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
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
- Boil fresh cold water.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tea should be served with milk or lemon (not cream or non-dairy creamer). Sugar is optional.
- 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.
Wales is tiny but mighty. It seems to have more castles per capita than any other place in the British Isles. And it is a country of poets, dreamers and cooks. One of my favourite accompaniments to a cup of tea are Welsh cakes. Made with currants, these small little griddle cakes are perfect for a quick nibble with a cuppa. And of course, they are always served on St. David’s Day to honour the patron saint of Wales
Traditionally, these are griddle cakes – that is they aren’t baked in an oven but cooked on a griddle. Garth uses an electric frying pan because it’s easier to control the temperature. One other tip is that one sometimes finds currants have seeds. Make sure to use seedless currants.
My recipe comes from the kitchen of R. Mair Greaves, mother of my friend Garth who kindly shared this family recipe with me. He makes these every year and shares them with friends. It’s a treat we all anticipate when St. David’s Day draws near.
Prep Time: 1 – 1½ hours Servings: 5 – 7 doz.
- 3 Cups Flour
- 1 Cup Margarine (2 squares) or Butter (1/2 lb) – I recommend butter
- 1 ½ tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- ½ tsp Salt (just a pinch really)
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Cup Currants
- 2 Eggs large size
- 6 Tbsp Milk (not quite full for each Tbsp)
Blend/rub the butter into the flour. Add all the other dry ingredients. Beat milk and eggs together separately, and then add to the dry ingredients. Add the currants.
Mix into a stiff paste and form into a round ball. Roll the dough out and cut into rounds a using serrated cookie cutter on a floured surface.
Cook slowly on an Electric Fry pan/Cast Iron skillet at 200 – 250 F.
A final note from Mrs. Greaves says: You should wait until they cool before eating but it’s up to you – hot currants will burn your tongue! By the way, they freeze very well.
The first time I tried chicken wings, I was hooked. It was 35 years ago and we had taken our children to Art Park, across the border in Lewiston, New York. Art Park is a marvelous resource for families with live theatre, story-telling and craft areas.
On this particular occasion, we stopped for dinner at Apple Granny – a restaurant still to be found in Lewiston – and we ordered chicken wings. What arrived was a plate of perfectly cooked wings smothered in a rich red, spicy sauce. Delicious! I asked the chef how he made it and he cheerfully shared his recipe. It’s remarkably easy. Continue reading
One of my favourite recipes, this fresh fruit tart is easy to make, looks spectacular and tastes delicious. As far as I’m concerned those are the three criteria for a perfect recipe. This was the first recipe I ever learned to make in my very first food processor – a Cuisinart that I spent an unconscionable amount of money to buy back in 1977. It was well worth every penny. Use your food processor to make this in a matter of minutes.
For the pastry:
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, cold, cut in pieces
- 1 tbsp. white vinegar
Preheat over to 400 F.
Add the dry ingredients and the butter to the bowl of the food processor. Process until the butter is cut into the flour….about 10 seconds. Keep the machine going and pour the vinegar through the feed tube. Keep processing until the dough forms a ball. (It will form a ball, just keep it going) Don’t over-process.
Note: You can do this by hand as well. Just cut the butter into the flour and rub until it forms crumbs. Add the vinegar and blend with a fork to form a ball.
Press the dough into the bottom of a 9 inch flan pan with removeable bottom. (For an 11-inch pan, use 1 1/2 times the ingredients.
Bake at 400 F for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a rack. Lift the removable bottom from sides. Place on pretty plate and fill.
Choose contrasting colours of fruit – blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, strawberries, are all pretty. You can use apples if you slice them thinly (with skin on) and overlap them prettily around the circle. Wash fruit and set out to dry thoroughly. If using strawberries or grapes, choose smaller ones or cut them in half.
When you’ve arranged fruit, brush with the glaze to prevent the fruit going brown and give it a pretty glow. Mash about a dozen berries with about 1/4 cup water. Bring to a gentle boil and strain out the liquid. Sprinkle with 1/2 packet of gelatin – about 3 gms. And stir until completely dissolved. Use a pastry brush to brush this over the fruit.