I was devastated when Wales got kicked out of the rugby world cup by South Africa at the quarter final stage this year. After the thrill of surviving the preliminary ‘group of death’ the anguish of being knocked out hit hard. The match was a full on 80 minutes of heart racing hope, excitement and optimism as we watched the score edge up in both Wales and South Africa’s favour. At half time we really though they could do it. But it just wasn’t their year.
You may be surprised that I take such a keen interest in Welsh rugby (not the Welsh part, since surely that is obvious by my Welsh name and the amount of Welsh recipes on this blog), but by the rugby? I’ve always loved the excitement of team sports; either playing netball and hockey for my school, or watching rugby from the sidelines. I’m as happy watching rugby from the sofa, as at the pub with a pint (not so much these days) or best of all in the magnificent 74,500 capacity Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. I may be biased but pretty much the best stadium in the world.
I was introduced to Welsh rugby by my Dad. Many spring Saturday afternoons in our Surrey semi were spent watching the Six Nations Rugby Tournament. Back then Wales would usually loose against just about every team (they weren’t the side they are now back in the late 80s early 90s) and we commiserated together the winning of the wooden spoon. My Dad, by no means an angry character, would often throw the remote control at the telly when one of the players had done a stupid mistake (dropped the ball, thrown it in the wrong direction, or given away a penalty), and we all thought this was rather funny. Mum was a fan too and often referred to the team as ‘her boys’. Much later when I lived in Cardiff where I studied at university I enjoyed the more erm traditional way of watching the game. Pub. Welsh shirt. Big group of friends. Pint. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
It’s more than a game. It’s the symbol of entire nation joining together to support a joint goal, journeying as one through the highs and then many of the lows. I can’t think of another example I know just like it.
Don’t ask me about football though. Not interested!
Back to the recipe. Today I bring you Bara Brith, a Welsh fruit tea loaf. A good Welsh recipe to snack on with a cup of tea (or ‘paned o de’, one of the few Welsh phrases I know) at half time is it? Perhaps best enjoyed after you’ve actually earned it running around the pitch rather than just watching. Rugby union has been a tradition in wales since it was established in the 1850s and I wonder if Bara Brith was often baked for a post match afternoon tea treat. I’d like to think so.
Bara actually means bread, brith means speckled – speckled bread! Bara Brith is a dense, fruity loaf made by soaking dried fruit in tea, then simply mixing it with eggs, self raising flour and sugar. A traditional yeasted version is also very popular. There is incidentally no additional fat in this recipe – much as you would find in a loaf of bread. I have adapted this recipe to be gluten free and lower in sugar from a traditional Welsh recipe I have been cooking for years. I like to use my own mix of whole grain gluten free flours (~80% whole grains + 20% starch), but if you don’t have access to to an array of flours then a pre-mixed blend works well as does traditional gluten containing wheat flour.
I’ve said this would make a good post rugby treat, but with a nutritional hat on I would stress the importance of considering a more optimum (yes, probably not cake) post workout nutrition choice for the critical post-workout window. Post workout nutrition is actually rather scientific so if your interested in reading more do check out this article by Maxi Nutrition which holds further reading and resources along those lines.
- 340g dried mixed fruit
- Hot tea, made from 120mls water and 2 tea bags, traditional black or chammomile works well too
- 3 medium free-range eggs
- 225g gluten free flour (I used 90g buckwheat flour, 90g brown rice flour, 45g tapioca flour)
- 90g unrefined brown sugar such as rapadura, coconut sugar or demerera, plus extra for sprinkling
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1.5 tsp mixed spice
- Soak the fruit in the hot tea and for 2 hours or overnight. Cover and leave sit at room temperature.
- Pre-heat oven to 160°C (fan) and grease or line a~ 20x10x6cm loaf tin (I use olive oil).
- Whisk the eggs into the soaked fruit and set aside.
- In another bowl combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and spice till well combined.
- Pour the eggs and fruit into the dry ingredients and stir well till you have a wet batter.
- Pour the batter into the loaf tin, and smooth over with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle over 1 tsp sugar.
- Bake in the over for 1hr-1hr15, until risen and golden brown. To check if it is ready insert a skewer it should come out clean.
- Leave the loaf to cool for 30 minutes, before turning out on a cooling rack. I find the loaf easier to slice with a serrated knife when completely cooled.
- Serve a slice alone or spread with a smidge of good organic Welsh butter.
If you are using gluten containing flour, you may only need 2 eggs, since gluten free flour is often drier.
*Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Maxinutrition. All views are my own46