Raising a toast Malt loaf has the look and texture of a mistake. It's dense, damp, sticky and looks like it was taken out of the oven too early, leading to its collapse. When my husband first brought one home from England, I thought it had been squashed under something heavy in his suitcase, but he assured me, it's supposed to look like that.

Apparently, there's debate about how malt loaf should be consumed. In her Guardian newspaper column, "How to make the perfect …", Felicity Cloake asks, "Do you like it puritan plain, heretically toasted, topped with cheese or loaded high with slabs of cold, salty butter?" Plain, to me, is disgusting: it's like choking down underbaked bread; and I had never considered eating it with cheese. Which makes me a heretic: the only way I can eat it is toasted, and smothered with salted butter, which melts in the heat.

You can probably figure out from the name that malt loaf contains malt - malt extract, to be precise, which adds moisture and sweetness. It also has raisins, which most recipes insist should be soaked in strong tea, to rehydrate them. They also advise against eating it fresh, saying it should be wrapped well, then put away for a few days to mature, so it takes on the correct soft and sticky texture.