From Mum’s Old Recipe Book: Somerset Apple Cake

  • 8 ounces self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 3 heaped tablepoons soft margarine (4 ounces)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons caster sugar (4 ounces)
  • 1 pound peeled, cored and diced apples
  • A little milk (if necessary)
  • 1 large beaten egg
  • Spoonful granulated sugar for garnishing
  • Mum has made a note: ‘add 2 ounces mixed chopped nuts’ – this may have been her own preference rather than an essentialapple

Grease and line 8″ (inch) cake tin. Sift flour and spice into bowl and rub in the margarine. Stir in caster sugar and chopped apples. Add beaten egg to make a spreading mixture. If it seems a little dry add some milk.

Turn into the tin and bake at 350ºF for 1 – 1 1/4 hours. Turn onto wire tray. Just before serving sprinkle the top with sugar.


From Mum’s Old Recipe Book: Mystery Sister Tea Brack

I’ve called it that because it’s in one of the sisters’ handwriting but I can’t decide which. They both went through a cramped, backward-slanting gothic phase, as in fact did Mum (she was briefly learning calligraphy from a retired drama-school headmistress who lived down the road). Since the cost is given in ‘s’ and ‘d’ it must be pre the 1971 decimalisation.

TEA BRACK – dated 5th August, no year

  • Cost: about 4s 2d
  • Approximate preparation time: 15 mins (plus overnight standing)
  • Cooking time: 2 hours


  • 8 ozs (ounces) sultanas, cleaned
  • 8 ozs currants, cleaned
  • 8 ozs soft brown sugar
  • 1/2 pint medium-strength cold tea (plenty of that swilling around in the UK)
  • 1 lb (pound) self-raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons milk


  • Put fruit, sugar and tea in a bowl. Soak overnight
  • Next day, turn on oven: set at moderate, 375º F, Mark 5 (gas)
  • Grease a round 8 in (inch) tin; line base with greaseproof paper and grease the paper
  • Sift the flour into bowl of fruit. Add milk and beat
  • Turn into prepared tin. Bake in centre of pre-heated oven for 2 hours.
  • Cool on a rack

I’ve sorted it out and bullet-pointed it to make it less cramped-looking on the page, and easier to follow.

Enjoy 🙂

PS: if you’re wondering where the word ‘brack’ comes from, it’s a short form of barm brack, an Irish recipe upon which there are many variations (including this one). In Irish gaelic it’s bairín breac. So now you know.


From Mum’s Old Recipe Book: Carrot and Banana Bread

10 oz (ounces) wholemeal flour

1 level tsp (teaspoon) baking powder

1/4 level tsp salt

1/4 level tsp mixed spice

4 oz marge (margarine)

6 oz brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

4 oz banana, mashed

4 oz carrot, grated

Set oven at 350°F (175°C)

Lightly grease 2 lb (pound) loaf tin

Put the flour, baking powder, salt & spice into bowl. Cream the marge and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the banana and carrot. Add the flour and fold in. Place mixture in the tin & smooth over. Cook for 1 hr 15 mins or until firm.

Turn out when cold. Slice and butter.

Enjoy 🙂

Colouring Books

When I was a child my mother taught me how to colour. For Christmas and birthdays there would always be the Bumper Colouring Book. I remember a smiling snake, and another with a motorcyclist leaning sideways. “Cornering at Speed” it was called. Funny, the things you remember. My mother taught me to colour very carefully, cover the space evenly and never, ever let the crayon stray over the line. I became a neat colourer, but in the end I lost interest in colouring. Moved on to other things – the tin telephone exchange, perhaps, or the cheaper (or maybe more girly) version of Lego, called Sticklebricks, or making ballerina dresses for dolls out of paper doilies, or those fluted paper cups for baking cakes in.

I had forgotten the joys of colouring until today, when Betty and I visited Mum in the hospital, as usual. Betty produced a sandwich bag with two slices of currant cake, which she has smuggled out of a retirement party. One of them got eaten. I gave Mum a colouring book and some crayons, since she had been saying she was bored. She pushed them away. She pushes everything away, on principle I think. So – more to avoid talking – or do I mean thinking? – than anything else, I coloured a lion’s nose purple, and it’s tail a sort of sludge colour. No response. We leafed through the pages, showing Mum the pictures. Betty coloured in a mermaid, upside down. The face turned out an unlikely shade of pink, which clashed with her yellow hair. “Sunburn,” said Betty. “A rather nasty case.”

Then slowly Mum picked up a crayon, and started to colour the snow on a mountaintop purple, it was perfectly neat, and not once did it cross a line. She could still do it. “Well done,” we said. She put away the book and the crayons and the remaining piece of cake in a plastic bag and knotted it so tightly she would probably never be able to undo it. Then she took us to see a colouring she had done with the rest of the ward. It was pinned up on a notice board – an Easter Greetings card, with a lop-eared bunny and a zig-zag patterned egg.

She had signed it “Very Old Lady.”