It was while rattling up and down to work a few weeks ago that I started dreaming about a nice cup of tea and a classic fruity tealoaf. You know, the sort your nan kept in a tin and pulled out every so often while you were both sat in front of the snooker while Mum was at work and after you’d just run up the hill after popping down to the corner shop to pick up Nanny’s B&H like a good girl. For which task you were rewarded with a kit kat while Nanny puffed away in front of Steve Davis (“he’s ever so good for a ginger, darling”) and she would nibble on a thin slice of loaf covered in a thick layer of butter.
I can’t eat this without nostalgia by the bucketload, but it’s really rather good and even better-tasting than I remember. I’ve started packing a couple of slices into my handbag, pre-buttered, for eating greedily in the break room or even (gasp!) on the train.
Earl Grey Tea Loaf
Makes one 900g loaf, keeps beautifully for about 4 days in a tin. Better on the second day, naturally.
300ml strong earl grey tea (2 teabags for 5 min does the trick)
450g mixed fruit (currants, raisins and mixed peel is my current jam)
175g soft light brown sugar
350g self-raising flour
a splash of milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp mixed spice
1 handful whole almonds, chopped
The night before: take your tea and pour over the dried fruit. Put to one side, covered, for the next morning.
(NB – if, like me, you “forgot” to do this – read, decided at the last minute I wanted cake and nearly cried at the thought of waiting – you can take the fruit, pop in a saucepan, and pour in 325ml water (allowing for a bit of reduction). Bring to a gentle simmer then pop in the teabags and let steep and cool. You must let it cool completely to give the fruit some chance of plumping!)
When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade, grease and flour the tin and simply mix all the ingredients except the milk together. It will be a thick batter with tons of fruit and smell heavenly. If it looks a touch stiff, loosen with a few tablespoons of milk, but go easy.
Now, simply bake for about 45 min to an hour, checking the middle of the cake with a skewer to make sure it’s cooked through. It will be a rich brown and smell divine.
To eat, serve in slices with salted butter and steaming mugs of tea. Snooker optional.