot).
2. Line a buttered loaf tin with parchment and preheat the oven to 150C/Gas mark 2 (reduce heat a bit for fan ovens).
3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the fruit mixture and stir. Add the flour along with the mixed spice. Turn into prepared tin in a preheated oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin and turn out to cool completely.