Before flying home for Christmas, I told my students that I hadn’t seen my mum for one year. They were aghast. “How would you feel if you didn’t see your mum for a whole year?” I asked. “We would die,” one of them informed me, “because our mums do everything for us.” True. But of course, one of the many things they do is teach us to cope without them, however much they may be missed.
And I will dearly miss my mum on Mother’s Day this weekend. One of my favourite things in the world is sharing a cuppa with my mum, be it the first cup of the day in our pjyamas or a mid-afternoon brew with a bit of cake. Tea at home is lovely; tea at Betty’s is a treat. Whenever I’m home we take the train to York and have lunch, tea and possibly cake at Betty’s Tea Room. It’s such a civilised affair, with lovely silver tea sets, the famous cake trolley, and the waitresses in their old-fashioned, frilly aprons.
I would like to treat my dear old Mother to tea and cake on Sunday for Mother’s Day. As I can’t do that, I’ll share this recipe instead for a lovely little tea loaf, just like they make at Betty’s. I didn’t expect this cake to be quite as nice as it is, but it’s so moist and delicious, and as it’s not rich or especially sweet it’s dangerously easy to devour by the slab.
From Simon Rimmer’s The Seasoned Vegetarian
75g each currants, raisins, sultanas (dried fruit is pricey in HK – raisins all the way for me)
300ml Early Grey tea (I used 4 tea bags)
250g self raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
200g soft light brown sugar
1. The night before baking, put the dried fruit in a bowl, pour over the tea and leave to soak overnight.
2. The next day, grease a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180C.
3. Sift the flour and spices into the bowl with the plump, squelchy fruit.
4. Add the sugar and egg, and mix everything together until nicely combined.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin.
6. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine blackened on the top very quickly, probably due to using a mini oven – if this happens, just cover it with tin foil. Remove from the oven, stand in the tin for about 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
7. This cake is divine thickly sliced and stuffed in as it is or with a bit of butter on, and can also be frozen and defrosted.