I don’t know if you’re like me, but I get very excited about ‘ingredients’. I love to find new things to cook with, but sometimes forget that I’ve bought them and they find their way to the back of the cupboard to wait for their shelf life to come and go.
Last week end, I decided to do a stock take of the third shelf up in the kitchen – ‘staples’ and found various grains and pulses that I’d forgotten about, along with some not so soft brown sugar half a block of cooking dates and raisins which were 9 months past their sell by date. They’d gone sugary, but were still fine to use in something cooked. I don’t like to think of throwing raisins away – they’ve worked so hard to grow into lovely grapes and then someone has harvested them and spent time drying them! They’ve been used since medieval times to sweeten dishes and were once so valuable that jars of raisins were used as currency. With all of this in mind, I needed to use them up.
My son had used all of the butter up the previous day in a marathon flapjack making session, but had left a small amount of condensed milk (which he likes to put in flapjacks) to use up. I decided to use everything up in a fabulous Chai Loaf!
I used 600g of raisins (actually a few less than this as I was using up the half a block of dates, too), it made two 2lb loaves. I put them into a medium pan along with 600ml boiling water and two tea bags, brought everything to a boil and simmered for 5 minutes before putting into a bowl and leaving overnight to soak.
The next day I measured out 275g of the not so soft brown sugar and poured the leftover condensed milk on top of it, bringing the total up to 300g sugar (you don’t have to use condensed milk, you can use just sugar. I wish that I’d had a little more condensed milk to use as I couldn’t really taste it in the finished loaf). I mixed the sugar and milk into the raisins (after I’d taken the teabags out) along with 4 eggs and 2tsp vanilla essence. Everything needs a really good stir to dissolve the sugar.
In another bowl I sifted 250g plain flour and 2tsp baking powder. I also had a couple of handfuls of pecan nuts that needed using up, so I added those in.
I wanted to make a Chai Mixed Spice to use in the loaf, so collected some spices together to grind.
The ‘sweet’ spices that we use traditionally in puddings and deserts such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, ginger and nutmeg have been used for centuries in British cooking. The mixture that we now know as ‘Mixed Spice’ that is used in Christmas Cakes and puddings was mentioned in recipes as early as 1828, although it had been used in puddings for many years before that. It’s said that in early history, mixed spices were used heavily in cooking to disguise meat that was starting to go bad. I don’t believe that – surely what makes us ill now, would have made them ill then, too. I think it was because spices were new and exciting. They hadn’t got access to the flavourings that we add to our food now (salt was rarely used except by the wealthy) so it must have been a welcome change to be able to flavour food with something.
Mixed spice contains pretty much the same spices as Chai, which is an Indian spiced tea made with condensed milk. I only needed 2tsp of mixed spice but made more so that I’d have some to use next time. You’ll be able to get a paper twist of mixed spice on our website very soon to buy along with your Curry Kits, if you want to have a go at this recipe.
I added the mixed spice to the flour and then stirred everything into the wet mixture. Mix thoroughly and scrape into two greased and lined 2lb loaf tins.
Bake in a pre-heated oven 180C or Gas 4 for 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover with foil towards the end – I didn’t and the top was a little too brown when it came out, but then I do have an electric oven that likes to burn everything.
The loaf was really moist and didn’t really need the butter that I put on it, but I just love butter!