Category Archives: Tea

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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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Review of Yaxley vintage tearoom

Sophie T’s Vintage Tearoom opened in Yaxley, Peterborough, a few months ago and it’s already become very popular with the locals, including me! I first read about it in the Yaxley Gazette and had my first cuppa there 24 hours later – I couldn’t wait to see whether it was going to be a welcome addition to a village that, whilst having a large population has a woeful number of places for tea and cake (or coffee or sandwiches for that matter). Sophie’s is run by Lynn and when I first visited I recognised her husband, Andrew, who was helping out with the weekend rush, immediately – we were at infant, junior and secondary school together!! Also checking out the tea and cakes that weekend was another amazing reminder of my childhood in Yaxley – the wife of our wonderful head teacher, Mr Ash, who lives in Yaxley. This brought back such memories for me – I loved Yaxley infant and junior school (liking school wore off by age 12!) despite being forced to eat cabbage on Day 1 and getting my first (and I have to confess, last) detention from Mr Ash for talking in the dinner queue. Oh Happy Days!!

Lynn and Andrew have kitted Sophie’s out like a vintage living/dining room with well-worn furniture and even vintage hats and coats hanging from the coat hooks. There is a vast array of mismatched vintage crockery – I love the tea cups all hanging on the wall and the wonderful tiered cake stands (which are available to buy). There are vintage newspapers on each tea table too, a nice touch.

Lynn serves soup, sandwiches, eggs/beans on toast plus, of course, scones with jam and cream and a selection of homemade cakes. On previous visits I’ve tried the sandwiches and soup which were both very good. Last weekend I finally got to try a piece of cake – which was a difficult choice because they all looked so inviting. I plumped for a piece of coffee and walnut layer cake and, to my surprise, so did Mr Tea – he always maintains it’s not a cake he likes but he was seduced by the depth of coffee buttercream in the middle and neither of us were disappointed. It was sweet, moist, rich with coffee and most definitely the nicest slice of coffee and walnut cake since I last tasted my Nan’s version, circa 1982.

There is a function room upstairs which is available to hire and this is also kitted out like an old fashioned dining room. A piano was a new addition downstairs and a lovely gent was playing Christmas songs whilst we ate; what with the twinkly lights in the window and a steaming pot of tea (with wonderful double layered, hand knitted tea cosy!) I’m only too happy to while away time in Yaxley again..many, many years after I last did so.

 

Gingerbread tea party for Christmas

Friday 2nd December – this was the 2nd joint Top Secret Tea Party / Tilly’s Vintage Craft Workshop event and, again, it was just fabulous!

Tilly’s barn, in Chesterton, Peterborough, is an Aladdin’s cave of beautiful things. Currently Tilly has decked the barn out for the festive season with lots of felt garlands, innovative Christmas tree decorations, oranges studded with cloves and tied with ribbon, a stunning white Christmas tree and lots of fragrant candles. I can’t think of a nicer place to spend a Friday evening with a bunch of lovely, chatty women and a couple of young girls.

I served luxurious hot chocolate – the kind that’s made from cream, milk, melted chocolate and… nothing else! It’s the only kind of hot chocolate I like and is perfect for a cold winter’s evening. Equally delicious is a tea cup of mulled wine…..I make mine using red wine, orange juice, sugar, honey, cinnamon, cloves and ginger.  I also put the kettle on and made several pots of steaming hot assam tea.

I made a squidgy ginger loaf cake, studded with stem ginger and sultanas and drizzled with fondant icing (these cakes are great because they keep for a week or two so are perfect for guests popping in over the holidays); chocolate and cinnamon cupcakes topped with marshmallows and two chocolate logs. One was a traditional ‘buche de noel’, filled and covered with chestnut , chocolate and cream mousse and the other was made the same way but minus the chestnut puree. If you’ve ever cooked with canned chestnut puree I’m sure you’ll agree it’s the most unpromising of ingredients – it doesn’t smell or taste pleasant until you mix it with other ingredients; then it imbues the chocolate mousse with a nutty taste and really does lift a chocolate log to another level. Delicious!

 

 

Tilly showed our guests how to make vintage inspired gift tags and Christmas decorations – some using some of my gingerbread cookies which I’d baked and brought along – I have a tin full of these, all wrapped with wool, lace, ribbon and little snowflakes – the whole tin looks and smells divine (why not fill a pretty tin with something similar and give as a gift?). Tilly also had us all captivated by showing us something many had last made at school – pom poms! We used some of those plastic sacks that often drop through your letterbox for charity donations, cut them into long strips and matched with strips of wool. It’s better than throwing the bags away, if you’re not going to fill them with goods for the charity. We wound the strips around circles of card, well, you wouldn’t think something so simple could keep a bunch of grown women (and two girls) so quiet! We were all very pleased with our pom poms and these can be attached to gifts or hung on a tree (or used to entertain the cat). Tilly gave us so many ideas, using up bits of fabric, paper (buy a snowflake stamp/cutter and stick the cut outs to card/gift tags), wool, ribbon, things that you might have lying around at home (garden twine… string…brown paper…newspapers…comics…holly) that really give your gifts and home the individual touch.

I wasn’t feeling too well a few nights after the tea party so I spent a quiet couple of hours finishing more gingerbread decorations whilst curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea – time and energy well spent!

I can’t wait for the next Tilly / Lemony Drizzle joint event…. A Mothers’ Day Vintage Tea Party – book your places now by emailing mslemonydrizzle@sky.com.

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

 

Peterborough chocolate indulgence tea party

After weeks of anticipation it was finally here – my chocolate indulgence tea party to raise funds for Age UK. I love, love, love chocolate and couldn’t wait to create some new recipes to wow my guests and their taste buds. Several weeks ago I tried different scones/clotted cream/jam combinations to incorporate chocolate and I really didn’t like scones with chocolate baked into the dough. Lesson number one. Lesson number two – I tried an awful (awful being the right word) lot of savoury+chocolate combos and boy let me tell you some things just taste horrible when combined with chocolate (chocolate+olives anyone?!).

Here’s what I finally decided to serve today:

Hot chocolate on arrival in the garden – yes it was a bit chilly and yes it was a bit rich but I couldn’t resist. I also laid out some Willies Cacao samples to taste but I think my guests were a bit shy at that point so they didn’t really dig in.

Once seated in our shabby chic little summerhouse, complete with fairy lights and candles (including a gorgeous little blueberry pie candle from the Emporium Oundle which looked good enough to eat!) we had a good old natter whilst eating:

Cream cheese and chive finger sandwiches

Cheese scones with sweet chilli pepper and dark chocolate swirls

Walnut scones with blue cheese cream

Salted pretzels dipped in milk and dark chocolate

(so I didn’t add too much chocolate to the savouries in the end)

Then… plain scones, served with morello cherry jam or Nutella and a choice of white chocolate or Talisker single malt clotted cream. Something for everyone…including a new male guest who claimed not to like chocolate but who did not let the side down by the end of the afternoon!

Cake/sweet selection included a new favourite, chocolate Guinness cake topped with a cream cheese frosting and chocolate curls. I find this quite heavy personally; and in case you’re wondering, no it doesn’t taste of Guinness – the stout just makes the cake dark and rich.

I made chocolate brownies as my friends always rave about these – I’ve used Nigel Slater’s recipe since it was first published in the Observer in 2004 – it ALWAYS hits the (chocolate) spot! So fudgy and dense – no tinkering required – look for the recipe online and just follow it to impress your friends!

I experimented with a couple of new recipes which I think turned out rather well. These were inspired by my absolute favourite recipe book (I sit and read this in the evening, I just love it) – Green and Black’s Ultimate, published last year, and the Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook which I picked up a few years ago when I visited ‘America’s premier chocolatier’ in San Francisco. So, one recipe was rather British in origin and the other quite American.

I made meringue nests, then poked a little hole into them into which I poured salted, velvety caramel (I’m salivating now….it was very gorgeous indeed!), then I put a small blob of whipped cream on top so I could anchor a rich chocolate truffle – I infused the cream with rosemary from the garden – then I drizzled the little beauties with melted milk chocolate and a little more caramel. Heaven.

Experiment no. 2: I crushed oreo cookies, mixed with butter and lined a mini tartlet case with the buttery crumb. Into the freezer they went. Then I whisked some cream with icing sugar and combined it with some smooth peanut butter and some cream cheese. Oh and some chopped dark chocolate. I froze these babies until an hour before the tea party. I could have happily eaten the whole tray of these Peterborough mud pies!

I spent some time experimenting with loose teas to serve today and everyone tried the black tea with almond and the Maya Gold though we all decided the former was a winner (smells like marzipan!) and the latter was quite pleasant, something perhaps to drink at bedtime? The almond tea came from Imperial Teas in Lincoln – worth a visit to the tasting room on the Steep Hill. Maya Gold came from Nothing But Tea in Bedford.

Whilst everyone packed their take home tins (which I’d asked them to bring along!) with leftover cake I handed out little bags of chocolate which I’d tied with ribbon. I tempered dark chocolate with chilli and sea salt and white chocolate with pistachio and cranberry – lovely little gifts which they can either give away or consume greedily!

I’m constantly surprised how cosy our little summerhouse is – the windows steamed up and no one needed to borrow a scarf, though I’d supplied several, just in case… What a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with new and old tea party guests. The conversation didn’t wane for even a minute and covered local schools, special needs, child minding, secret tea rooms, commuting, research, conferences, where we were brought up and jobs. A fabulous tea party and yet again I’m a very happy secret tea party hostess!

Lemony Drizzle x x