It is lucky that Mum and Dad left some clothes here when they last visited us because they won’t have room for any in their suitcases for their forthcoming visit as they are indulging me by bringing large jars of  Tate and Lyle Golden Syrup and Marmite. The sweet (and salty) taste of home. What is it about childhood foods that transport us back and warm us like a hug from a loved one?

On my parents’ first visit to us since we emigrated I asked my poor Mum to bake a malt loaf barely hours after she had stepped off the plane.  Malt loaf was what my Mum made as a delicious everyday type cake throughout my childhood and I have never been able to stomach the shop-bought ones as a consequence.  Such was the association with my childhood that I hoped my Mum would arrive with one (or more) following every life event.  She did and there was rarely a need for me to ask.

In hindsight, perhaps emigrating was a bigger deal than I had given it credit for and, during the month she was staying with us, Mum must have baked about twenty malt loaves.  After the first fifteen (or thereabouts) I began to feel more settled and the necessary diet afterwards gave me something to focus on.  We seemed to set ourselves on a Malt Loaf Holy Grail and a definitive recipe for me to put my name to.  Here they are, my Mum’s original recipe (she doesn’t really know where it came from) and mine.  Mum’s is the best, of course.

Original and Best

Self Raising Flour 8 oz (225 g)

Mixed Dried Fruit 5 oz (150 g)

Sugar 2 oz (60 g)

Ovaltine 2 oz (60 g)

Milk 6 fl oz (180 ml)

Golden Syrup 2 tbsp

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (170 C fan).  Gently warm the milk and syrup in a pan.  Place the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Add the warmed liquid to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Place in a greased and lined baking tin and bake in the centre of the oven for approximately one hour.  Cool the loaf in the tin and then wrap in foil for a day or two before serving with butter.

My one (well it makes two because one is never enough)

Self Raising Flour 250 g

Soft Brown Sugar 50 g

Sultanas 100 g

Glace Cherries (cut in half) 50 g

Pitted Prunes 25 g

Mixed Peel 25 g

Hot Tea 300ml

Malt Extract 50 g

Golden Syrup 50 g

Soak the fruit in the tea for at least an hour or overnight. Preheat the oven to 170 C (fan). Mix all the ingredients together.  Divide between two greased and lined loaf tins.  Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately one hour.  Cool the loaf in the tin and then wrap in foil for a day or two before serving with butter (the wrapping is less cruicial with this recipe so you could eat straight away if you wanted to).

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