It’s always time for tea!

This beautiful box of teatime goodies was made by Suzanne Saltwell – it is really intended to be an advent calendar, but it occurred to me that it’s always time for tea and it would make the greatest birthday present any time of year!

Many people now are drinking fruit or speciality teas instead of the usual builder’s best cuppa, myself included. I had never been a fan of ordinary tea but nowadays I am often seen with a mug of peppermint tea in hand as I wander round the garden checking on what’s doing what.

There’s a lot to be said for growing a few herbs in the garden so you can make your own fresh teas – some flowers also, I have yet to try chrysanthemum tea or any of the other more exotic ideas, but mint sprigs grabbed from the garden and dunked unceremoniously in boiling water – yummy! I also have dried mint that I harvested last year and stored. The one thing you can be sure of is that mint will flourish and spread – hence advice always to keep it in a pot even when it’s in a flower bed.

So back to the tea box, here you can see the mug, tea bags and coasters that came inside the box, it’s such a lovely idea, perhaps there are some other themes we could create? Does coffee come in little packets? Has anyone got other ideas we could fill boxes with, for advent or any time of year? Do let me know!

Here’s the link to a downloadable PDF file that Suzanne has prepared so you can work out how it is made. Have fun!

 

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In praise of pudding

This time of year, when the wind blows and the days are cold and grey, it is only natural that we think about ‘warming’ foods… and one of the most warming has to be pudding – just the word itself instantly makes me feel snug! Having said that, it isn’t the most healthy of options, but its role in life was always to be a stomach filler and a comforter, not one of your five a day!

Today, we tend to mean something sweet when we say pudding, and people will often suggest pudding when they mean dessert. But, of course, puddings were not originally sweet at all – they were savoury. The term ‘pudding’ is believed to come from the French boudin, originally from the Latin botellus, meaning ‘small sausage, so it referred to encased meats as used in medieval European puddings.

Puddings first popped up during Roman times when they were made using meat, blood or grains and stuffed inside animal intestines, like a sausage, or a cloth bag. Savoury ones still popular today include black pudding, haggis and of course, steak and kidney, but most of our puddings are sweet. Think spotted dick, sticky toffee or treacle pudding, doesn’t that make you feel instantly warmer?

In Medieval times, banquets would feature highly spiced savoury meat puddings and sweet puddings, still using intestines as a casing, that were then boiled, smoked or roasted. I’m not entirely sure I would have enjoyed any of those…

By the 14th century, things were looking up and Richard II’s cook produced a book featuring rice pudding and baked custards. During the next century, pudding cloths first get mentioned as an alternative to intestines… thank goodness!

In the 16th- century life became a lot sweeter with the arrival of sugar loaves (cones of refined sugar) and by the 17th-century cookbooks were being published, featuring puddings we still eat today, such as bread and butter pudding, one of my favourites!

In Georgian times, feasts became much more elaborate with jellies made in intricate moulds and ice cream became popular. But the traditional pudding was still a mainstay and appeared in all courses of a banquet.

The Victorians, who never did anything by halves, had a pudding for every occasion. Recipe books, such as the hugely influential Mrs Beeton’s ‘The Book of Household Management’ appeared, while many were devoted purely to puddings. It is at this time that jam roly-poly, spotted dick and treacle sponge first made an appearance.

Making puddings using a cloth or a greased pudding basin complete with baking parchment and string, plus hours of boiling, was pretty labour intensive. Unsurprisingly, in the 20th century as servants disappeared, so did the traditional pudding. By the 1970s and 80s, we were all into eating French gateaux and profiteroles and feeling very sophisticated. You did not expect to come across a spotted dick on the dessert trolley in a restaurant – very passé!

But then… as so often happens, old becomes new and puddings are back in fashion. Along with ‘heritage’ vegetables and homemade bread, classic puddings now pop up in 5-star restaurants as well as your local café. What should accompany a pudding? Is it ice cream, cream, or good old custard? I think the latter… but that is a whole other subject and one I might just have to have a look at in a future blog!

Meanwhile… Are you a pudding fan? If so, what’s your favourite? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

 

 

 

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Clotted cream at Christmas!

clottedsprouts

Have you ever seen sprouts look so delicious?

I came across a sweet little free booklet this week entitled ‘Clotted Christmas Recipes’. Aha, I thought, this looks interesting! I think most of us tend to think of clotted cream as a summertime treat for afternoon tea in the garden, served with a scone and homemade jam. This little booklet, and then a trip to Trewithen Dairy’s website soon made me rethink that view!

Their website has lots of delicious recipes and the one that caught my eye was for… wait for it… sprouts! How seasonal is that? Do have a look at their other recipes, there are some lovely ones… and it is a Westcountry product, so I am all in favour!

We love sprouts. We love clotted cream… so why not put them together? The clotted cream will coat the sprouts with a rich glaze while the crispy bacon seasons them with a lovely umami quality. You can prepare your sprouts traditionally by scoring the base with a cross before boiling or for a slightly different version make a sprout hash by shredding them finely and steaming for 1-2 minutes before sautéeing with the bacon and coating in clotted cream.

Serves 6clotted

Ingredients

  • 700g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved and washed
  • 4 rashers crisp-cooked bacon, finely sliced
  • 50g crème fraîche
  • 25g Trewithen Dairy Clotted Cream
  • 2 teaspoons horseradish sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10ml vegetable oil

Method

  1. clotteddairyIn a bowl mix together the crème fraîche, clotted cream and horseradish sauce, and set aside.
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the sprouts and simmer for 4 minutes, drain well in a colander.
  3. In a frying pan, add the vegetable oil and fry the bacon strips until crisp and golden, carefully remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on some kitchen paper.
  4. In the pan add the sprouts and carefully sauté in the fat from the bacon for a few minutes until they just start to colour, remove from the heat and add the cream mixture and crispy bacon, ensure they are liberally coated, taste for seasoning and serve.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and that your sprouts are delicious, however you cook them! Smiles, Joanna.

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A card to welcome the New Year

newyearroseI know I go on and on about the Heart of the Garden CD featuring Jane Shasky’s work, but it really is lovely. I am a huge fan and can quite happily spend an hour or two just browsing the pictures, enjoying the images while I ponder what to print.

All the components on this card come from the CD – and that’s part of the joy of CDs – there’s so much to choose from! Here we’ve got lovely sentimental words for the New Year and some fun decoupage and flowers. The centre of the flowers has been highlighted with some crystal lacquer.

We all think of sending Christmas cards but not always a New Year card – I rather like the idea of a card at New Year – life can seem a bit flat after Christmas Day and Boxing Day guests have left!

Wishing you all a happy and peaceful 2017! Smiles, Joanna.

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Dear Santa…

I thought I’d share my personal ‘wish list’ for Christmas books, both cookery and fictional. I have cheated and also included one book that is top of Richard’s wish list – just in case there are any history buffs reading, or if you need an idea for a history-loving relative!

I try very hard to limit my intake of cookery books these days as there’s so much out there for free on the internet. However, nothing compares with curling up with a cup of tea on the sofa and a beautifully illustrated cookbook!

The novels I have included are definitely not candidates for any Booker or Orange, or whatever, book prize – my reading tastes are very straightforward and, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s pretentious literature that you are ‘meant’ to like as you struggle through it. I want to be entertained by a book, I want to smile a bit, cry a little and definitely feel I can’t bear to put it down until I have finished

So, I offer this list just as a personal – “hHere you go, this is what I am asking Santa for this year!” They are all available on Amazon – as are all my own novels (hah!) – surely you knew I wouldn’t be able to resist a plug!

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