Afternoon Tea Week

Let’s celebrate afternoon tea week, who can resist those little finger sandwiches, scones and fancy cakes, it’s like reliving a dolls tea party. That quintessential British meal that sadly is disappearing from our daily lives. With the advent of full time work for women the ritual that is afternoon tea became lost, hardly surprising, who of us has time to work and cook for a tea break?

As lifestyles and hours of working changed over time so have mealtimes , following working patterns and changes in social status.  The following is from “A Short History of [British] Mealtimes”

1780
Breakfast 10AM; Dinner 3-5PM, Tea 7PM, Supper 10-11PM
1815
Breakfast 10AM (leisurely), 9AM (less leisurely), 8AM (working people); Luncheon Midday; Dinner 3-5PM; Supper 10-11PM
1835
Breakfast, before 9AM; Luncheon (ladies only) Midday; Dinner 6-8PM; Supper depending upon the timing and substantiality of dinner
1860s/Middle Class
Breakfast 8AM (town), 9-10AM (country); Lunchoen 1-2PM; Dinner 6-8PM (depending upon formality and place)
1900
Early morning 8AM (tea, bread and butter); Breakfast 8-8:30AM; Luncheon Midday; Afternoon tea 5PM, Dinner 7:30-8PM
1930s
Breakfast 8AM; Lunch/upper classes or Dinner/rest Midday-1PM; Afternoon tea 4PM; High tea 5-6PM; Dinner 7-8PM; Supper 9-10PM.

1990s
“Mealtimes…These vary somewhat depending on the region of the country you are visiting, but in general breakfast is served between 7:30 and 9, and lunch between 12 and 2. Tea–an essential and respected part of British tradition, and often a meal in itself–is generally served between 4:30 and 5:30. Dinner or supper is served between 7:30 and 9:30, sometimes earlier.”—Fodor’s Great Britain [1992] (p. 34)

As you can see, tea the kind of fancy-schmancy affair emerged as a social event sometime around the 1830s or 1840s, Bruce Richardson writes in A Social History of Tea. And Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, led the pack. When there is nothing else to do but enjoy a little ‘something’ with friends, why not?

Nowadays we only celebrate high tea on high days and holidays usually eaten out rather than at home despite the popularity of TV programmes such as The Great British Bake Off which celebrate baking in all its forms.

But it is a lovely way to indulge yourself, so this week find somewhere locally that does provide ‘high tea’ and give yourself a treat. Or make something you usually don’t make time for – a few scones or how about a little Victoria sponge? or at least a biscuit and a cup of tea.

These great biscuits are easy to make and are just right for children to decorate.

Tunbridge Water Cakes (William Sayer)*

I have seen references to these biscuits called Tunbridge Wafers or Romary biscuits after the baker Alfred Romary who had a bakery in Tunbridge, opened in 1862. Romary later received Royal warrants for his wafers. Recipes seem to vary of course, some of them more savoury, and this writer has added orange flower water.

Ingredients

250g butter

250g icing sugar

500g flour

3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon orange flower water

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oc/350of/gas 4

Rub the butter in with the flour; add the sugar and make the whole into a paste. Don’t work too much as this will make the biscuits hard. Roll it out very thin on a floured table and cut it out with a plain round or scalloped cutter about 3in across. Place them on a greased baking tray and bake them to a pale delicate colour.

They take about 15 – 20 minutes depending on your oven.

These make lovely biscuits for children to decorate and makes about 50 biscuits.

* From Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen click here

 

Daiquiri Day

Need a way to cool off? Why not celebrate Daiquiri Day. This refreshing drink was invented in the early 1900’s in a small mining town of Daiquiri near Santiago, Cuba, an engineer named Jennings Stockton Cox created a simple drink called a Daiquiri. Cox came up with this concoction in an effort to cool down during the summer month, with a simple blend of lime juice, sugar and local Bacardi rum, over cracked ice. This he found to be the best way to boost the morale of mine workers during the hot months. Such was the success of Cox’s drink not only did he received a generous stipend from the company, he also received a monthly gallon of Bacardi to continue supplying the refreshing drink.

Apples Galore – Apple Snow

What to do with all the apples? I have a few favourite recipes that I haul out every year and then I’m looking for new ideas. This is a lovely recipe I found while I was writing Recipes for an Unknown Kitchen and is now on the regular apple recipe list, it is instant comfort food.

Apple Snow (G. R. Moores)

This recipe came from a time when people weren’t worried about eating raw egg white as the topping isn’t cooked. If you are concerned about this you can either make Italian meringue or used cooked meringue to top the dish. As with most home dishes there are a lot of versions of Apple Snow most of which add the meringue to the apple pulp. This is rather like an apple trifle.

Ingredients

Base

3 – 4 trifle sponges or left over cake, 200g cooking apples cored and peeled, Juice of a lemon, 30 g sugar, 100ml water

Custard

2 egg yolks, 30g sugar, 300ml milk

Meringue

2 egg whites, 1 tablespoon sugar

Method

The amount of sponge will depend on the size and shape of the dish you use. Put the sponge in the bottom as for a trifle. Cook the apple with the sugar, lemon juice and water until pulpy. This needs to be fairly liquid to soak the sponge. Cover the sponge with the cooked apple. Make the custard by mixing the egg yolks and sugar, heat the milk and add to the mix. Return to the pan and heat stirring constantly until thickened. Do not boil as the mix might curdle. Pour the custard over the apple. Cool in the fridge for 15 – 30mins. Whisk the egg whites, adding the sugar when the mix has thickened. Continue whisking until it forms small peaks.

Store in the fridge to cool

Alternatively, you can use the easy cook version by using tinned custard and crumble bought meringue over the top, much quicker.

Want a copy of the book? click here

This weekend is Apple Affair at West Dean Gardens a great weekend don’t miss it.

Flower Shows – A Community Day

 

Last Saturday morning saw me balancing vases of herbs and flowers, a loaf of bread and a basket of cherry tomatoes, beans, onions and apples. I was off to the Arundel Flower and Produce Show.

I also have the fun of being on the team that organise it which means that the run up has been a bit frantic what with booking entries, finding spare tables, making sure the judges know where to go and when. Luckily as a team our group spreads the load of pre-show jobs so we all do our bit and no-one has too much to do.

But on the day it is all hands to the deck as entrants arrive with their precious loads of fruit flowers, veg and produce. 

Ours is a small community show and we have resisted the urge to expand it into an all-singing all-dancing marquee sized event, I think it has benefited from that as well, sometimes small is better. Our show has an atmosphere of ‘friendly competition’ and although the exhibits are judged against RHS rules people tend to enter for the crack rather than as serious competition goers. Having said that there are a couple of entrants for whom this is a major hobby and who spend the year raising perfect specimens, and their entries do raise the standard of the show and give the rest of us a target to beat.

It seems me that television programmes show flower and vegetable shows as full of obsessives and that we all have to plan for months, measuring our carrots and standing watch over our prize exhibits. In truth most small shows are full of people who jusr want a bit of fun, and yes, to show off a bit the lovely things they have grown. As I said, friendly competition is it, one family compete to win the Victoria sponge section of our show and the old gardeners versus the new growers has everyone discussing how the year has been, giving everyone a chance to moan about the weather, what has worked, which varieties are best and what has been a failure this year.

Perhaps I am swayed by the small thrill I get when I see a coloured card by my efforts, this year the bread, redcurrant jelly, cherry tomatoes and apples and the community feeling grown along with the fruit and veg.

Seeds of inspiration

My visit to the Garden Museum to see the Gardens at War exhibition inspired me on the subject of the real benefits of growing and how enthusiastic gardeners have made gardens in whatever conditions they find themselves. Prisoners of war in WWI not only created gardens but held flower shows and produced food under the most dreadful circumstances and gardens in today’s conflicts in Gaza, Israel, Afghanistan and Ukraine provide an escape.

Do visit the exhibition it is on until 05/01/2015 for more info go to Garden Museum

 

Grow Cook Eat

Grow Cook Eat! Sounds like my kind of thing…and it is. This weekend, the 4th and 5th October, I will be at the Grow Cook Eat Event at West Dean. This is my third year and I am really looking forward to it, I meet so many lovely people. Do come along, it is a really lovely event – food, music, some great stands and cooking demonstrations. Looking forward to seeing you there. For more info go to  http://www.westdean.org.uk/Events/Outdoorevents/GrowCookEat.aspx

Seed Swaps

This Sunday (23rd February) is the Arundel Seed Swap. I know a lot of you won’t be able to attend as you are so far flung, but for those of you who are closer it will be 1.00 – 3.30 in the Norfolk Centre Mill Road, Arundel. For those who can’t, find the nearest to you on http://seedysunday.org/

Seed swaps are great events (ours is six years old).

Seed saving is something we can all do to help safeguard our genetic heritage. In the past 100 years we have lost over 90% of our vegetable varieties in the UK, many of which are the unusual, local, heirloom or home-saved varieties sought after by gardeners. Nowadays, just three corporations control a quarter of the world’s seed market, vying for power over the world’s food production. Farmers are being taken to court for the age-old practice of seed saving, and hybrid seeds (which cannot be seed-saved) are becoming commonplace in seed catalogues.
Faced with the overwhelming totality of environmental disasters – global warming, climate change, nuclear power, genetic engineering – it is difficult to know what we as individuals can do to make a difference. Change a few light bulbs, cycle to work.
Seed saving is something we can all do, and it does make a difference, it can also be a rewarding and cost saving way to fill your garden and your vegetable plot and means that you can try an old fashioned or unfamiliar variety without much investment.

Tomato ketchup with a difference

Following tomato day I thought I’d let you in a secret of perfect tomato ketchup. the following recipe is from Jams & Chutneys by Thane Prince. As you can see I have started eating it already.

Tomato Ketchup

Ingredients:

3kg of really ripe tomatoes, 500g chopped onions, 8 plump garlic cloves, 1 large red pepper deseeded and chopped, 200g celery chopped, 225g golden granulated sugar, 250ml cider vinegar, 1/2 – 1 teaspoon tobasco sauce (optional – I added a chopped red chilli) and spices – 15 cloves, 20 allspice berries, 1 teaspoon celery seeds, 10cm cinnamon stick, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns.

Methods

Put all the spice ingredients in a grinder and whizz until reduced to a powder or if you feel energetic crush use a morter and pestle.

Put the tomatoes, garlic, red pepper and celery in a large pan. Cover and cook gently over a medium heat for about 15 minutes or until all ingredients are very soft. Pass through a fine seive or mouli. Return the ingredients to the cleaned pan and add the sugar, vinegar and ground spice mix. Simmer for around 20 minutes until it thickens. Remove from the heat add the tobasco if you are using it, pot into hot sterilised bottles, seal with vinegar proof lids and label.

The extra dimension? I used 150mls of cider vinegar and 100mls of elderflower vinegar. I thought this was being a bit extravagant but the addition made the best sauce I have tasted. The vinegar was from Stratta http://www.stratta.org . who I hope will be a the Grow, Cook, Eat Event at West Dean on 5/6th Oct so that I can buy some more. http://www.westdean.org.uk/Garden/News%20and%20Events/GrowCookEat.aspx

 

Grow, Cook, Eat

Coming up soon – the Grow, Cook, Eat event at West Dean on the 5th and 6th October. This is a new venture by West Dean and sort of replaces the Apple Affair they have run for years. It promises to be a great weekend so put it in your diaries now. The lovely Mary Berry will be there on the 5th and Brendan Lynch on the 6th. Plus lots of great local produce stands, music and above all a lovely atmosphere to welcome in the autumn.

and of course I will be there with my books so I hope to see you.

for more info go to  http://www.westdean.org.uk/Garden/News%20and%20Events/GrowCookEat.aspx, see their face book page ‘West Dean College and Gardens’ https://www.facebook.com/wdejf  or follow them on twitter @westdeanejf

Flower & Produce Show

A lack of blogging caused by overwork and the run up to the Great Arundel Flower & Produce Show. Not quite in the league of the Great British Bake off but some of the entries were up there with the best. Some of the work on the allotment paid off, apart from having so much food we can’t keep up it, with a few wins. Not boasting but the chillies, apples, beetroot and figs won places as did the Spiced Redcurrant Jelly (recipe to follow). But a bit of a no show on the jam and chutney front. Mrs Beetons Plum Jam didn’t get anywhere – must try harder and my compost was ‘oversieved’. These local shows are great fun have a go.