For me, barm or tea brack is one of those Irish Halloween traditions. It brings back memories of me searching every slice of brack until I found the ring or my Dad teasing one of his 5 daughters who would find it and finally get married (wishful thinking on his part!).

I bought a brack recently when I saw it in the supermarket and thought I fancy a slice of brack with butter and a cup of tea. But I was so disappointed as it was so dry and tasteless. So I went back through my old recipes and found my Mam Vera’s tea brack recipe. I made it with my own boys and it was so easy to make, moist and full of flavour. I also made a few tweaks. I used spelt flour as for me I find it actually better for baking and also I am not great with wheat. I also reduced the sugar as the raisins naturally have sugar. You can also leave out the egg and use milled flaxseed as an egg alternative. The one thing to remember is to soak the raisins overnight or even for a few hours in the tea. I forgot which was exactly what my Mam would do so I just added another 2oz of flour as she would have done, sure it was grand. Now all you have to do is relax with a cup of tea and find that ring!! Happy Halloween.

Vera’s Tea Brack

  • 8oz Spelt flour or plain white or wholemeal flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 300gm raisins or mixed fruit
  • 300ml cold tea
  • 2/3oz muscovado sugar or xylitol
  • 1 egg or 1 tablespoon milled flaxseed mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice

Soak the raisins/ mixed fruit in the cold tea in a bowl overnight or for a couple of hours. Sieve the flour and the baking powder add the sugar, mixed spice and add the egg or milled flaxseed/ water. Mix together and add to a loaf tin (lined with parchment paper). Cook at 170 for 1 hour. Turn out the oven and leave to cool. Wrap in parchment paper and leave it to settle overnight.


This is to me comfort food at its best. Love it and if out and it’s on the menu I’d often order it. But my only issue is it can be all potato and a little fish which kind of drives me crazy.  Also, I am one of those rare Irish people who are n’t mad on potatoes sshhhh…don’t tell anyone!

So below is a really simple fish pie but I have used cauliflower to top it instead of potato but also given option to use a mix of both or just potato. Cauliflower has a lower carb value and a good alternative for those who do struggle with the starch of a mashed potato. This dish can be prepared in advance and cooked later or cooked and then frozen.

Recipe serves 4/5

  • 600gm mixed fish (including smoked fish and salmon/ prawns also work great)
  • 1 cauliflower (or 2/3 large Maris Piper potatoes and 1/2 cauliflower)
  • 1 onion
  • 2/3 bay leaves
  • black pepper
  • pink Himalayan or sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • bunch parsley
  • ½ bag spinach
  • cheddar cheese grated or mozzarella (optional)

Roux Sauce:

  • 1 tsp/knob real butter
  • 1 tsp (dijon mustard optional)
  • 2/3  tsp flour
  • 200/250 ml milk

Place the fish in a shallow dish, squeeze some lemon over the fish and season with salt and pepper. Roughly chop the onion and scatter over the fish and add the bay leaves. Cover with milk and then parchment paper and then tin foil and bake in the over at 170 for 15 minutes.

Chop the cauliflower and/or potatoes if using. If topping with cauliflower only steam it for 10/15 minutes until soft and can break up easily. If using potatoes or a mix of book cook the potatoes until. Take the fish out of the oven and drain off the milk, keep aside to add to roux sauce. You can keep or discard the onions from the fish at this stage.

For the roux, melt the knob of butter and whisk in your flour (and mustard if using) until they blend in and then slowly add reserved milk and keep whisking until the sauce thickens. You may need to add more milk if sauce too thick. Season with ground black pepper and salt.

Wilt the spinach gently in olive or butter. Break up the cauliflower and gently mash with a fork. Mash the potatoes. If you using half and half add the cauliflower to the mashed potato. Scatter the spinach over the fish and pour over the roux sauce. Top with cauliflower/ potato mash. You can top with cheddar or mozzarella cheese.

Place back in the oven and cook for 20/25 mins at 170 until golden brown on top.

Serve with rest of spinach, peas and carrots.