The last time I stayed with my in-laws, in their tiny town on New Zealand’s wild West Coast, I nearly caused a diplomatic incident. It was the long, hot summer of 2008 and we were waiting for our visas to be extended so we could return to London and continue tripping about Europe like a pair of Antipodean gypsies. The Boy Wonder was in heaven, playing cricket every day and gambling at the pub with his little brother. I, on the other hand, ran on the beach, reads lots of books and perfected my entry for the local A&P show.
These shows are a Kiwi summer institution, where plants, produce and baking are judged along with animals, flower arranging displays and tractors. There are ferris wheels and candy floss, shy teenagers and ruddy-faced men in tweed hats.
|Nikau palms, West Coast, New Zealand
I decided to enter the baking section as a sort of post-modern feminist statement (and because I was really bored). My in-laws were most amused, but not as much as when my fruit loaf beat off all other contenders and I came home with a photocopied certificate. The Boy Wonder’s aunt still laughs at the memory of overhearing two local stalwarts looking at my name beside my prizewinning loaf. “Who’s that?” one asked the other. “Never heard of her,” the other one sniffed.
|One loaf to rule them all…
Juicy Fruit Loaf
This moist, tangy loaf has no butter, oil or eggs, but plenty of punchy fruit flavours. Given the chance, it keeps well in an airtight container. This recipe was emailed to me via a forum and I suspect it may be the brainchild of foodwriter Joan Bishop, even though the authorship was never made clear. Thank you Joan, it’s amazing.
250g dried fruit (I use a mix of sultanas, dates and apricots)
120g grated carrot (about 1 medium carrot)
1 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed is best, out of a carton is ok)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
zest of an orange and a lemon
3 Tbsp brown sugar (or honey, or golden syrup)
2 small bananas, thinly sliced
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
Grease and line a 6-7 cup capacity loaf tin and preheat the oven to 170C.
Put the dried fruit, carrot, orange and lemon juice and zest and brown sugar into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and let simmer, uncovered, for five minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then gently stir in the sliced bananas. Sift in the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon and baking soda) and mix well, then scrape into the loaf tin. Bake for about an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack.