I've been – belatedly – catching up with Lark Rise to Candleford on BBC1. Having reached episode 3 I'm quite enjoying it, but I was a bit surprised to find that it started about 3/4 of the way through Flora Thomson's memoir, with young Laura's move to Candleford to work at the Post Office. Having seen how the stories for each episode have been created from incidents a few lines long in the book, I'm not surprised that there doesn't seem to be a credit for the author at the start (or am I missing it?), or that a second series of feel-good Sunday telly has apparently been commissioned. Oh well, it's all quite pretty, and there's little enough to watch otherwise.
I've been hunting for tea bread recipes on the internet. We don't each much in the way of cake or pudding in this house, though muffins sometimes happen when both sons are home. When they were small I baked almost daily, and tea bread was a staple for days when I was in a hurry, for instance, if it was a butter-making day, as that was time-consuming. My preference in baking has always been for the "hearty" kind – I can't do light-as-a feather sponges, and never really felt much urge to, but a good solid fruitcake packed with sultanas and raisins, an applecake all unctuous and sticky in the middle or a classic gingerbread were all turned out regularly and disappeared about 10 minutes' later. My tour de force, I reckoned, was a date loaf served with home-made ice-cream. Unfortunately, a vital ingredient of the loaf was Kellogg's bran buds – at some point during the 80s, these were changed, and never produced the right result again. I think they subsequently disappeared in the UK, though they seem to be available elsewhere. I still make good ice-cream, though, on the rare occasions there is any room in the freezer.
The most unusual tea bread recipe I've found uses lavender; I shall have to try making it when the lavender comes into flower, even though I shan't be able to eat it (lavender makes me wheeze). This is one of the kind which is simply a loaf-shaped cake which might be served with butter, as is The Dormouse's excellent banana and date loaf. The other kind is made by soaking the dried fruit in tea – I rather favour this type and plan to experiment with different kinds of tea, Russian caravan for starters, I think. The huge advantage of the breads-made-with-tea is their speed. Soak the fruit in advance (overnight if possible), chuck in some honey or muscovado sugar, flour (not forgetting the baking powder if you're not using self-raising!) and a beaten egg or two, turn it into a tin and shove it in the oven. Go and watch an episode of Lark Rise..., and it should be about ready by the end.