Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Barm Brack and Stuff

I am so used to seeing Halloween stuff and pumpkin spice everything hit the store shelves as soon as the kids are back in their classrooms that when September rolled around, I started looking to see what kinds of things I would see here. Turns out there was nothing to see until a month later! A couple of weeks ago, the Christmas and the Halloween stff began appearing at the same time. Tesco has less Christmas stuff, but at SuperValu, I'd say there is probably more of that than there is Halloween merchandise. They are already well stocked with Christmas cakes, mince pies, and Irish Christmas puddings.
There is some Halloween candy, of course and Tesco sells costumes--part of one aisle there has been transformed into "Halloween St." Both stores are now stocking various brands of barm brack.
I got some the other day. I knew that it was a sweet yeast bread with raisins and sultanas. I found the following additional information at Wikipedia:
"Barmbrack is the centre of an Irish Halloween custom. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game.[2] In the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be wed within the year. Other articles added to the brack include a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary to symbolise going into the priesthood or to the Nuns, although this tradition is not widely continued in the present day.
Commercially produced barmbracks for the Halloween market still include a toy ring."

Indeed, mine did have a ring baked in--found it yesterday when I sliced some for toast.
 I saved it--I am sure I can think of some crafty use for it :-) I bought another loaf today--I love the stuff, so may end up with a collection of these little rings!
I've been eating this for the past couple of mornings toasted with butter. Add a cup of coffee and an apple on the side and it's a simple yummy breakfast. I think the brack would also be good with peanut butter. It seems almost the same as the raisin bread I used to get once in a while in the US, but there is a slight difference, I think--maybe the sultanas? Not sure.

Supper has been pretty simple these past couple of evenings, too. I got some veggies in the oven to roast yesterday morning, so we have had those and all I have had to do was whip up an accompaniment.
Our electric meter has two numbers on it--one for day and one for night. It's cheaper to use electricity at night, during the off-peak hours. Our water heater is set to run at night only. If we want to have it run doing the day, we have to manually turn it on. We were told the same is true for the electric heating, though we haven't had a need for that yet. Off-peak hours begin at midnight during summer time and 11 during winter time. We change the clocks to winter time this coming weekend in Ireland. The water heater light goes off at 9 in the morning, so I guess that's when off-peak hours end and if I am washing a load of clothes, I try to get them in by 8:30 at the latest so they will be done by 9. I never use the dryer, so don't need to make time for that. If I am cooking in the slow cooker, I do it overnight so that it's done by morning. And if I want to make something that will require use of the oven for more than a few minutes, I try to do that in the morning as well, if it's something that can be cooked and then reheated.

The roasted veggies can, so I cut up potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic, tossed them with some olive oil and sprinkled with mixed herbs. I put them in my saved foil pans, set the (fan) oven to about 200 and let them cook. I don't bother pre-heating the oven if I am not baking something. After half an hour, I turned off the oven and the power switch and let them sit in there some more. They were perfectly done. Since I had the oven on anyway, I made two pans. We had some for supper last night with omelettes and toast. We had some tonight with kielbasa and beans. There is some left for tomorrow. Someone suggested the term "plan-overs" for planned leftovers and I like it! I almost always make plan-overs--saves time and energy and it is very convenient to have stuff ready-made in the fridge. I often keep a container of cooked brown rice in the fridge--came in handy yesterday for lunch--topped with leftover marinara sauce and some Parmesan shavings--yum!

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