Acadian Rappie Pie

statue to Evangeline Acadian Rappie Pie

Longfellow’s Acadian heroine Evangeline stands in Port Royal.

The Acadians have kept French language and culture alive in Maritime Canada. And they took these to Louisiana where it still survives as Cajun. But somehow, Louisiana never inherited their real culinary gift –  Acadian rappie pie.

In 1605, Sieur de Mons and his cartographer, Samuel de Champlain, began the first settlement of Port Royal. This is the oldest settlement in North America apart from St. Augustine, Fla.

The beauty of the Bay of Fundy and its sheltered harbour had long been known to the Mi’kmaq people who had lived here for centuries. The French and Mi’kmaq began a long and enduring friendship in the land that became known as Acadie, possibly from the classical name, Arcadia – a place of lasting peace. And the French settlers here were Acadians. Continue reading

Bikes and Brews – Victoria, BC

waterfront at Victoria with Empress Hotel Bikes and Brews in Victoria, BC

The venerable Empress Hotel dominates the waterfront in Victoria.

Delicious sunshine makes this the perfect day to explore this beautiful city on two wheels. I set out to see if Victoria, British Columbia lives up to its moniker of most bike friendly city in Canada. Just a short block from the harbour with its iconic views of the provincial parliament buildings and the Empress Hotel, Shawn, one of the owners of The Pedaler, fits us out with comfortable bikes and mandatory helmets. And we’re off on our tour. Continue reading

S’Mores – Campfire Treat

S'Mores - a Campfire Treat - toasting marshmallow on open fire and s'more

A second marshmallow toasting on the flames and an open s’more ready for its addition.

Anyone who has grown up in Canada – camping, going to the cottage, or in the Scout or Girl Guide movements – knows all about s’mores. Short for “some more” they are so good, it’s what you have to say, “s’more please!” Note that Americans claim to have invented this treat but I believe they may have been the first to write down what Canadians had been doing for generations. Continue reading

Scorpions on the Menu at Donghuaman – Beijing Night Market

Beinjing Night Market stall holder

Try some! A stall holder at the Beijing Night Market encourages me to sample his wares..

Sheep penis? Grilled sea snake? Fried scorpion? Over the years I have seen markets all over the world but the Beijing Night Market, Donghuamen put them all in the shade. Continue reading

The Perfect Cup of Tea

pouring tea into a china cup - The Perfect cup of tea I unashamedly admit to being a tea granny. I start my day with a pot of tea and drink two cups. Do I make the perfect cup of tea? I think, after all these years, I have the formula down pretty much pat. But I have been foxed by awful water (I always take tea with me on my travels but sometimes the local water is unpleasant). And I have taken to carrying a china mug with me (see below for why).

To make the perfect cup of tea, always start with a clean pot that has never been used for coffee or any other strong beverage. (This is my biggest beef with airline tea – it’s invariably in a pot previously used for coffee).

Being of British background, I would add that a china or thin-edged cup is essential. I will swear that tea tastes better in a china cup! Never buy tea from a take-out spot that puts it in a foam cup.

Silver tea pots aside, I prefer my tea made in a simple ceramic or china tea pot. Many purists will debate this, but I find that metal surfaces leach their own flavour into the tea. After all, tea contains tannic acid.

I’m not a snob. I drink bagged tea but I’m careful to choose good quality teas. I have used tea balls for loose tea but here again, you run the risk of a metallic taste if the quality of the metal is poor. I often use a Teefilter bag (paper) when using loose tea as it’s easier to lift the whole thing out and prevent the tea from stewing. Note that bagged tea is usually composed of broken leaves so they require a lot less time to brew than whole leaves.

How to make the perfect cup of tea

  1. Boil fresh cold water.
  2. Add a little of the boiled water to the pot. Swirl to warm the pot, empty, then add tea and more boiling water. Note, in a chat with Sam Twining of Twining’s Tea, he affirmed this as a good way to do it because by the time you swirl the water and empty the pot, the hot water in the kettle is just off the boil, ideal for tea making.
  3. How long you steep the tea is up to you but if you know the variety of tea, you can get guidance on what’s optimum. Many fine restaurants in Britain now use a small coffee press (never before used for coffee!!!) for serving tea. The guest can watch the water darken, the tea leaves unfurl; then press down and pour the brewed tea.
  4. Tea should be served with milk or lemon (not cream or non-dairy creamer). Sugar is optional.
  5. There are two schools as to whether milk should be added before or after the tea is poured into the cup. It may not be as genteel, but I favour the latter since it lets me control exactly how strong I want my cup to be.

Did you know you can cook with tea? Check here.

A quick Menu of Basic Tea Types:

All tea comes from the same plant – Camelia sinensis – but their country of origin and their handling makes a big difference.

White teas: These are picked from the first spring buds and may even have some down on the leaves. They are kept out of sunlight to prevent them from becoming green. These are slightly fermented and usually have a delicate flavour and aroma. They also have a very high level of polyphenols.

Pu-Erh: These teas from China age beautifully and not uncommonly may be as much as 50 years old! Chinese researchers believe this deliciously earthy tea lowers cholesterol.

Keemun: A black Chinese tea with a fruity flavour; a key part of an English Breakfast tea blend.

Macha: Japanese green tea powder made from gyokuro leaves which have been steamed and dried.

Sencha: Japanese green leaf tea with a robust, grassy flavour and mild aroma.

Lapsang Souchong: An acquired taste, this smoky flavoured tea is withered over pine or cedar fires, pan-fried, rolled and oxidized before being fully dried in bamboo baskets over burning pine.

Oolong: The leaves are wilted, bruised and dried. Oolongs lie between green and black teas in that they are partly fermented. The flavour is not as grassy as green tea and a great oolong will have many nuances of flavour.

Darjeeling: A highly prized tea from India with a floral aroma and somewhat astringent, tannic characteristics, and a spiciness often referred to by tea connoisseurs as muscatel.