Friday, 25 January 2013
Katie Stewart's apricot teabread
I was particularly sad to hear of the death of cookery writer Katie Stewart the other day as her books were a bible as I was learning to cook. (No, please don't work out how old that makes me.) Other people on Twitter clearly felt that way too so we had a bit of a Katie Stewart love-in last weekend when we all cooked a favourite recipe.
Mine was a teabread, the sort of cake that's gone out of fashion but which was both delicious and economical because you could slice it so thinly. It's also incredibly easy to make - a bit like a boiled fruit cake.
At the time I used to follow recipes religiously, terrified that even the slightest deviation would result in disaster but emboldened by having written a few cookery books of my own I realise they're only a guideline. Revisiting the recipe I cut down the sugar and ground cloves and would certainly use mixed spice instead of the three different ground spices Katie recommends if I didn't already have them in my storecupboard.
The central ingredient, apricots, has also changed in that unsulphured apricots are much more widely available than when the recipe was written and also tend to be sold in a ready-to-eat version. That admittedly makes the teabread less colourful but improves the flavour. (They were also a £1 a pack cheaper in my local health food shop.) You do however need slightly less liquid than the original because you don't need to rehydrate the apricots - I've made that adjustment in my version below.
Makes 1 large loaf
225g dried apricots, preferably unsulphured
200-250ml water depending whether your apricots are read- to-eat or not (less if they are)
150g caster sugar (unrefined caster sugar for preference)
1 egg, lightly beaten
225g (8oz) plain flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 level tsp salt
1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 level tsp ground cloves and a pinch of nutmeg or 1 tsp mixed spice
You will also need a lightly oiled 9 x 5 x 3 inch (2lb) non-stick loaf tin. If you haven't a non-stick tin, line it with baking paper
Snip the apricots in small pieces (easiest with kitchen scissors) and place in a large saucepan. Add the water, sugar and butter and place over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar then bring up to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Draw the pan off the heat and allow to cool until the hand can be comfortably held against the side of the pan. Beat in the egg.
In the meantime preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4. Sift the flour with the bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg (or mixed spice). Tip the sifted flour mixture into the apricots and beat thoroughly.
Transfer the mixture into the loaf tin and spread evenly. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for an hour until well risen and firm. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then tip out of the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve sliced with butter or on its own. It also freezes well.
The recipe came from a rather charming collection called Katie Stewart Cooks which accompanied an ITV series and cost all of 40p. You might also enjoy her The Times Cookery Book and the more recent Katie Stewart's Good Food.