My favourite recipe: tea brack

The Irish Times: We Love Food – Eleanor Harper, advertising administrator


Baking is something I grew up with. It was a big part of my family life and I came into contact with baking almost everyday.

My mother regularly baked scones, rock buns, apple and rhubarb tarts, bakewell tarts, mince pies and fairy cakes, and Dad and us kids were only too delighted to eat them.

My uncle Freddie worked for Spicer’s Bakery in Balbriggan for many years and we were brought in every Friday evening to pick a cake/bun of our choice. I always picked a chocolate shortcake bun and I still remember the fabulous smell of freshly baked bread and buns and when I get that smell now it always takes me back to that time.

At Christmas, Freddy’s house became a bakery all of it’s own. He baked Christmas cakes for lots of local families – as well as many from further afield who had heard about his delicious cakes. I still remember going down to his house on Station Street with my dad and seeing trays of fruit drying in front of the fire, and the smell of the cakes in the oven and the front room just full of cakes, some iced and some ready to be iced.

Freddie would often let me have a little go of mixing and I always took the opportunity to help – just so I could lick the spoon. The cakes were delicious and marzipaned and iced to perfection.

My Granny had the job of making the Christmas pudding. My mother would start buying ingredients in September until she had everything. My granny came over to mix the pudding and I still remember all the ingredients plus six little bottles of stout in the kitchen. I used to think all that stout went into the pudding – not realizing that the majority of the stout was payment to Granny and she drank her payment as she mixed the pudding.

The pudding would be boiled in a cloth for hours and hours and hung on a brush handle to dry out for a day or two. Then it was taken out of the cloth, doused in brandy and ready for eating.

I often think back on those times and I wonder if anyone would remember me for any of my baking in years to come. If they do, I think it might be for this great tea brack.

Tea Brack
½ pint of cold tea
1 lb sultanas
4 ozs mixed peel
4 ozs brown Sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix together and steep overnight

Then add
1¼ lb plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
6 ozs melted margarine
2 ozs chopped walnuts
¼ tsp mixed spice

Pour the mixture into two loaf tins.

Cook in oven at 200 degrees for approximately 1 hour and then lower to 100 degrees for another 15 minutes, depending on the oven. Fan ovens will be faster.

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