Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Date & Walnut Loaf

I used to have an awesome memory.

Birthdays, phone numbers, addresses, every crime my brothers ever committed against me - all stored in there like an elephant. Not just this kind of basic admin information, though - my entire A level syllabus, 2 years of law school and the associated information, facts, handy things to know from a professional career.  Street plans of cities and towns I'd visited. The exact pile of papers, or drawer where I'd filed the vital document...

The causes of the English Civil War? European monarchs, in order, along with various wars and treaties engaged in and signed during the 17th & 18th centuries? No problem. The rules of tort. The circumstances under which you could claim unfair dismissal and the amount of compensation you might be entitled to. Obscure 80s pop songs (one hit wonders a speciality) artists and titles. All there. Anyone else remember Strawberry Switchblade?

Except these days. Err... These days, I can't even remember a lot of what I've forgotten. I have this theory that may or may not be related to having children, which is essentially that at some point, your brain reaches saturation point with information, and then starts to operate a 'one in one' out policy. 

And who am I kidding? I blame it almost entirely on having children.

"You want me to remember that your kids need their PE kits and some money for a school trip which must be in tomorrow or they can't go, Blue has a gluten-free friend coming round for tea, and Pink is going to a birthday party?" (snarls my brain, as I attempt to sneak some more information in)

"Um, yes" (acts innocent)

"OK. I'll remember. But I'll ditch your nephews' birthdays. And that bill you needed to pay? The letter you needed to post? Forget it." Yeah - literally - forget it.

Thanks, brain.

It's cruel like that. If pushed, I can still remember the causes of the English Civil War, and I have a hazy recollection of the law of unfair dismissal, the lyrics to 'The King of Rock 'n' Roll'... but the information that is actually more vital to me these days - dates of small relations' birthdays being a case in point - is lost (although it's always useful to know that you can recall insightful lines such as "Hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque " at times of stress...) 

Where this lost information, things that were once known to me, have gone, I have no idea. Does it just drift, cloud-like out of my brain in my sleep (think Harry Potter type memories being transferred to a pensieve - which actually, I could really, really do with, as I don't have one, and the memories just seem to go floating off), is it actually still there, there's just so much else going on that I just can't retrieve the information any more -   or is this actually a serious issue - synapses dying or something?

My mum is big on synapses. She works with children with dyslexia and knows a bit about neural pathways. She is always urging me to do the sudoku puzzles to keep my brain active and working properly. She and my dad get one newspaper a day, and the sudoku gets photocopied so they can both do it. I might once have mocked, but given the amount of stuff I seem to have forgotten recently, important stuff, she may well have a point.

This loss of important information that I have amassed over the years has extended to a more general absent mindedness. When previously I operated with a mental tick list, these days, unless it's written down, it will simply not get done - not just because I haven't got round to it, but because even if you told me 5 minutes ago, chances are I will have completely forgotten it - distracted by something else.

I used to be able to focus, be clear, laugh in the face of a to do list. But these days? Well, even if it's on a list, there's no guarantee.

Take recipes, which are of course not much more than 2 'to do' lists - one of ingredients, one of what to do with them. You'd think it would be easy, but no. Increasingly, I find that I'm winging it, having forgotten to buy, or include, a vital ingredient. Take this loaf that I knocked up at the weekend. Originally from the Leon Family & Friends tome, I was congratulating myself on substituting pomegranate molasses (which I had) for golden syrup (which I had again forgotten to buy, having noted that I'd run out for 3 consecutive weeks), and thinking about what we were going to have for dinner (pizza) and completely forgot to include the sugar.

As an aside, I've been struggling a little with pomegranate molasses. I bought it some months ago undoubtedly with an Ottolenghi type creation in mind, which I then failed to produce (or forgot? had I written a 'meal plan', I wonder?) and then felt distinctly unworldly in my inability to think up a use for it. In the end, my lovely dog walking chum Rachel suggested using it in a tea loaf type creation. This nugget didn't fall foul of the one in one out policy adopted by my leaky brain, and voila (Rach - here's your name check :-) - thanks for the suggestion!)

But back to the main event - I also forgot to use all the bits of my food processor when I whizzed up the milk and dried fruit, resulting in batter splatter all across the kitchen...The result? Actually a rather tasty date and walnut soda bread type loaf, with no fat, sugar or eggs.  Given that the Husband ventured to suggest that it wasn't my best cake, this is probably a good thing, as I seem to be the main person eating it at the moment.

Actually, this wouldn't be bad as a breakfast type of cake. Just saying.

Date & Walnut Loaf

(makes 2 loaves - I was trying to 'get ahead')

225g wholemeal self raising flour
225g normal self raising flour
2 tsp fine salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
500ml semi-skimmed milk
170g pitted dates
50g sultanas
60g dried apricots
11g walnut halves
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses

Line 2 2lb loaf tins and pre-heat the oven to 190C.

Sift together the dry ingredients.

In a properly assembled food processor, whizz up the milk with the dried fruit, nuts and pomegranate molasses for 20-30 seconds, then stir it all into the dry ingredients.

Divide this between the 2 prepared loaf tins and bake for 30-40 minutes till a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool and eat with butter (so much for being fat free).

don't mind if I do...


  1. I've used my beloved pomegranate molasses in many, many recipes but never in a tea bread. Believe me I'll put that right the next time I'm in a tea bread mood. Well, if I remember. Of course I remember Strawberry Switchblade but are you trying to say that all you have left now are thoughts of yesterday? (Told you I remembered them). Wait until you're as ancient as me and you'll see how strange memory can get. The song that sums it up for me these days is Tom Rush singing the Remember Song.

    1. Ah Phil, having popped my pomegranate molasses cherry (so to speak) I am drawn to its charms. Still not convinced I'll find lots of uses - I shall go back to your blog for more inspiration. Glad to hear it's not just me humming along - I wish I could just close my eyes and remember though...

  2. But you have just moved.... I am sure your brain is just trying to process everything to do with that too! :) Love the sound of molasses for salad dressings and in cocktails! :D

  3. Well the loaf looks lovely and yes, a great breakfast solution. The forgetfulness I can sympathise with. Let's just put it this way - I've just had to email someone to tell them I had written the wrong birth date down for my daughter... Hmmm, I think I better get some sudoko...

    1. :-) - they sell big books in WHSmiths. Not that I've been looking, or anything!

  4. Totally get the failing memory - I was known for my memory in my youth...and now I can't even remember why I visited a particular room!


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