Time for Tea (Cake)

Sunday, March 22, 2020

One of the most amazing things about living in the UAE is the sheer amount of little luxuries. I'm not talking about fancy cars or opulent architecture - although there is plenty of that - but rather about the small luxuries that make up everyday life. 

For example, this week we arranged to have some suits dry-cleaned. With two presses of a button on an app, we had scheduled a collection on the same day. You then fold up your garments into a pre-provided bag and leave them outside for collection. Two days later they're returned to you at a specified time, completely dry-cleaned, pressed and neatly left outside your door. All of this happens without even having to talk to anyone else.

Another luxury is the incredible availability of things. I've been able to get Dutch yarn delivered to me from a yarn shop in Dubai. I've bought amazing American bakeware in a local hardware store. I found a Kiwi-made youghurt Maker from a vegetable shop in Abu Dhabi. I've also managed to find Yorkshire Tea in some local stores on the main island, which is only a short drive away. Before I moved here, I worried about how easy it would be to find things that I was used to - things like toiletries, groceries and even fresh fruit. I needn't have worried; the UAE is like an oversized global marketplace if you just know where to look.

When we moved into our flat, we got an enormous gas-burning oven - another luxury that is considered the standard size here, where catering could be considered something of a national pastime. It's double-width, and I've discovered that it takes two very generously-sized baking trays side-by-side. I can bake an enormous birthday cake with four layers in just one oven session. Or, 48 cupcakes. It is truly a thing of beauty. And I've been using it. A lot. I've baked across the globe this past year, trying all sorts of recipes every week and making Southern biscuits for dinner (it's a bit like a savoury scone, rather than the sweet snack you'd have with tea), Australian lamingtons for tea, South African snowballs as a treat, and most recently an Irish tea cake - because, well, it reminds me a bit of home.

Granny's Irish Tea Cake

This was my husband's late grandmother's recipe. She had an enormous collection of amazing recipes - both indulgent, and war-time. This one was one of her regular makes, and a firm favourite in our house. I'm incredibly grateful that I managed to write down a number of her recipes which we now use quite regularly. Making fresh tea cake for (well) tea has been a little luxury for us too, in this time of Covid-19 isolation. It is proper comfort food.

Elice's Irish Tea Cake (our family recipe)

  • 1 teacup of cold tea
  • 1 teacup of brown sugar
  • 2 teacups of self-raising flour
  • 1lb of raisins (450g)
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Put the sugar and the raisins into a bowl, add the tea, and soak overnight.
2. The next day, add flour and a well-beaten egg, and mix well.
3. Pour mixture into a well-greased small tin and bake on the middle shelf of an oven at 150'C for 1 1/4 hour - 1 3/4 hours (or until brown and baked through). Mine took about 2 hours.

Yorkshire Tea in Abu Dhabi
I thought you might like to see that while things are certainly available here, they sometimes look a little different. I think you have to be open to accidentally trying new things as you go to make sure you find what you're looking for!

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