Brack – Irish Sweet Bread

This is a Tea Brack. The recipe calls for self-raising flour and it is baked in a loaf tin. To find a recipe using yeast, please scroll down a little bit. 69DB8950-E1EF-41CC-8EBF-F4E6F4567126

Ingredients:

  • 120g (3/4 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 120g (3/4 cup) self-raising white flour (or else use regular white flour and add 1/2 tsp baking powder to it)
  • 130g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 1 tsp spices (e.g. cinnamon, pimento, allspice, etc.)
  • 300g (3/4 to 1 cup) dried fruit, soaked in liquid overnight (see no. 1)
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  1. Put 300g fruits and 250ml black tea (or coffee) into a large bowl, mix and let soak overnight.
  2. The next day, stir in brown sugar and the egg.
  3. Add flour (baking powder if required) and spices and mix well.
  4. Spread into a prepared (greased or lined with baking paper) 2lb loaf tin or use a silicone baking dish.
  5. Bake at 170 C for about 60 min.

Let cool on a rack. Freshly cut slice tastes really good if you spread some butter and/or jam on it.

Store in airtight plastic container up to a week.

Tea Brack Recipe Using Yeast

I meant to post only one recipe of Brack but I have discovered this one, too. It calls for yeast instead of self-raising flour, is round in shape and baked on a baking sheet (not in a loaf tin). It reminds me a lot of what we would call a Früchtebrot (Fruit Bread) in Germany.

Ingredients:

  • 300g Whole wheat flour
  • 150g White flour
  • 1 tsp spices to taste (allspice, cinnamon, pimento, etc.)
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • Dash of salt
  • Dried fruits, soaked in liquid overnight (see no. 1)
  • Nuts (optional)
  • 150ml water (additional)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Put 300g fruits and 250ml black tea (or coffee) into a bowl, mix and let soak overnight.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, spices, dry yeast and salt.
  3. Stir in soaked fruit (incl. remaining liquid).
  4. Add nuts (optional)
  5. Slowly add water (150ml) und 1 tbsp olive oil and mix.
  6. Shape into a round bread. Line baking sheet with baking paper, place dough on top. Let rise for 45-60 minutes (until double)
  7. Bake at 180 C for about 40 minutes.

Let cool on a rack. Freshly cut slice tastes really good if you spread some butter and/or jam on it.

Store in airtight plastic container up to a week.

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Keeping Warm In Winter

Warm up from the inside out: avoid cold foods and drinks. A cuppa hot chocolate, tea or coffee will help our bodies to get warm. Instead of salad, eat some cooked, warm veggies and, for in between, eat hot soups.

If you don‘t have a slow cooker yet, I would suggest that you‘ll buy one. I love to cook with it; during winter because it keeps the steam to a minimum and during summer because it doesn‘t heat up the kitchen so easily. You can use it to cook the soup/s and to keep them warm all day.

To keep your body warm when going outdoors, wear several layers of clothing and don’t forget the gloves and hat.

Get some extra blankets/throws for your home. I like the fluffy (fleecy) kind. During winter we use them on top of our mattress and sofas and as blankets. Our dogs got their own ones, too — they prefer to lie on them instead of on the cold floors. 😉

Hot water bottles: they are great for the cold season! When the evenings and nights are cold and the heater is already turned off, fill them up with hot water and place them in your bed under the duvet or snuggle up in a blanket that‘s warmed up by a hot water bottle.

In winter the days are not only colder but also shorter: the mornings are longer dark and it is getting dark early in the evening. I prefer a light-flooded home; you probably do to. Of course we don’t want to black out the rooms unnecessarily. However, especially during very cold days, drawing the curtain can help quite a bit. If we don’t want to spend a fortune on heating, we will have to choose: do we want more light or (more) warmth inside our homes. By the way, if you do get curtains, look for thermal or lined ones. They will be of good use during summertime, too.

Whenever the sun is shining, I leave the doors to the rooms that are on the south and west side wide open. That way there is not only more light but also cozy warmth coming into the rooms and the hallway.

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But when it is really cold outside, I draw the curtains or even leave some of them shut all day, e.g. the one at the front door, or like the ones in our living room and offices.

Whenever the sun shines brightly, the temperatures in our sitting and living room can easily rise to 20°C, even up to 22-23°C. In the afternoon this will change and so I draw the curtains again, to keep the warmth inside our home and to avoid unnecessary heating costs.

During winter I prefer cozy heated rooms over daylight. Yes, at times this means that not much daylight is flooding into our home. That’s why we have bought daylight bulbs. They will make the rooms a lot brighter than the common ones:

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The picture doesn’t show how well they do that. But if you look at the lamp you will see that the light ray is white and not yellowish. The bulbs aren’t that cheap but they are well worth getting for winter.

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Power Outages – Be Prepared

In Ireland it’s not that uncommon to experience a few power cuts a year — especially in rural areas. 😉 Sometimes they’ll last for a few hours; at other times it might take a few days until the problem is solved. Although most of the times it cannot be predicted, it’s always good to be prepared for such a situation. Today I’m going to talk about which things come in handy when electricity is gone.

Most of the power cuts took us by surprise, they came without any prior notice and weren’t predicted. That’s why, since we are living in Ireland, we bought more and more things that ease the time until power comes back.

Light in the Evening

We have a large amount of tea lights and candles at home. It’s good to store them in a place with fast and easy access — especially in darkness. Tea lights are available in different “sizes” (burning time) e.g. 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours. Use a heatproof glass or tea light holder. Pillar candles, placed in a big lantern or glass with shade, look beautiful and add a good amount of light into the room. I find taper candles are the best way to lighten up a dark room. But you’ll need to keep a good eye on them.

If you do not like candles or an open fire, you could use a rechargeable LED lamp instead. It can be charged by USB plug, by cranking it up or by solar.

Heat/Boil: Food and Water

One of the houses we rented while living in Dublin had a gas hob in its kitchen. The modern ones have an igniter to light up the hob. However, when there is no electricity available you can carefully light it up by match or lighter.

Many rental homes only have an electric hob, though. Then an additional wood-burning stove really comes in handy. I still miss the one we’ve had in Germany very much 😦  If you have neither, get a camping-/gas cooker and use it to warm up meals.

By the way, if you buy a camping cooker get one that will connect to a regular gas bottle. It’s either already equipped to hook up to the gas or else you will need to get a hose, clamps and a regulator for it. This will help you to save money because the small disposable gas bottles do not last as long and you will end up spending more on gas in the long run. To find out more about these gas cookers, ask the expert in your store.

Heating & Keeping Warm

With the help of a gas hob you can warm up and cook meals and bring water to a boil (to make tea and coffee). Drinking hot beverages will keep you warm from the inside. You can also use hot water to fill up the good old hot-water bottle; or pour it into the wash basin so you can wash yourself with cozy warm instead of freezing cold water. 😉

Blankets are great to have for the cold nights. Use them on the sofa and/or in bed. If you can, get some sleeping bags, too. They’ll keep you warm during the night when temperatures drop.

In case of a power cut during the day you could get one of these: 

We’ve bought one a few years ago. (In 2018) They cost an average of €100 + about €30 for a fill of the bottle of gas (excluding deposit for the bottle). For safety reasons don’t use these during the night!

Entertainment

When we moved from Dublin to this rural area we smiled at the radio the landlords had left behind. It was a wind up radio! But, believe it or not, we have used it quite a few times while living in that house!

All these great reports about the weather and current situation you find online will not help when there is no electricity (and the batteries are dead on the smartphone 😉 ) and no internet available. That’s when you are grateful for such things as a crank up radio.

If you cannot find one that is rechargeable (through electricity when available, to wind up or solar-powered) then get one that uses batteries. But, remember then that you will also need a good supply of batteries at home. 😉

Does anybody remember the good old board games? They need no electricity, are easily stored away and fun to play.

Miscellaneous 

  • Batteries (Radio)
  • Matches and/or lighter
  • Baby wipes (handy especially when options to wash the body are very limited)
  • Canister or empty plastic bottles filled with water (not for drinking but for every day cleaning and toilet flushing purposes)
  • Car converter (to charge smartphone/s, laptop, LED lamp, etc.)
  • Food: instant coffee, tins (soup/stew, tomatoes, beans, peas, etc.)
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Bringing Your Dog To Ireland

Bringing your dog/s to Ireland used to be a big hassle. Today this is much easier but there are still a few things to consider.

When we brought Rapsy to Ireland in 2011 he was already microchipped, had a passport and was up to date on his regular vaccinations. But he still needed a certificate of Rabies antibody testing (with a titre of 0.5 IU/ml or above) and, after receiving this certificate, he had to wait 6 months to enter Ireland. Immediately before entering Ireland two more treatments were necessary: an echinococcus and a tick treatment (plus he had to enter Ireland within the following 24 hours).

Since 1st January of 2012 the rules are different. For dogs to enter from a EU and “low risk” country to Ireland they will need:

  • Passport or EU certificate that shows the microchip number.
  • Subsequent rabies vaccination, at least 21 days before entering Ireland.
  • Tapeworm treatment (unless traveling from Finland, Malta, Norway or UK)
  • To come to Ireland within 5 days of the owner.

Maximum number of dogs to travel with one person is five.

For more information go to:

  • Citizen Information — Bringing pets to Ireland
  • DAFM — Bringing your pet cat, dog or ferret into Ireland
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Motortax in Ireland

There are three things you will need to drive your car in Ireland:

  1. NCT
  2. Motor Insurance
  3. Motortax

The car you are buying at a dealership should have a valid NCT. Remember to make sure that you have motor insurance for it before picking it up. Sometimes the automobil still has a current tax disc, other times it doesn’t. You will find out on site.

After you have bought the car the dealer will send the Registration Certificate along with your details to the Department of Transportation which will update the name and address of the owner and issue a new certificate. You will receive the new registration within 5-7 days along with the PIN which you will need to login online.

To renew the tax of your car go to www.motortax.ie

You will need:

  • registration number
  • PIN
  • policy number and expiration date of your car insurance

There, follow the steps given, e. g. checking if all data (car details, your name, your address) are correct, entering in the motor insurance number and date and select which time period (3, 6 or 12 months) you want the tax for. Enter your credit card details to pay. After all is complete, print the confirmation that is shown on screen for your records. Hold on to it until you received the tax disc by post.

For more information check the Motortax Website. For example, you can find out more about the Motor Tax Rate for your car or the car you want to buy — if you have its registration number ready. They provide pages of information including answers to FAQ.

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How To Perfectly Cook Irish Potatoes

Irish potatoes and I don’t get along… :think: Either they are under-cooked or they are mash when I take them out of the pot. There is some appliance, though, that will help me trick these Spuds and they are cooked just fine:

Potatoes

First time I came across a slow cooker was in Germany, at my American neighbour’s house. She could hardly believe that I have never seen a Crock-Pot (™) before. The bolognese sauce she made was the best I’ve ever tasted.

Crock-Pot (™) is a slow cooker but not every slow cooker is a Crock-Pot (™) 😉 In Ireland they are mainly called slow cookers and only the original one is called by its brand name! You can buy them in large supermarkets, electrical retailers and on offer in Aldi and Lidl. (Compare prices!)

Following are just a few of the advantages…

  • Uses only between 100-300 watts (depending on size and brand)
  • Vegetables aren’t easily overcooked
  • Simple cooking: prepare and cook all in one pot; forget about it until dinner.
  • Enjoy delicate and tender meat.

Another advantage, avoid extra humidity while cooking, especially during winter: Use the slow cooker! 😉 There will hardly be any steam escaping the pot, unless you open the lid.

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Champ and Colcannon

There is nothing like living in a country and getting to know the people, their culture, their traditions and their food. For a few years I didn’t know what Champ is and how to cook it.

Champ

It’s a common and loved Irish dish. But what exactly is it? Put simply: it’s enhanced potato puree. 🙂 What make the whipped potatoes so good are their special ingredients: warmed up spring onions and heaps of butter.

Ingredients

  • 800-1000g of rooster potatoes
  • bunch of spring onions*
  • 200-250ml milk (for creamier taste use half milk, half cream)
  • 50-75g butter (alternative: use 3 tbsp of olive instead)
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt (pepper to taste)

Instructions

  1. Cook, peel, mash potatoes
  2. Wash and chop spring onions
  3. Warm up milk, butter, salt and chopped spring onions. Slowly add to potatoes and mix well.

*Spring onions (scallions) can be substituted for 200-250g cabbage (kale) and then it’s called Colcannon instead. Of course, you can also add more or less butter if you’d like: best to place the butter dish on the table, too. 😉

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