So, we are 15 days into a COVID-19 pandemic (declared by the WHO on Wednesday 11th March 2020). We are 2 days in the UK lockdown (declared by Boris Johnson on Monday 23rd March 2020) and the world is on fire!
Yes, much has changed since I last posted at the end of February. Life, as we know it has changed and we are slowly getting used to new normals. I am currently not sure how well I am coping with this, as even though the Sun is shining and I am currently in good health, there are so many things to worry about – within and without my control – that sometimes find myself paralysed with fear and anxiety. This is countered by moments of almost frenzied activity on the phone (I set up two WhatsApp groups – for work and my neighbours), on the internet (I created a whole new website dedicated to all things coronavirus-related) , in the kitchen, shopping (buying food is a nightmare). It is a life of extremes.
I have been cooking, just not quite in the mood to share the new recipes that I have creating. However there comes a point when recovery from the initial shock must happen and one must move on and face reality. I am coming to the end of some annual that I had booked a while ago but have interrupted it to take part in telephone conference with my work colleagues. (I am not sure when I am going to see them again – that is a weird notion…). I have spoken to my clinical lead about what I need to do on my first day back next week. I have been checking my work e-mails to trying and to keep up-to-date with the changes in my department and the Trust. I have been responding to e-mail requests for information about some of my patients. I would not normally do this on my annual leave but these are different times so calls for a different actions. Also, I am so paranoid I am going to get ill, that I feel like I need to do everything I can do, while I am well.
This evening I decided to bake a tea loaf , using a recipe that was sent to me by a colleague. It feels like a luxury however, I just used the ingredients that I already have in the cupboard, I suspect it will be the last time I get to make something like this for a long time. It was therapeutic to make and just as soothing to eat. It is so fruity, it somehow reminds me of Easter!
275 ml hot, strong Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea
125 g (4oz) each dried figs and apricots, roughly chopped
150 g (5oz) sultanas
125 g (4oz) light brown soft sugar
10 green cardamon pods
75 g (3oz) pistachios, finely ground
200 g (7oz) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp rosewater
2 medium eggs, beaten
For the icing:
150 g (5oz) icing sugar
pink food colouring, optional
l25 g (1oz) pistachios, chopped
dried rose petals, optional
- Pour tea into a medium bowl; add dried fruit and brown sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar, then leave to soak for a minimum of 1hr or preferably overnight.
- Preheat oven to 150°C (130°C fan) mark 2. Line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking parchment. Bash open cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar, pick out seeds and discard husks. Grind seeds to a powder. Scrape ground cardamom into a large bowl and mix in ground pistachios and flour. Add the soaked fruit mixture, the rosewater and the eggs; mix to combine.
- Scrape mixture into prepared tin, level and bake for 1hr 20-1hr 30min until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in tin for 5min, remove from tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Transfer cooled loaf to a board; remove parchment. Sift icing sugar into bowl and mix in about 1½tbsp cold water to make a thick but spreadable consistency (you may need a drop more water). Dye pink with food colouring, if using. Spread over top of cake, so it dribbles down sides. Scatter over pistachios and rose petals, if using. Allow to set before
serving in slices.
I did not have any apricots, I substituted with prunes I found in the fridge! I was too tired to bother with the icing sugar and pistachio topping. Maybe when times are calmer, I’ll feel more like going a little further. I would also, if I did have an icing topping, reduce the amount of sugar in the loaf recipe. We shall see, we shall see.
Well, until the next cooking creation, keep well and stay safe.