Malt loaf, for Nigel, has Proustian qualities: it’s a culinary key to times past. Here’s how to make it – and what to do with it
I have no idea when I stopped eating malt loaf; I only know that I did. Perhaps it was its resolutely unfashionable character that sent me looking elsewhere. Or the fact that tracking it down was getting more difficult with each passing year. More likely, I gave up the damp, deliciously fruit-laden loaf because other more exciting things got in the way.
And then, out of nowhere, I got a fancy to rekindle our old friendship. I longed for a thin slice of buttered malt loaf, the slightly tacky feel on my fingers, that smell of dried fruit and tea I once held so dear. I wasn’t sure it would be quite the same stripped of the traditional waxed paper wrapper of the commercial brands, like a Kit Kat without the silver foil. Yet one sniff of the baked loaf – think fruitcake meets Ovaltine – and all the good stuff came floating back. Malt loaf is something of a safe harbour, a cloud of raisin and malt-scented nostalgia, in a complicated world. It tastes of home, of ticking clocks and quality time spent with your gran. At least it does for me.