- Food & Drink
In exactly 1 month from today I will get up at early o’clock, try to shower as quietly as possible and then debate whether vanity or not waking up other people is more important when it comes to blow drying my hair. Wearing a hat, I will then get into a car with my parents and drive to Wales.
I will do not this because the lure of Wales is so strong that it’s worth a dawn alarm clock call or because I really enjoy motorway service stations (although I do), but because you can get ferries from Wales to Ireland. We’ll cross the Irish Sea, enjoying as much complimentary coffee and biscuits as possible because we’re booked into fancy class and we want to get our money’s worth. And then we’ll drive, shouting and snatching the map from each other, to the bustling metropolis of Shanagarry.
On the Monday afterwards, I’ll start the 12 week cookery certificate course at Ballymaloe. It’s been a long time coming, but finally I’m going to learn how to cook.
With such imminent Irishness in my life, I couldn’t let St Patrick’s Day pass unremarked. I was casting about for something to make when I hit on a recipe for porter cake here. I had a bottle of London porter kicking about the house and it seemed appropriate. London porter, Irish cake; London woman, Irish cookery course – you see what I’m doing here, right?
I adapted the recipe to deal with a 330ml bottle of Porter and baked the most enormous fruit cake I’ve ever made. I made it on Sunday and may have had a teeny slice then, when it was soft and fluffy. Today it’s starting to develop the rich denseness that I associate with fruit cakes, but it’s still much lighter on the stomach than brandy and port enriched cakes. It’d be perfect for afternoon tea.
Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!
220g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
220g soft dark brown sugar
120g mixed peel, chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
330ml bottle porter (I used Curious Brew Admiral Porter)
500g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/fan oven 150°C. Grease a 20cm cake tin with butter and line the base with baking parchment.
2 Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale, fluffy and combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until combined. Stir in the dried fruits, mixed peel and porter.
3 Sift in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and stir well to combine. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and bake for 11/2 hours or until risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin. Wrap it in greaseproof paper and foil and store in an airtight tin until needed. It should keep quite well for a couple of weeks.