Category Archives: Family

Mothers’ Day Tea Party

I was really excited about baking for this Mothers’ Day tea party. It was my first Top Secret Tea Party since mid-December as the February event was cancelled because of snow – who’d have thought the weather could change so dramatically by mid-March – birds singing in the blue sky and sunshine warming our hearts – absolutely lovely. Secondly because seven daughters were bringing their three Mums and I wanted to create something special – no one wants to ruin Mothers’ Day, do they! Thirdly because this was another chance to hold a tea party at Tilly’s Vintage Workshop and Craft Studio in Chesterton, Peterborough. Tilly’s barn just gets cosier and cosier. There are currently lots of vintage wedding gowns hanging up – amazingly Tilly is going to cut them up to add to wet-felted scarves she’s creating with designer Sue Hughes (it’s thanks to Sue that I wear colourful felt flower corsages when I get to ‘be’ Lemony Drizzle) – think ‘cobweb’ fine merino wool in delicate colours, with lovely vintage wedding dress detail added in – beautiful – and although it sounds scandalous to cut something up that’s old and wonderful – it will be ‘reborn’ into something equally beautiful rather than simply hanging up, never to be worn again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usually I take three days, minimum, to prepare for a tea party but due to the pressures of work I only had two days so it felt like a mammoth bakeathon to get everything baked and ready for the tea table.

I served elderflower cordial, chilled, in champagne flutes on arrival and bought in more almond loose tea from Imperial Teas of Lincoln. I LOVE this tea, which I first served at my chocolate themed tea party last November. It’s so delicate and refreshing, with or without milk. I also served an assam blend and Blue Lady, which is similar to Earl Grey.

I decided to try a new sandwich filling for this event – coronation chicken. I thought it was something grand and sophisticated, suitable for the gathering of mums and daughters. I used an old recipe, which required poaching chicken in water (I used free range chicken breasts) with bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, carrot and onion. I left the chicken to cool in the cooking liquor before pulling the meat into small chunks. I then cooked finely chopped onion, well seasoned, in some olive oil and butter with a little garam masala and turmeric. Once the onion was cooked and cooled, I mixed it with mayonnaise, mango chutney, lemon juice and zest and a little fromage frais to loosen the mixture (I intended to add some cream but it didn’t need it).

I also served cheese scones topped with sundried tomato and lemon mousse. I’d been up to my elbows in scone dough that morning (well, not really but it felt like it) as I made cheese scones, plain scones, cherry scones plus a batch of gluten free scones. There was a moment of panic when the guests got their hands on the plate of gluten free sandwiches and scones, specially prepared for one guest who can’t eat wheat but luckily I managed to shout STOP before they’d eaten the lot!

The plain and cherry scones rose so much during baking that they actually toppled over in the oven. I’m not sure there’s any such thing as a scone that’s ‘too high’ though?! They were all eaten, topped with strawberry or cherry jam and lashings of clotted cream.

As for the cake selection….one of the guests had asked me to serve her favourite, carrot cake. No problem really, except I decided to use a different recipe than normal. I also decided to make it gluten free so that all the guests could eat it. It was a three layer carrot cake, completely covered in cream cheese and butter frosting. I was a tad nervous but as you can see from the picture, I needn’t have worried – it really was moist and delicious with a hint of orange (added to the batter and with zest grated onto the top; I also decorated the frosting with toasted coconut).

I made a chocolate and hazelnut torte which, as it’s a flourless recipe, is a relatively ‘flat’ cake, covered in a thin and glossy chocolate glaze which I then scattered liberally with chocolate flakes and toasted hazelnuts. I’ll certainly make this again as it was very moreish. One guest commented it would be nice served warm as a dessert with a dollop of cream and I couldn’t agree more. I certainly enjoyed eating the crumbs when I was clearing up, as that was all that was left!

Also gracing the table (well, actually, a side table as we couldn’t fit everything on in one go) were pretty fondant fancies, Florentines and meringue with coffee mascarpone cream and pools of caramel. The only sweet item that the wheat-free guest couldn’t have was the fondant fancies. I think it’s important not to ‘single out’ guests with particular dietary requirements – it’s really quite easy to provide ‘naturally’ gluten free baked goods, like flourless tortes, meringues etc. and substituting GF flour for wheat flour can produce equally good results in your usual cake recipes (just make sure there is adequate liquid in the batter otherwise the texture will be very dry). Of course if the guest can’t take any risk that their tea has come into contact with food containing gluten then it wouldn’t be advisable that they attend; and as for catering for ‘fussy’ eaters with dietary demands…No, I don’t think so, but I’m happy to try to include guests like this lady who simply can’t eat wheat.

I hadn’t made Florentines before but they were generally declared to be ‘yummy’. Next time I would flatten the mixture with a spoon to ensure they come out wafer thin. I always like making up concoctions to partner a fluffy meringue and this version worked well. I flavoured the meringue mix with coffee extract (you could just use a few drops of espresso or even instant coffee granules diluted in hot water as that works equally well) and then added the same to some mascarpone cream along with some icing sugar. I made a lovely creamy golden caramel sauce and put a small pool into the top of each meringue before topping with the coffee mascarpone. To finish off I mixed more coffee with muscovado sugar and sprinkled the mix on the meringues, along with a shard of toffee – inadvertently created when the caramel started to go lumpy – waste not, want not!!

Conversation at the tea table centred on keeping chickens, baking disasters, Master Chef, children with special needs and reminiscing about school (two guests realised they knew each other as teenagers!). Once everyone could eat no more I insisted they pack away the leftovers into the tins and tubs they’d helpfully brought with them (a suggestion of mine which worked in everyone’s favour!) and they left, emerging from Tilly’s into the beautiful Spring sunshine.

I hope everyone enjoyed it – I packed up and headed off to see my own mother and grandmother along with the rest of the family – and ate more cake, drank more tea and, finally, put my feet up whilst Mr Tea very kindly washed up.

Lovely. Now it’s time to start planning for April’s tea party. Details are on the ‘events’ page of the blog.

Lemony x x

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New year, new cake?

Hello – well it does seem a long time since I last posted on my blog. I find the beginning of the year a bit of a struggle. After over indulging at Christmas (who doesn’t? do you know anyone?) I always feel I need to be restrained in January. Lots of pounding the treadmill (which is just not the same as running in the great outdoors, but I don’t enjoy running in the dark, gloomy half light of January or February so I make do with the gym; needs must). Lots of cooking with a ton of veggies. “Being good” perhaps you could call it. But BOY does it get boring after a while! So as we’re more than half way through February surely, SURELY it’s time to EAT MORE CAKE?! The rest of the year I don’t have this dilemma; I bake. I test. I lick the spoon. I eat cake. I share my cakes. And I run/keep fit and do my best to burn off some of the calories. It’s a nice life. So please, please can the winter be over so I can get back to normal? It’s not that I haven’t done ANY baking, that would be unthinkable. I’ve made brandy snaps (SO easy, SO nice, SO  retro, SO difficult to photograph!!), I’ve made coffee and walnut cake, I’ve made orange and almond cake – and that was actually wheat and fat free – take that January!! I’ve made chocolate sponge to soak in coffee and alcohol to turn into chocolate tiramisu. And I made Mr Tea a chocolate cinnamon cupcake, with chocolate fudge frosting and hand made plump red hearts (just a small cake you understand, what with Valentine’s Day falling in blooming self righteous February). But I want to bake MORE! I want to share more cake, I want to take tea sitting in my lovely little summer house, with Mr Tea or some other family and friends. It’s TIME – make it happen, somebody, please!!!

And as I’ve been focusing so much on thinking about baking lately (nothing new there) – I’ve also noticed just how many other people are getting into baking. People I wouldn’t normally expect to see sharing a cake or two have been bringing them to meetings. Even at a meeting at the Food Standards Agency recently, sshhh, don’t tell anyone – they baked and ate chocolate brownies!! Another running/baking colleague and I might even run for Sport Relief in March – and bake cakes to eat and sell afterwards – it’s a new trend, bake-share-run – you heard it here first! We even discussed having a Sport Relief Bake Off in our department – but we’d need a bank of ovens, oh and the time to bake all morning rather than doing any work…..

So the baking trend is not only continuing but reaching out to new bakers young and old in 2012. I commented on nostalgia and the need for us to have civilised, sophisticated tea parties in the article that Nene Valley Living Magazine published in January (you’ll find it online).

So bring on the warmer weather, spring flowers, green not brown roadsides and verges, bird song and more opportunities to bake and share cake!

Why not treat your Mum, Daughter, Son, Grandchildren, Wife, Friend, or Yourself! Sunday, 18th March 2012 – Peterborough

Join me and my co-host Tilly at a beautiful vintage barn venue in Peterborough for full afternoon tea on Mothers’ Day. Enjoy finger sandwiches made with Hambleton Bakery bread, savoury and sweet scones (everyone loves them!), and a selection of cakes and bakes. All served on pretty bone china, with starched white table linen and fresh flowers, with lots of loose leaf tea (or coffee if you’d prefer), friendly chatter and time to browse the pretty surroundings. Just what you need to drag you out of the winter slush and gloom!

Email mslemonydrizzle@sky.com to book and pay £20 per guest in advance via PayPal.

Lots of love, care and cake

Lemony Drizzle x

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Top-Secret-Tea-Parties/159296277491762

 

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Love, care, family, tea, cake

This post covers a multitude of cakey sins…..(and for anyone waiting for a blog post about last night’s FABULOUS Lemony Drizzle and Tilly-Rose vintage Christmas craft soiree..I will write this up as soon as time allows..but this post is just bursting to get out..).

Yet again I return to ‘what’s it all about’, in terms of why do I bake? Why do I feed people with my cake? Why do I keep struggling to fit this in with my full-on day job?

A few things have strengthened my conviction that it’s all about love, care, family, tea, cake…

1. Nine year’s ago (9!) I wrote out all my favourite recipes, in gold/glitter ink no less, in one of those fancy moleskine notebooks (which were probably new on the scene, back in 2002) as a Christmas gift for some friends. I wondered (worried, even) at the time whether they would appreciate the time, effort, care and love that went in to digging out all my recipes (from my notebooks and my memory) and writing them down, long hand. I categorised the recipes into starters/soups, mains, and desserts, cakes, chocolates etc. Only 1 recipe out of the collection was ‘untried’. Anyway, I’ve barely thought of this collection of loved foods since 2002 – until this week. I had dinner with the said friends (don’t you love old, tried, tested friendships?) and ‘A’ dug out the notebook – now splattered with foody splodges and with the pages wedged with additional notes and recipes pulled from magazines and newspapers. Yes they use the book; yes they have tried (and now love) many of my recipes and yes, they did indeed appreciate the time, effort, care and love that went in to producing that low cost gift back when we were all a little bit younger. Think about that as you’re rushing around the high street looking for gifts this festive season……….

2. It’s very, very rare that myself and Mr Tea frequent a tea room or cafe that we truly feel ticks all the tea/cake boxes. Today we did and so I’m more than happy to give it a plug in the hope that business picks up for this new establishment in these economically hardened times. The place is Margaret’s – it’s on Wentworth St in the centre of Peterborough. Who’d have thought that my home town would FINALLY, FINALLY, get a decent, non-chain tea room right in the City centre. The tea room is named after one of the owner’s mothers. There are pictures of Margaret and her family dotted around the place – now, perhaps you’re thinking, Oh God No!!!! But the photos are simply wonderful,nostalgic, limited in number and placed on a couple of stylish, vintage pieces of furniture. There is fashionable wall paper, crisp white tablecloths, a superb display of mouth watering, homemade cakes under  stunning glass cloches, little hand written notices on the tables inviting you to eat warm scones and clotted cream. The menu includes an impressive list of loose leafed teas – we had the house/Margaret’s blend and it was VERY flavoursome, served in a large white tea pot. Margaret’s manages to combine love, care, effort, family – with style, thoughtful/ethical food (some locally sourced) and excellent, friendly service. It’s just a shame that I’d had a big breakfast and couldn’t sample the cake! But I will be back – hop along and try it out yourselves to ensure Margaret’s is a local success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed this week by the Editor of  the local Nene Living magazine. She’s writng a feature on vintage tea rooms (and it was she that told me about Margaret’s) and wanted a few Lemony Drizzle thoughts about why they are popping up all over the place. So I waxed lyrical about nostalgia, the importance of community and coming together in difficult times (well, did you hear the Chancellor’s budget statement this week? Don’t get me started…). I said that taking afternoon tea is an INCLUSIVE affair – I get many men attending my tea parties for a good natter and a slice of cake and I’ve seen ‘strangers’ in Sophie T’s vintage tea room in Yaxley (another great place I will review properly at some point) lean across and chat to people at the next table (how rare is that?). I’ve had guests get rather tearful when they see my beautiful tea sets because it reminds them of the china their own mothers or grandmothers used. My china is almost all sourced from within my own and Mr Tea’s family attics and I think of my nearest and dearest EVERY time I use it. Love, care, family…

4. Finally on this topic (for the time being!)….I’ve taken the plunge and applied for the next series of the BBC’s Great British Bake-Off! Well..why not – I’m a show off, and not only do I love to bake (had you guessed?) I love to FEED people and see them eating and oohing and aahing over my cakes (when all goes well anyway) so I’d love to have a go on the telly though I have NO illusions about getting very far because the standard is going to be incredibly high in the next series, even if I manage to get picked. The application asked for details about my ‘signature’ bake (I don’t have one, yet), family anecdotes and recipes etc…. so again I got to talk about the importance of love, care, family, tea and cake, cake and more cake! Who knows what the producers will think – but I do know I wrote the application from the heart – and not once did I talk about ‘my journey’ – something Mr Tea absolutely baulks at on these reality shows!

Ta ta for now….I’m off to bake a Victoria sponge for my own lovely Mother’s birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday Mum x x