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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Hot toddy and rum & raisin cake

The New Year had, briefly, an auspicious start. A group of friends, a house in the Oxfordshire countryside, log fires, an exceptionally fine pheasant and bacon pie and country walks providing a gratuitous excuse to don Christmas hats, scarves and gloves given the unseasonably mild weather.

The morning of 1 January 2012 started slowly: pots full of tea, English muffins, slippers shuffling around the house as their inhabitants eased themselves gradually into the first day of the new year.

Eventually everyone had found two socks, two contact lenses, a right and a left boot (which had been scattered around the house after the midnight sparkler-lit running races of the night before) and we set off on a walk, escapees from London, secretly delighting, despite the sore heads and aching limbs (the product of the very competitive midnight races), in the freedom of the Bank holiday and the clear air.

Having ambled for at least half an hour and successfully scaled the gentlest of inclines, much needed sustenance was provided in the form of a rum raisin hot toddy. The raisins had been steeped in rum and sugar syrup five days previously. The raisiny syrup was then mixed with lemon juice, boiling water and more rum and poured into thermos flasks for the walker's delight.

We drank our hot toddy, hands cupped gratefully around steaming cups, watched by llamas in a neighbouring field (or were they alpacas, none of us felt qualified to say). Their quizical faces matched ours, 'Were we ready for twenty twelve?', each walker weighing up the challenges, delights and surprises that the next twelve months were likely to bring.

When the llamas realised that we were more interested in our hot toddy than their quixotic appearance, they grew bored and we carried on our way, our tortoise-like progress speeded up by the zingy, quasi-medicinal qualities of our toddy.

The following weekend, the shine having already been knocked off the New Year by a week at work, I used the rum soaked raisins to make a rum soaked raisin cake. Served with homemade clove ice-cream (although good vanilla would work just as well), it warmed the heart and the stomach. The cake improved with age and I ate it guiltily at my desk over the following week (the boozy raisins so right in the cake, so wrong in the office), each mouthful a memory of high days and holidays.

There is no reason to limit hot toddy or its offspring cake to the New Year. It will undoubtedly brighten up any winter weekend. If you don't have time or the inclination to bake, the raisiny syrup would be delicious poured over ice-cream.

Rum & raisin hot toddy

Raisin syrup
1kg raisins
125ml dark rum
375 ml sugar syrup (see below)

To make the sugar syrup, bring 125ml water to the boil. Add 250 ml sugar and allow to dissolve, stirring continuously. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat (do not allow the syrup to boil for too long as the syrup will become too thick).

Mix the raisins, rum and sugar syrup and leave to steep for at least five days.

For the toddy

160ml dark rum
100ml raisin syrup
60ml lemon juice
400ml boiling water

Combine the rum, raisin syrup, lemon juice and boiling water. Grate a little nutmeg on top, if you like. Pour into glasses or pre-heated thermos.

(This recipe is borrowed from the Zetter Townhouse, London.)

Rum and raisin cake

125g butter
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
Zest of half a lemon
50g plain yoghurt
125 plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g rum soaked raisins

Preheat the over to 180 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar for 5 - 10 minutes until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, followed by the lemon zest and yoghurt. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Fold in the raisins.
Spoon into a lined tin (18cm would be ideal) and bake for 35 - 40 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

Enjoy x