It was the kind of weather that makes vinyl seats a problem. My sticky bare legs make a sucking noise when attempting to shuffle to the middle of the back seat of the car to make way for my Mum on one side and my Great Gran on the other. My Grandparents are in the front of the Sigma, ready to drive us eight hours to Adelaide. I have a broken arm that is itchy as hell under the hot plaster. The car windows have been rolled down in an attempt to provide relief from the heat, and to blow Grandpa’s pipe smoke beyond our immediate vicinity.
We’re en route to our first stop, where, despite the searing temperatures, Grandma will produce a thermos of hot tea and a roll of moist date and walnut loaf, sliced and slathered in butter. This is tradition, a family favourite that is so much a part of road trips that even radiating heat can’t alter the menu for a roadside stop. When thinking about my food memories related to cars for the Paint the Town Ford Challenge, I knew I had to recreate this family tradition.
The classic Australian roadside stop includes a picnic table and a brick toilet block, maybe some nice trees if you’re lucky. Generations of weary drivers and cooped-up kids have unfolded themselves from the car to take a break from the highway, have a loo stop and unpack a little treat to keep them going for the next leg of the trip. Date and walnut loaf is a great option for a roadside snack. It keeps well, provides a sugar hit to perk everyone up and has nuts and dates in it for more sustained energy. And it’s delicious.
Traditionally, nut loaf is baked in a Willow cylindrical tin. I don’t have one, and although this recipe cooks up fine in a normal loaf tin, I tried a few different repurposed food tins to see if I could recreate the traditional cylindrical shape. Here’s what I found:
- Tins with ring-pulls on top don’t work. The edge that is left on the tin when the top is pulled off means that the loaf gets stuck in the tin.
- You need a tall tin. Tins of asparagus spears work well, or look for tall 750g tins (I found a 750g kidney bean tin that was great).
- You need a safety can opener, like this one, which leaves a clean edge. Normal can openers leave a sharp edge which makes working with the tin dangerous for fingers.
- Obviously you need to remove the label and any glue on the tin. Soaking it in warm, soapy water will make this easier.
- Fill your tin to just under 3/4 full. The loaf will pop out over the top.
- Different sized tins will result in different cooking times, so it will be a bit of trial and error when testing “doneness”. I found mine ranged from 25-40 minutes, the skinnier the tin, the shorter the cooking time.
- Be super careful when turning the loaf out of the tin to avoid breakage. Turning the tin directly upside down and guiding it out slowly worked best for me.
- The tin is great for transporting the loaf!
This is the last of my Ford posts, I give the car back next week. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed driving the Ford Kuga. Here’s what I liked:
- It’s a very comfortable car to drive, with the giant sunroof (it takes up 41% of the roof) making it feel even bigger than it already is.
- Keyless entry and starting is something I never knew I needed, but will now miss. I had to drive our normal car last week and I stood next to it for a bit too long before realising that it wasn’t going to magically unlock and open for me like the Kuga does.
- The Sync technology means that making phone calls and playing music is very much hands-free and easy, which I’ve appreciated on those days when a trip in the car was the only thing to get and keep the baby asleep.
- The parking and reversing assistance is extremely handy. I was too scared initially to try the automatic parallel parking feature, where the car steers itself into the parking spot, but when I did it was quite amazing. We’re living in the future people!
Thanks to Ford and Kidspot for the opportunity to drive the car, and for the inspiration for the car-related blog posts (the others are here and here), it’s been fun! Also thanks to Lucy King for providing the gorgeous illustrations that have accompanied every post.
Date and Walnut Loaf
- 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 cup walnuts chopped
- 100 gms butter
- 3/4 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups dates, chopped
- 1 egg beaten lightly
Preheat oven to 180C.
Place flour, bicarb and mixed spice in a bowl, add walnuts and mix through.
In a saucepan, combine butter, sugar, water and dates and stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and butter has melted. Cool slightly, then add to dry mixture.
Add egg and fold to combine ingredients.
Use cooking oil spray to coat tins. Spoon mixture into one loaf tin or two tall tin cans (to 3/4 full in each).
Cook for 40-45 minutes, checking after 25 minutes if using tin cans as cooking time varies depending on the size of your can.
Remove carefully from tin and serve cut in slices with a thick smear of butter.