The Balloonist

This was recently sent to me and sadly the message it carries is so very true…

A woman in a hot air balloon realised she was lost…

She reduced altitude and spotted a man below. She descended a bit more and shouted ‘Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago but I don’t know where I am.’

The man below replied ‘You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude.’

‘You must be an Engineer’ said the balloonist. ‘I am’ replied the man ‘but how did you know?’

‘Well’ answered the balloonist ‘everything you have told me is probably technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information and the fact is, I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help at all. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip by your talk.’

The man below responded ‘You must be in Management.’ ‘I am’ replied the balloonist ‘but how did you know that?’

‘Well’ said the man ‘you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it’s my f**king fault!’


Home Baking – Bara Brith

Since I posted a photo on Twitpic of a homemade Bara Brith, I’ve had several requests asking exactly what it is…

Bara Brith is the Welsh name for a fruit loaf and literally translates as ‘speckled bread’. It comes either as a yeast bread enriched with dried fruit or something resembling a fruitcake made with self-raising flour and no yeast. The dried fruit should consist of raisins, currants and candied fruit peel.

the finished product

The ‘bread’ is common to all Celtic countries. The Irish call it Barm Brack, the Scottish refer to it as Selkirk Bannock, and in the Brittany region of France, it is known as Morlaix Brioche. It’s also popular in the Patagonian region of Argentina and Chile following the arrival of early Welsh settlers. There it is called Torta Negra or ‘black cake’.

There are many different recipes for this bread, each having some unique quality. Traditionally, Bara Brith is made with yeast but the downside to this is its limited shelf life and is best eaten soon after baking. The version made with self-raising flour can be kept for a long time. Many Welsh recipes favour soaking the fruit in tea overnight before baking.

The recipe that I used originates from North Wales and uses self-raising flour. You will need the following:


330g (14oz) mixed dried fruit
250ml brewed tea
330g (14oz) self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp marmalade
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 tbsp soft brown or golden sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
Honey to glaze


sliced and ready to eat!

Soak the fruit overnight in the tea.

Next day, mix the marmalade, beaten egg, sugar, spice, flour and baking powder. Add the fruit and mix well until all ingredients have blended.

Place the mixture into a well greased 900g loaf tin.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160°C (320°F or gas mark 3) for 105 minutes or until the centre is cooked through. Check from time to time that the top doesn’t brown too much, and if necessary, cover with foil.

Once cooked, leave the Bara Brith to stand for 5 mins, then tip out of the tin on to a baking tray to cool. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top with honey.

Serve sliced with butter. It is also tasty with strong farmhouse Cheddar cheese. Store in an airtight container.