By Request: Irish Tea Brack from the McDonnell’s Good Food Cookbooks


Food writer, broadcaster and author Caroline Hennessy has been focused on food and writing since editing Ireland’s first food website for RTÉ in 2000. Chair of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild, she established the award-winning Bibliocook: All About Food in 2005, is the author of two books about beer and food and has a column in the Irish Examiner in which she writes about small food producers and the ways in which they develop and maintain a sustainable local food system.

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8 Responses

  1. Ethel says:

    Love this recipe, I used to make it when my children were young, from the McDonald’s book, all of which I still have in my collection of cookery books. My son has requested them as his inheritance.I saw Matthew Ford make a very similiar version recently on UK TV food’s ‘Market Kitchen’

  2. That son of yours is getting very organised for the future!I think that there’s another version of this recipe in one of the Avoca books so it’s still around. Writing this up has made me want to make it again – it’s been ages!

  3. Renee says:

    Dear Caroline,Thanks very much for replying. The recipe I remember from Paula Daly’s Cookbook was one that didn’t require eggs.I think it was called teabread in the cookery book. The imperial system was in use at the time. It involved using equal quantities of sugar and margarine. 4 ozs. of each I think.I can’t remember the amount of mixed dried fruit required. I think 1/2 pint of tea was used.The sugar, margarine, mixed dried fruit and tea were boiled in a saucepan and left to cool in a mixing bowl.Flour, bread soda and mixed spice were then added to the mixture in the bowl.A two lb loaf tin was used with a piece of greaseproof put inside the bottom of the tin.I can’t remember what oven temperature was used. I think it took 1 hour or 1 1/4 hours. I imagine 1 hour or less would be sufficient in a fan oven.The teabread was nicest when it was moist. I found if I added more mixed spice and more liquid and cooked it a bit less it tasted lovely.I see from that some of the Mcdonnells’ s cookbooks are available at certain county libraries. Not County Limerick unfortunately. Haven’t time to arrange an inter library loan. Need teabread for Friday night!I will experiment by using different quantities of ingredients and using butter instead of margarine. Teabread may be too oily if I use butter.I love reading bibliocook.comThanks for all your help.Regards,Renee

  4. That was a bit of a search! I was completely convinced that the Irish Tea Brack was what you were looking for – that being one of my own favourites – but couldn’t find anything like you were describing in the first McDonnell’s Cookbook. But, when I went looking in the second one I hit the jackpot (hopefully, at least!). There is a recipe for Fruit Teabread in the And Now for Some Teatime Specials chapter which fits your description. I’ll type it out below.Fruit TeabreadMargarine/butter – 4oz/125gTea – ½ pint/275mlsMixed dried fruit – 6oz/175gCastor sugar – 4oz/125gSelf-raising flour – 9oz/250gBread soda – 1 level teaspoonSalt – ½ level teaspoonMixed spice – ½ level teaspoonPreheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Butter and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin.Place the margarine or butter, tea, dried fruit and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and, stirring continuously, bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour into a big bowl and allow to cool.Sieve the self-raising flour, bread soda, salt and mixed spice together. Mix into the cooled fruit mixture. Put into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1¼ hours. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out, removing the paper lining and cooling on a wire tray.Makes 1 x 2lb/900g loaf.I do hope this is the right recipe this time! Let me know how you get on and what changes you make to the recipe.

  5. Renee says:

    Thanks a million! That’s the right recipe. I will try it out but I will need to lower the cooking temperature. I tried making a version of teabrack yesterday but the oven temperature was a bit too high. With a fan oven I need to lower the temperature. I had it at 170 Centigrade.I will let you know how the fruit teabread recipe turns out. Great to have the correct quantities although the one I made yesterday tasted lovely apart from the crust being a little hard because of the oven temperature being too high.I remember that there was a lovely recipe for apple tart in one of the books and another lovely recipe for meatballs in a tangy sauce using cider vinegar as one of the ingredients. It is a pity that the cookery books aren’t reprinted or modernised.Thanks again and sorry to put you to all the bother of having to look up the recipe for the fruit bread.Regards,Renee

  6. Renee says:

    Apologises for delay in getting back to tell you about fruit teabread. Our computer was acting up a bit. Everything is ok now. Touch wood!Because everyone had brought so much food I didn’t produce the fruit teabread. I ended up giving people food to bring home with them.The fruit teabread was lovely. I didn’t put salt in it. Maybe I should have. I had made a few and they should have kept better. I used unsalted butter which tasted nicer than one I made using margarine. I didn’t put enough liquid or didn’t boil the fruit for long enough in the saucepan for another of the teabreads or something. It tasted a bit bready. I like a flavour which tastes like fruit cake.We have a fan oven. I tried 160 Degrees Centigrade which was fine. Ever oven is different.I will make another fruit teabread and this time I will use some salt so it should keep for longer.Thanks again and best wishes.

  7. Eilish Brady says:

    I loaned my book to somebody years ago and never got it back. I’ve looked for a copy of the Paula Daly’s McDonnells good food cook book but to no avail. Could someone please email me The recipe for The Boiled Fruitcake please.

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