This is my take on a classic teabread recipe, tailored to use up remnants from Christmas not-so-long past, but it can be varied according to whatever leftovers of dried fruit, nuts, sugars, preserves, flours and snifters you may find cluttering up your kitchen cupboards. The chestnuts worked a treat (and they weigh in significantly less on the calorie scale than other nuts) – the remains of a (frozen) packet of the cooked vacuum-packed variety, which are I've concluded not worth using in any other way except in stuffings, since they are decidedly gungy. If you can bear to plan ahead, it's best to leave the dried fruit to soak overnight but not essential. The crunchy sugar-and-spice topping studded with almonds is also an optional extra and of course adds to the calorie tally, but there again staves off the temptation to lather the bread up with sweet or fat spreads various.

Makes: 1 large loaf, or enough to feed a working party

120g pitted prunes, cut into small pieces with scissors
100g pitted dried dates, ditto
45g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp fruit jam or jelly (I used some ancient runny quince jelly)
Grated rind of 1 orange, pared strips of rind of another (optional) and squeezed juice of 3 oranges
Few cloves, piece of cinnamon stick, 1 star anise (all optional)
Slug of brandy, sherry, sloe gin, ginger wine etc.
Freshly brewed strong black coffee
2 medium eggs, beaten
80g cooked vacuum-packed chestnuts, chopped
140g malted multigrain flour (mine was stoneground at Calbourne Water Mill on the island)
150g white self-raising flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp each ground ginger and mixed spice, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, grating of nutmeg
Demerara sugar seasoned with mixed spice plus blanched almonds, for topping (optional)

• use any dried fruit instead of the prunes and dates
• use any other brown sugar
• use all coffee or tea instead of the juice and booze
* use other nuts such as chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans, or mixed chopped nuts, instead of chestnuts
• try using different combinations of flours
* use whatever sweet spices you fancy or have


• There really aren't any with this recipe, although I managed to give my dear friend Gerry a hangover with one example where my hand slipped with the homemade sloe gin decanter.

Wop the dried fruit, sugar, jam/jelly and grated rind in a bowl. Put the juice in a saucepan, with the whole spices and pared rind if using, and add the booze. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few mins. Strain through a sieve (if you used the spices/pared rind) into a measuring jug and make up to 300ml with the coffee. Mix well with the fruit mixture. Cover and leave until cool or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/Gas 4 and line a large loaf tin with baking paper. Beat the eggs into the mixture and stir in your nuts, then fold in the flours and spices. Dollop into the tin and level, then sprinkle over the dem sugar mix and decorate with almonds if you like. Bake for about 1 hour 15–20 mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, covering the top with baking paper to prevent overbrowning. Leave to cool for 5 mins in the tin, then lift out by the paper and cool completely on a wire rack.