The Barrow family have a lot of love for Wales, and have endless happy memories of the place. So when I decided I wanted to try out a recipe using tea as an ingredient Mr B said “why not make a Bara Brith”. Why not, indeed, especially when I can rename it Barrow Brith. Did you see what I did there? Clever, huh?
As I set about making this scrummy tea cake I asked Mr B to sit in front of my laptop and share some memories of Wales and why he loves the place so much. This is what he said:
We all know it’s a land of myth and legend, probably where the original Britons (if such an idea isn’t completely ridiculous, there have only ever been immigrants here!) fled to when invaders came.
We know it’s the land of Gog and Magog, where there’s a language that’s alien but feels like we *should* know it.
We know it’s where the Everest expedition trained.
Ok you may not have known all of those, but here’s some bits you probably don’t know:
It’s one of my (Mr B) first childhood memories, time spent in our cottage near Snowdon. There are some snatches of memory that are still vivid: taking the cat (!) on holiday (!!) and her coming along for a walk in the woods(!!!); my Gran in the kitchen with the sun filtering through the hedge; the loo (don’t ask).
And later ones too: mind-boggingly dangerous archery with Rog in the farmer’s field; planting trees in the garden; sun so hot that my Mum and I couldn’t sit in it, followed by “weather going past the door horizontally”; ‘gently lowering’ trees behind the cottage with my Dad (cue very large branches crashing on to the roof!); the ten-day cycling tour with Pete that turned into a 250 mile four day dash as we ran out of time; cooking more spaghetti than two people could ever think of eating, and then eating it.
More recent ones still: with friends getting the AA out to restart a Prius after leaving the lights on to help the kids get to sleep – who knew that would run the battery down?; enormous breakfasts in Pete’s Eats in Llanberis; burying J in sand on a lovely little beach on Anglesey.
And ones that have no time, no anchor: the hills with the morning sunlight; evening up “on the top road” looking down over Llyn Padarn as the light fades; the wind whipping the sand into our faces on Hell’s Mouth.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogeryllandrobwyllllantisiliogogogoch etc (Ed’s note: yes, he can say it out loud properly)
I know this is rather indulgent, but my point is this: Wales is where you can make memories you will treasure for life. The pace of life can be slower, the people have time for a chat, and memories can stay with you for a lifetime.
So as you can see, Wales is held with great affection in this house, hence him suggesting any cooking with tea should commence with a Bara brith, a fabulous loaf made with fruit soaked in tea.
I have only been to Wales half a dozen times but each time I have loved it and vowed to go back. The last time was with Team Honk when we did the Snowdon climb. J, E, Mr B and I stayed at Mr B’s parent’s cottage the night before and set up base camp for the climbers, distributing Gower Cottage Brownies to keep the team fuelled on the way up. Lots of the other team members stayed in local youth hostels that provided fabulous accommodation for really reasonable rates. A great alternative to expensive hotels, or pitching a tent if you want a solid floor!
One of the first times was as mentioned by Mr B above, we went with our friend Francis and his two teens. It was bedlam in the cottage, with the teens in tents on the drive but we loved it. Such a fun holiday doing things that holidays should be remembered for. Mr B’s parents even came over for the day to join us for a trip to the beach where this was taken, one of my favourite pictures of Francis and Mr B Sr enjoying a wee dram:
I am sure when they read this Mr B Senior (Hopalong) and Lady B will be along with some more memories in the comments, well I hope so anyway! We know they don’t get to Wales as much as they would like so we had this canvas made for them last year with a picture of their cottage. Well if they can’t get to the cottage it can come to them!
Making this “Barrow Brith” has almost made me feel homesick and it is not even my home. But there is definitely a big part of the Barrow family’s hearts in Wales and if I have my way in 2015 we will visit the cottage just outside Llanberis more often.
It includes a visit to Tyddyn Llan which isnt far from Snowdon and is on my “must visit” list for next time we make it up there. Some of the things on that menu sound amazing.
In the meantime I will have to make do with the only Welsh foodie connection being my Barrow Brith. Here is my recipe if you want to have a go after you have entered the competition and wait for the winner to be announced next month:
- 300g mixed fruit
- 200g muscovado sugar
- zest of one orange
- 250ml of hot Earl Grey Tea
- 350g self raising flour
- 2tsp mixed spice
- 1 egg
- 50g melted butter
- Soak the fruit and sugar in the tea overnight.
- Line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper, pre heat oven to gas mark 3/160
- Add the flour, spice and orange zest to the soaked fruit (dont drain any remaining tea off)
- Stir until all combined.
- Add the egg and butter and beat to a batter like consistency
- Pour into lined loaf tin and bake for 75 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.
How could you not be mesmerised by views such as these?
How gorgeous is that scenery?!!