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Recipe: Burra Brönnie

by Laurie Goodlad -

As most of us are on lockdown at the moment, I thought that I would bring you a delicious, traditional Shetland homebake to give a little taste of Shetland from wherever you are in the world.

This simple, but delicious recipe is for a boiled fruit loaf – what I would call a brönnie [brunny], although throughout Shetland it is probably better known as hufsie. That’s one of the charming things about Shetland, there isn’t any one-size-fits-all definition of the dialect. Just as certain words are pronounced differently in certain areas, words may also have a different meaning in various communities.

Language always fascinates me, and a delve into J.J Graham’s 'The Shetland Dictionary' offers a glimpse into the etymology: he describes a brönnie as ‘a round, thick oatmeal scone’ and, hufsie as, ‘homemade cake, recipe unspecified.’

This is a recipe that I got from my grandmother-in-law who lives in Burra. My husband’s family, and my dad’s family all come from the island of Burra on the west side of Shetland. Here we would always call a boiled fruit loaf a brönnie. It is thought that the recipe originated on the island of Whalsay, where they always call it hufsie. But, as this is my recipe and I’m from Burra, we are calling it a brönnie.

Brönnie recipe:

This recipe makes two (2 lb loaf tins) brönnies.

*Note that this recipe freezes very well. I usually cut each brönnie in half and freeze as half loaves.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of mixed dried fruit

  • 2 cups of soft brown sugar

  • 2 cups of strong tea (or water)

  • 4 oz of margarine

  • 2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda

  • 4 cups of self-raising flour (sieved)

  • 2 eggs

Instructions

  1. Place dried fruit, sugar and margarine in a medium saucepan.

  2. Sprinkle over the bicarbonate of soda and pour the tea over the mix.

  3. Simmer gently for five minutes before leaving it to cool slightly.

  4. Stir in the beaten eggs and flour.

  5. Place the mixture into two greased and lined 2 lb loaf tins.

  6. Bake at 160℃ (gas 4) for approximately 1-1 ½ hours. (For Aga ovens, place the rack on the floor of the top oven, and place tins in with the cooling tray on the runner above.)

Brönnie is best served, sliced, with lashings of fresh Shetland butter on top and a cup of well-brewed tea. As this recipe freezes well, it is the perfect sweet treat to make ahead of time.

If you are in Shetland, you can look out for brönnie at the regular Sunday Teas that are held throughout the islands during the summer months. Sunday Teas are a very moreish way to indulge that sweet tooth and try out some of the local bakes, jams and chutneys – as well as Shetland’s incredible hospitality.

We would love to see your brönnies: tag @promoteshetland and @shetlandwithlaurie to share your baking!

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