No trick just treat: Sugar free, fat free ‘barn brack’ for Halloween

I make this great ‘Irish Barnbrack‘ otherwise known as my Mother’s healthy Halloween fruit cake. Barnbrack is a traditional Irish fruit cake made at Halloween however I rarely wait for Halloween on this one. I make it all year round. It’s free of sugar and butter and instead uses lots of dried fruit and a trick or two to give you a scrumptious healthy fruit cake that isn’t just for Halloween.

Healthy Halloween

No Trick Just Treat Healthy Halloween Brack

It is my Mother’s recipe. My Mother is the original ‘Green Bee’. By that I mean she appears to be a respectable middle class housewife but she is in fact an Eco minded hippie to her core….but she doesn’t know it. She always cooks from scratch and passed those skills on to me. Why eat something from a jar or a packet when you can make a more delicious version yourself for a fraction of the cost?? Well, the answer is because invariably convenience food is just that, it’s very convenient and saves time but there is a price to pay. Taste and nutritional value are lost. My mother thought, ‘then I must find the simplest and quickest ways to cook as time costs money’!
When I was a small child she was making her own muesli. In Dublin in the 1970’s, muesli eaters were a rare enough breed so to be making your own was so akin to being just plain odd. My Mother didn’t shout about it but quietly made large vats of the stuff which we (the kids) occasionally ate when the cornflakes or Weetabix were running low. All meals and desserts were made from scratch apart from the occasional Angel Delight . Tissue and wrapping paper was ironed and re-used. Vegetables and herbs were grown in the garden and we never took the car if we could walk or cycle. To be fair, my Mum couldn’t drive so the car was only driven when my Dad came home from work. My Parent’s are a product of the 2nd world war where rationing was part of every day life. Factory farming hadn’t reared it’s ugly head and to cap it all Ireland in the 1950’s was gripped by a deep and dark depression. Even those who had money had a different approach to consumption. Never throw something away that can be fixed or re-used and if you want rid of something re-home it instead of sending it to landfill. I am a great fan of websites that are dedicated to this; Jumbletown. is my favourite one and there are also plenty of Facebook pages that offer a similar service.

In the spirit of all things traditional give this recipe a go. It couldn’t be easier and how pleased will my Mother be!?!

Healthy Halloween Barn Brack

Healthy Halloween

Coin revealed

Healthy Halloween

Wrapped and ready

Healthy Halloween Brack   

12 oz Dried fruit (califiornian raisins, cranberries, dried figs,
sultatnans are my favourite mix but it’s your choice)                   
1 Mug of Tea in which the fruit is steeped overnight (soak in a herbal fruit tea for added flavour)
8 ozs of sifted Self Raising Flour (wholemeal also works well with 1 teaspoon of baking powder)
1 Egg, lightly beaten with a fork
2 teaspoons mixed spice plus 1 teaspoon of n/meg or cinnamon
Soak the dried fruit in the tea overnight (8 hours)
Place in a mixing bowl and add the sifted flour, spices, egg and mix well
Fill the loaf tin with the mixture and add 3 good sized coins (a Euro or 2 Euro coin are perfect) wrapped well in greaeproof paper and hide within the mixture. This is a great Halloween Tradition and makes eating Brack even more exciting!
Place in the middle of the oven.
Cook for 1 hour at 180 degrees in a greased 10″ x 5′ Loaf tin.
Gently remove from the tin and allow to cool fully before slicing.

Smokey Bonfire Soup

Halloween is almost here. Tomorrow in fact and my children are already at fever pitch at the prospect of dressing up, staying up late and collecting and consuming enough treats to keep a small nation on a sugar high for weeks.

Trying to approach this celebration in a meaningful eco-minded way has been a challenge. My children are making their own costumes with my help and the contents of our dressing-up box and my cosmetics bag. Another issue for me as a Mother is trying to get something wholesome into them on the big day itself to counteract (a little) the amount of junk they will consume and to keep them warm as they trudge out into the Winter’s night Trick or Treating.

This year I have adapted my kids favourite sauce that I created for them few years ago into a delicious heart warming  soup that is full of great tasting things like butternut squash, smoked paprika and the life enhancing coconut milk. I call it  ‘My Smokey Bonfire Soup’. Obviously this is pumpkin season so it can happily be substituted for butternut squash.

My Smokey Bonfire Soup 



1 medium butternut squash ( pumpkin can be easily substituted) cut into small chunks

1 red onion diced

1 stick of Celery finely sliced

1/2 yellow pepper diced

1/2 medium sweet potato cut into small chunks

200g  of tinned peeled plum tomatoes

1/5 teaspoon of smoked paprika.

200g of full fat coconut milk

A good glug of olive oil, black pepper & salt to taste and 1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs

1 litre of homemade or good quality vegetable stock such as Marigold’s Swiss Bouillon.


Fry the onion, celery & garlic gently in a heavy bottomed pot with the olive oil ensuring nothing browns. Add the butternut squash and cook for a further 5 minutes stirring regularly. Now add the pepper and sweet potato, again stirring regularly to avoid sticking to the bottom of  the pot. Once the vegetables begin to soften add the tomatoes and herbs.

Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes on a low to medium heat.  Now add the stock and simmer for a further 30 minutes. Once the vegetables have completely softened add the coconut milk and the smoked paprika. Be careful not to exceed the amount of smoked paprika as it has quite a powerful flavour.

Now heat thoroughly before blending and season to taste.

Enjoy. A meal in itself.