Like many people, I learned a lot about cooking form my mum and have then expanded that myself as an adult to a broader range of cuisines and experimenting to suit my tastes and lifestyle. However I also have some great cooking memories with my grandpa who lived not too far from me growing up that I treasure and would happily re-live. There are a few recipes that my mum still makes, and I do too now and then, that came from my grandparents, and this Irish brack fruit loaf is one of them. It is incredibly easy to make but also tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee, as I remember enjoying with my grandparents.
When I read that today’s Sunday Supper was going to celebrate grandparents day with recipes inspired by or handed down from grandparents then this was one of a few I thought about making as I remember it being common on the tea trolley at my grandparents house. Thinking about what to share for this event brought back a flood of fantastic memories from making bread with my grandpa, helping him with winemaking or soaking rum babas or Christmas cake to various other food tasks I was given in the kitchen or garden (I was chief apple picker quite often).
My grandmother had made the majority of food, with my grandpa more making wine and bread for fun for most of their marriage, but by the time I was growing up my grandmother’s eyesight was fading and so my grandpa took on all of the cooking. He both enjoyed the challenge and I think it is partly down to him that some recipes are even written down at all as my grandmother was much more of your classic ‘by sight’ cook, as I suspect she had learnt. That might explain why this recipe was in cups rather than weight, as is more typical in the UK, as it’s the closest my grandpa got to interpret what she did. Either way, this Irish brack is a delicious and easy fruit loaf that I would definitely suggest you try.
How it’s made
Irish brack is basically mixed fruit soaked in tea as the base of an easy fruit loaf that is then baked and sliced. It is delicious served warm with a little butter on top, or simply on its own. Apart from leaving the fruit to soak, which you just leave to get on with things, there is very little involved in making this so it makes a perfect loaf to go with your morning or afternoon tea or coffee, as was a standard affair in my grandparents house. What we ate would vary, but this was pretty common and one that I always enjoyed.
It’s worth mentioning that mixed fruit in the UK is not the same as the US – it is a mixture typically 30% raisins, 30% golden raisins (called sultanas in UK), 30% currants and 10% dried candied peel. I have had trouble getting candied peel before, but found dried papaya a pretty good alternative in my Christmas pudding, so have done the same here. I don’t think it matters if you have exactly the mix I describe and in fact I didn’t have currants so used just equal amounts of raisins and golden raisins instead, but at least two of the three adds some variety.
This is such an easy and tasty fruit loaf, which has a slight tang from the tea-soaked fruit. While for me it brings back lots of great memories with my grandparents, it’s something that anyone will enjoy. It will keep well for a good week and will also freeze as well. But it may well be irrelevant to mention as you might find yourself coming back for more sooner so it doesn’t get that long.
Irish brack (fruit loaf)
This fruit loaf is a classic tea-time treat; moist and delicious.
- 8 oz mixed fruit 225g, UK-style (see above) or 7oz mix of raisins, golden raisins (sultanas), currants - any 2 is good or all 3 - and 1oz chopped candied peel or dried papaya
- 1 cup black tea 240ml, cold
- 3/4 cup soft brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 8 oz self raising flour 225g, or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 1/4tsp baking powder and a 1/4 tsp, rounded, of salt
Put the fruit into a bowl with the tea and sugar, stir to dissolve sugar and leave to soak overnight.
Preheat oven to 325F/160C and grease and/or line a loaf tin.
Add the egg and the flour (or flour, baking powder and salt) to the fruit and tea mixture and mix until combined but try not to overmix.
Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top a little and bake for 1 1/2hours.
Try these other tasty sweet treats:
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