Saturday, 31 July 2010

Valleys of Death

The picture you can't see to your right is of bara brith, a Welsh tea cake/bread for eating with tea.

Bara brith literally means "speckled bread" in reference to the little speckles of dried fruit in the dough. I actually couldn't find many recipes for this online - it seems to be an old traditional thing that's gone out of fashion in recent years. Still, I made it and everyone approved. It's one of those British recipes that utilises our imperial heritage, with all the fruit and mild spices used.

There are, apparently, two types of bara brith. The first, which I suspect to have been the original, is basically normal bread with fruit in it, whereas this type here is more like a cake. The key element is soaking the fruit in the tea the night before. Feel free to use whatever dried fruit you like though, this is just what I made with what I had to hand. This is one of the few recipes in which I will tolerate the presence of raisins.


  • 100g cherries
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g currants
  • 100g raisins
  • 2-3 tbsps orange marmalade (don't be a wimp, use the stuff with the shred in)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 450g self-raising flour, sieved
  • 2 tbsps ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsps soft brown sugar
  • A bit of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Honey to drizzle
  • 500ml black tea

  1. The night before you want to make the bara brith, brew the tea - you'll need two teabags and 500ml water. Soak the dried fruit in it. When it's cooled down, cover it and put it in the fridge overnight.
  2. The next day, turn the oven on at 170 degrees and strain the dried fruit into a jug and reserve the leftover tea. Mix the fruit in with the spices.
  3. Mix the other dry ingredients together, then fold in the beaten egg, the marmalade and the fruit. If the mixture is too gloopy, add more flour, but if it's too dry and it's not sticking together properly use a little bit of the tea.
  4. Put the dough mixture into a lined bread tin - this isn't essential but it gives you a nice loaf shape. Then stick it in the oven for an hour and three quarters (it takes a fair old while but it's worth it - go and watch porn in the meantime or something).
  5. You can check that it's done using a sharp knife or skewer. Stab it in the centre - if your knife/skewer is clean when you take it out, it's ready. Drizzle it with honey, leave it to rest in the tin for five minutes, then let it cool on a rack.
  6. Serve buttered slices with a cup of tea. It's best eaten warm but it will keep and it's nice cold as well.

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