The Borough Belles, Borough Market’s neighbourhood branch of the Women’s Institute, is packed with keen cooks, happy to share their ideas and insights. This month: Emma Tunstill
When I moved to London, I had just come out of a very long term relationship and realised I’d spent too much time in that relationship, and not enough time with friends. Though I had friends here, London is such a massive place I just didn’t see anyone all that much and got fed up of not knowing anyone in my immediate area. I joined the Borough Belles and everybody was incredibly welcoming. I think on my second meeting I asked to become a member of the committee, so I dived straight in. I’ve been a member going on 10 years now and while I’m no longer vice president, I am still a committed member and help out with little extras when I can.
The running club is great. We’ve recently done a quick—well, not quick, it was quite painful!—session with a personal trainer. I am a long-standing member but for me, joining was mainly about meeting like-minded people—the activities and things we do are just a bonus, and a great way of building on those friendships. You’re really part of a community. If you ever find yourself at home with little to do, there’s sure to be something going on which you can join in.
One of the reasons Borough Belles did it for me was, I’d been to a few other WI groups in London and they didn’t have homemade cakes—a lot of them brought shop-bought. At the Borough Belles, some of the cakes are quite exciting in terms of shapes, but people make a proper effort. Baking a whole cake for yourself is just a little bit much—you can’t eat it all!—so finding people who are also interested in it to share with is great. I used to be a lot more avid, I had a blog in which I shared all my recipes, but I’m still baking away. There’s a pleasure and relaxation in cooking: living in London can be quite hectic and stressful, it’s nice to create something.
The recipe I’ve shared here isn’t too complicated and usually works out okay! It’s my mum’s recipe and when I was young I didn’t actually like it, it wasn’t sweet enough for me, but I love it now. My mum has always baked and she got myself and my sister involved from an early age. It reminds me of home and it always goes down very well whenever I make it. It’s great to have when you wake up if you’ve had a bit of a late night—I tell myself because there are Weetabix in it, it qualifies as breakfast—or it’s nice around three, four o’ clock with a cup of tea. When I make it at home, my boyfriend always asks for a slice as soon as I take it out the oven—he tucks into it while it’s still warm, with loads of butter on top.
Emma’s wheat biscuit loaf
Mix 2 wheat biscuits, half a pint of semi-skimmed milk, 225g mixed dried fruit, 55g chopped walnuts or pecans and 115g brown sugar together in a bowl. Place the mixture in the fridge and leave it overnight to soak.
The next day, pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a loaf tin. Take the mixture from the fridge and mix in 1 beaten egg and 225g self-raising flour. Once it’s combined well, pour into the tin and pop it into the oven for around 1 hour 20 mins, covering with foil for the last 30 mins.