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Eggless Fruit cake

After last week's visit to South Queensferry we cross the Forth to the former Royal Burgh of Dysart, which merged with its larger neighbour Kirkcaldy in 1930. Hugging the Forth, many of Dysart's links with its historic past, eg vernacular architecture and carved lintel stones marking marriages or safe deliverance from the Plague, can still be seen by 21st century visitors. The Tolbooth has been standing since 1576, and the adjacent Town Hall, built 1887, was the meeting place for the Provost and Councillors until the Burgh amalgated with Kirkcaldy. In 1656, troops from Cromwell's invading English army were billeted in the Tolbooth and dropped a lighted torch into a barrel of gunpowder, blowing off the roof.
 
The availability of coal saw Dysart, in times past, playing a major part in the Scottish salt industry. The 'Saut Toun' and 'Little Holland', descriptive names applied to the Burgh, are indicative of the industry of the community and also of its Continental commercial links. Fine vernacular buildings near the early 17th century harbour at the Pan Ha (the haugh where the salt pans once stood) are physical reminders of the prosperity once enjoyed in the heyday of the 'Saut Toun'. The picturesque row of pan-tiled houses at Pan Ha, some dating back to the 16th century, were restored by the National Trust for Scotland in the 1960s. The privately owned houses, sitting below St Serf's Tower and its ruined Kirk, include The Anchorage, once home of a wealthy shipowner, and Bay House, used in the 19th century as an inn which was patronised by visiting sea captains. A visit to the  attractive harbour is a must.
 
Nearby Dysart House was once the seat of the Earls of Rosslyn, whose tenure came to a dramatic end when the 5th Earl's love of gambling and beautiful women drove him into bankruptcy and loss of virtually all the family's huge estates. Now the house is a Carmelite Monastery.
 
The birthplace in Rectory Lane of John McDouall Stuart (1815-1866), the first explorer to cross Australia from south to north, has been restored and now houses the John McDouall Stuart Museum, a small seasonal museum dedicated to his achievements and well worth a visit.
 
Reminders of more recent industries can be seen in the Normand Memorial Garden, on ground gifted by a linen manufacturer's family; Meikle Square, named after the family-owned carpet business which employed generations of local people; and the winding gear of the Frances Colliery, 'The Dubbie', part of which stretched under the Forth and had one of the highest production rates in Britain until it closed in 1985 - a victim of the Miner's Strike.
 
Sixty years ago in Dysart, if you looked across the Forth it was filled with masses of shipping prior to the D-Day landing on 6 June 1944. It is war-time rationing which inspires this week's recipe - Eggless Fruit Cake. Food rationing was introduced on 8 January 1940 and houswives had to be very inventive as they only had tiny weekly amounts of core ingredients (4oz bacon and ham; 2oz of butter; 4oz margarine; 8oz of sugar; one egg). There was a points rationing system for tinned goods, cereals and biscuits. A far cry from today's packed supermarkets and the problem of obesity!
 
Eggless Fruit cake
 
Ingredients : 10 oz self-raising flour; 1 tsp mixed spice; pinch salt; 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda; 1/2 pint weak tea; 3 oz margarine; 3 oz sugar; 3 oz dried fruit
 
Grease and flour a 7 inch cake tin. Sift the flour, spice, salt and bicarbonate of soda together. Pour the tea into a saucepan, add the margarine, sugar and dried fruit. Heat until the margarine and sugar melt, then boil for 2-3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, pour on to the flour mixture, beat well and spoon into the tin. Bake in the centre of a moderate oven, 180C/350F, Gas Mark 4, for one and a quarter hours. 

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