One wet March afternoon, my husband announced that our local water diviner was going to come and help us locate a new well. Up until the moment he arrived, I honestly thought his visit was some kind of madcap prank. I simply couldn’t believe that in the twenty-first century we would be enlisting the services of a person with a willow divining rod to find water on the farm.
But, as I have learned time and time again, many practices of the past are still very much alive in the Irish countryside. When I saw the man hiking in the fields behind our garden, I quickly made up a tea bread to share after he finished his work. We sat around the table sipping tea as I sliced piece after piece of this fruity brack, chatting for nearly an hour and, when the water diviner left, he thanked me for a tea cake as “fine as my mother’s”.
Brack is a cross between cake and bread and is often enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee.
Makes 1 loaf
– 1 cup (200g) mixed dried fruit
– 1 cup (240ml) hot black tea (Barry’s Tea is perfect if you can get it)
– 1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
– 1½ teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon salt
– ½ cup (100g) superfine sugar
– 1 large beaten egg
– 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.
2. Place the fruit in a small mixing bowl, pour the hot tea over the top, and allow to soak until the fruit swells, about 1 hour.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, egg, and marmalade. Pour in the fruit and any tea left in the bowl; stir thoroughly. Pour into the loaf pan, and bake for 1 hour.
4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out of the tin. Serve the brack with butter and cups of tea.
5. Store any leftovers in the bread box, where it will keep for one week.
Imen McDonnell is a food and lifestyle columnist for the Irish Farmers Journal and a contributing writer to Condé Nast Traveler and Irish Country Magazine. In a former life, she spent her days working in broadcast production in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. She now resides with her husband and son on their family farm in rural Ireland and shares stories of farm life and food on her popular blog Farmette.
Imen’s modern Irish recipes have been featured in The New York Times, The Irish Times, The Sunday Times (UK), The Los Angeles Times, Saveur magazine, and more. When she is not cooking, writing, weeding, or photographing, you’ll find her in the farmyard with her husband and son, milking cows, feeding calves and chickens, or loving up their two donkeys and amusing Airedale terrier, Teddy.
The Farmette Cookbook is published by Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc.