always a fresh egg a’piece

Let me start with a disclaimer. I do not work for Yorkshire Tea. I do not know anyone who works for Yorkshire Tea. I apologise for any unseemly brand promotion. But I heart Yorkshire Tea.

There are many anachronistic elements to my Yorkshire Tea obsession. The first is that I originally hail from Lancashire. In the past, my brand loyalty has been tinged with a nagging sense of regional guilt. When, a couple of years ago, I heard that Lancashire had launched its own brand of tea (wars-of-the-Roses, beverage style) I was fully prepared to switch county allegiances. I could not find any Lancashire Tea in Scotland, so I insisted that my Ma (conveniently placed in Rochdale) nip straight out to get me a motherload. But what disappointment! I really wanted to like it, but I just didn’t. It may have been blended in Newton-le-Willows. The packet might well have displayed a map of Lancashire’s ancient county boundaries. But it lacked both strength and maltiness. Yorkshire Tea it was not.

Another reason to be circumspect about Yorkshire Tea is its calculated and fantastical “like tea used to be” advertising. You know the kind of thing: All Creatures Great and Small, sheep, cricket, dry-stone walls, steam trains cutting through rolling limestone landscapes and always a fresh egg a’piece. Yes, this immortal phrase was actually uttered in a Yorkshire Tea TV advert and for me (and some other people I know) has long been the source of much tea-associated hysteria.

But the thing is, however much I laugh at the fresh eggs and the heritage fantasy, I also find all this stuff secretly appealing. I must do. For how else do you explain that I now have, in my possession, every single item in the Yorkshire Tea gift range?

Tea shaped dunking biscuits. Ah me.

To acquire these wondrous items you have to collect Yorkshire Tea Tokens. To collect the tokens, you have to drink an awful lot of tea. I find a singular pleasure in both activities.

Seriously, how can you argue with a jolly orange teapot, yours for only 36 tokens and a small postage fee? The points-collecting aspect of Yorkshire Tea recalls, for me, the heady days of youth, when packs of cigarettes came with similar tokens. Back in this simple, uncomplicated era you could smoke your way through the ‘gratis’ outdoor equipment catalogue, and no one saw any contradiction in exchanging guaranteed emphysema for a podometer, or a small family tent. In this former life, Tom smoked enough B&H to acquire many ‘gratis’ items, including a decent sleeping bag. Tea has now happily replaced nicotine in both token and addiction-related matters.

Anyway, the latest additions to my Yorkshire Tea collection arrived in the post this morning:

Joy! My Yorkshire Tea tea-towel and mug can now join my Yorkshire tea apron, tea caddy, teapot, milk jug . . . you get the picture. On the latest token collecting card, they asked for ideas for other gifts to add to their range. I had several suggestions.

The best thing about Yorkshire Tea is, of course, the tea. It is tasty, refreshing, strong and black. With the addition of milk it turns a pleasing coppery-orange colour. You don’t have to eat a fresh egg every time you drink a cup, but I do have a suggestion for something containing fresh eggs that makes an excellent accompaniment:

Border Tart!

Here, in a first for this blog, is a recipe — a recipe by me and baked by me. Excitement!

Border Tarts are another obsession of mine, and I’ve sampled many varieties both in Scotland and Northumberland. My favourite is the buttery, almondy confection known as an Ecclefechan tart. I’ve had so many good Ecclefechan tarts that I insisted we take a trip there — unfortunately we found the village singularly lacking in baked goods, which was (for me) rather sad. So here is my version of an Ecclefechan tart based on those I’ve enjoyed. Now, I am no supercook, or anything, but I can make decent pastry. And can I just say that I am as about as proud of these tarts as of anything I’ve made? And that, containing your recommended annual allowance of butter, they really are berloody good?

For the pastry:
200g plain flour
120g butter from the fridge
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 egg yoke

for the filling:
100g golden caster sugar
100g butter
1 egg, beaten
50 g ground almonds
50 g glace cherries, chopped
handful flaked almonds
handful dried fruit (currants, raisins, cranberries)
half a grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375f / 190c/ gas mark 5
Make sweet shortcrust pastry:
rub butter into flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, stir in the sugar and add the egg yoke. Combine to make smooth paste, adding a couple of tbsps water if the mixture is too dry. Stick pastry in the fridge to rest for half an hour.

Make filling:
In a pan over a low heat, melt the butter and sugar together, stir until melted. Take off the heat and add the dried fruit and everything else except the egg. Allow mixture to cool for a minute or two, then stir in the egg.
Roll out the pastry, cut into small rounds, and line a bun tin. Put a generous scoop of the mixture into each pastry case, and stick it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture has risen and is turning golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and eat, marvelling at the flaky buttery pastry and sheer almondy nutmegy wonderment of the tart.
Makes 24.

We are taking a much-needed break and are off this weekend, not to climb mountains or walk many miles, unfortunately, but to sit in the sun, which will at least be relaxing, and safe for Tom’s arm. See you in a couple of weeks.