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Sun Apr 20 07:48:31 SAST 2014

Grill Hills: Luck of the Rooibos

Hilary Biller | 11 April, 2010 00:000 Comments

Stewing over a recipe? Baffled by an ingredient? Hilary Biller answers your food questions. Send your queries to food@sundaytimes.co.za or post them to PO Box 1742, Saxonwold, 2132

Q: MY friend has mentioned a tasty and easy recipe for a cake using rooibos tea. I wondered if you could find this recipe; I would love to try it. - Naideen Underwood

A: I believe you are referring to a Barmbrack, which is a traditional Irish spicy fruit loaf. Delicious sliced and served with a thick spread of butter, it is good toasted as well.

Traditionally, it was made with yeast, but these days most recipes call for self-raising flour.

The tea is used to soak the fruit. Originally, it would have been a cup of really strong black tea, made using tea leaves, or the leftovers from a good, strong pot of tea. I'm sure the Irish would not mind if you added a South African touch and used rooibos tea instead.

Recipe: Quick Fruit Loaf


  • 2 tea bags (you can use rooibos)
  • 500ml boiling water
  • 500g dried fruitcake mix
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 375ml caramel brown sugar
  • 500g self-raising flour
  • 20ml baking powder
  • 5ml ground cinnamon
  • 5ml mixed spice
  • 5ml vanilla essence


Immerse the tea bags in boiling water in a large mixing bowl until you have a strong brew. Soak the fruitcake mix in the tea together with the tea bags overnight. Discard the tea bags, add the eggs and sugar to the tea mixture. Mix well. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices together, then add to the tea mixture and mix well. Add the vanilla essence. Spoon the batter into two 22 x 12cm loaf pans, which have been well greased. Bake in a preheated oven of 160°C for 60-70 minutes. Leave to cool in the pans before transferring to a rack to cool completely.


Q: I found a recipe for curried chilli relish in an old edition of the Sunday Times. My greengrocer very kindly got me some curry leaves and seedless tamarind from Thailand, a 200g packet. Is that what I need, how much do I use and how do I use it? Can I keep what I don't use and does it need to be frozen? In what other recipes can I use it? I live in Kriel, not a big town, so I'm very lucky to have such a kind greengrocer. - Frikkie

A: Tamarind is the fruit of an evergreen tree prized for its pods, which contain small beans surrounded by a sour/acidic pulp. When harvested, the pulp is compressed into cakes - not dissimilar in looks to a block of dates - which are widely used in Indian and southeast Asian cooking. The pulp adds an almost sweet-and-sour flavour to food. Break off a piece and make it into a paste by pouring boiling water over it. Let the mixture stand for at least 15 minutes, mashing the fruit into the water and then pouring off the now caramel-coloured liquid, which is what you use, discarding the pips.

These days, you can find tamarind already made into a paste so you won't need to go through this procedure.

Tamarind - both the paste and the blocks - lasts very well stored in the refrigerator. You don't have to freeze it.

In the curried chilli relish, use about a quarter of the block (50g) and soak as described (in general, use a quarter of a block for a dish).

Tamarind is added to soups and stews. In Thailand, the pulp is eaten as a sweetmeat.

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