Tag Archives: tea-time

Cookies for fit-birds, with seeds and spices!

Seeds are not just for birds (as my eldest keeps complaining…), they are also a very good healing food and can be used very successfully in baking. To breads, cookies or even fruit cakes, they give a deliciously healthy dimension.

These seeds cookies are adapted from the recipes of a lovely Jersey restaurant “The Jersey Pottery”; taken from the book Handmade and homemade, recipes from Jersey by Jersey pottery. I made my version gluten-free and I added xantham gum for extra binding but you can use normal wheat flour if you prefer.

A gluten-free cookie

  • Plain flour or Doves farm’s Gluten and wheat free flour blend, 230g
  • Xantham gum, 1 tsp (if using Gluten free flour)
  • Baking powder, 1 tsp
  • All spice, 2 tsp
  • Butter, 160g
  • Rolled oats or oatmeal, 80g
  • egg, 1
  • Brown sugar, 90g
  • Almond slivers, 60g
  • Pumpkin seeds, 1 Tbsp
  • Sesame seeds, 1 Tbsp
  • Linseeds, 1 tsp
  • Pine nuts, 1 Tbsp
  • Poppy seeds, 1 tsp

This mix makes about 15 biscuits.

I used pumpkin butter instead of pumpkin seeds because I had ran out and I swapped part of the sesame seeds for japanese black sesame seeds because I like the dark speckles in these biscuits. I also used gluten-free flour but you don’t have too. If you do though, add a spoonful of Xantham gum and that worked really well to bind the mix. The texture was dense but flaky and had a nice crumbly feel in the mouth, a little bit like a spanish ‘polverone’ which I found intensely pleasurable. The taste is nutty and subtle – not too sweet. They would go very well with ‘grown-up’ teas such as a smoky Lapsang Souchong or the neroli flavoured Earl Grey sold by The East India Company.

First sift the flours and spices together.

Combine the butter, sugar and egg to make a paste.

Then bring all the ingredients together to produce a cookie dough.

Dust the worktop with flour and roll the dough until you get a nice thick log.

Wrap it in cling film and let it harden in the fridge for a few hours.

Warm your oven and cut the log in thick disks, then lay them out onto a grease-proof sheet. You can also freeze part of it for later…

Bake at 170° for 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottom bit gets  slightly brown. These biscuits hold quite well through baking so you don’t need to space them out too much as they will keep their shape. You can even use a cookie stamp to personalise them!

Nutrition notes:

Straight into the cookie jar…

Linseeds or flaxseeds are a good source of vitamin B6, iron and Thiamin. Thiamin (or vitamin B1) is essential for your nervous system.

Pine nuts, like all other seeds and nuts, bring you a lot of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and help look after your skin, eyes and joints. They are also great at regulating moods and at helping children concentrate.

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Green tea cupcakes

Green tea cupcakes

Ingredients list:

  • Caster sugar 125g
  • Cornflour 65g
  • Bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
  • Matcha tea powder 2 tsp
  • Eggs 4
  • Salt
  • Butter 80g

Green tea icing:

  • Icing sugar 125g
  • Butter 40g
  • Cream cheese 100g
  • Matcha tea powder 1 Tbsp
  • Lemon juice 2Tbsp

Cream the butter and sugar until light.

Then add the egg yolks (or the whole eggs if in a hurry). If you have the time, whisk the whites separately.

Add the cornflour and green tea powder.

Mix well.

Fold in the whites- if you have separated them. I often don’t do that to save time and the result is pretty much the same!

Spoon the mixture into the muffins cases.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 180º- they are ready when they raise and do not colour.

Now onto the next stage: Decorating is healing and stress-busting so take your time to enjoy this!

While they bake, mix the icing sugar, lemon juice, soft butter and cream cheese.

Beat with a whisk until fluffy, being careful to crush any lumps and get a silky smooth result. Taste and add lemon or sugar if necessary. Put in the fridge until needed.

Take the cupcakes out of the oven. Let them cool down.

Use a piping bag and nozzle to decorate your cupcakes with the cream. Make a nice swirl and put a sugar bud or a rose in the middle. Sprinkle a dust of Matcha.

Et voilà! I made those for a friend to share in the afternoon but you could just have them plain with a cup of coffee as a morning treat.

Dainty and light, ready to go!

Recipe inspired by “Les cordons bleus de Londres”, published for the association Enfants du Mekong, Londres.

Proper English muffins

Proper English muffins


Light puff balls of flour and milk

This is the English version of the classic muffin recipe : a light, raised bun with no more than a hint of sugar and saffron.

This week, I am starting to feel almost at home in our house and baking for me is definitely part of the journey! The kitchen is indeed the trickiest room to take ownership of and the last one to let itself strip of its strangeness and awkwardness.

This is why it is so fiendishly difficult to cook in another person’s kitchen.

This one reminds me constantly that it is somebody else’s kitchen and I have not made it mine yet ; but if I keep filling it with recipes, with flavours and ideas, with guests and chatter, then I probably will. The rest of the house feels a little alien too: its sounds, its smells, the way the sun rises differently on the walls and the manner in which the garden sounds under the rain…

It’s still all a little bit strange and foreign- like a new place in a new country ! So to shake off the oddity of that “freshly moved in” feeling, I try baking a version of the classic muffin. As soon as the smell of baking pervades the upstairs room and beckons you into the kitchen, you know you’ve arrived “home”…

Ingredients list :

Egg 1

Pinch of salt

Pinch of saffron

Plain flour 230g

Milk 200ml

Sugar 1 tsp

Raising powder 1/1 tsp

Rapeseed oil 1 tsp

Mix the flour with the salt and shape into a cone.

Warm the milk. Sprinkle a pinch of saffron.

Mix the sugar and raising powder into the warm milk.

Add the beaten egg and the flour, scoop by scoop.

Add the oil.  Beat the mix a little with a hook or a whisk. The dough should be soft but firm and only a little sticky.

Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for one hour until the dough has doubled in volume.

Knead the dough on a floured surface.

Add a little flour and shape into rounds or cut up with a round cutter.

Cover once again and leave to raise for ½ hour on the oven tray.Bake in the oven at 180〫for 15 minutes.

These puff rolls are delicious with a bit of butter and jam. Bread and jam is such a perfect indulgence and some days, in this uncertain world, the simplest of dishes are the best choices.

The blue door to our new home

The simple smell of saffron will transport me anytime into my grandmother’s lacquered orange kitchen – a place where I felt very safe and happy.

Scottish fruit loaf

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This is a lovely treat, between a cake and a bread.

Fruit loaf

Ingredients list:
Plain flour 450g
Baking powder 2 tsp
Bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
Butter 75g
Caster sugar 140g
Currant and sultanas mix 280g
Mixed citrus peel 2 Tsp (I used candied ginger instead)
Almond essence 1 capful
Dark Rum 3 Tsp
Buttermilk 220ml

First you need to soak the raisins in the rum for a little while.
Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate into a large bowl.
Rub in the butter.
Fold in the dry fruit and the sugar.
Wet with the buttermilk and mix in to get a light but soft mixture.

Turn this mixture into a rectangular cake tin, lined and oiled.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°, then bake for one hour.
Turn the temperature down to 160° and leave for another 45 min.

This loaf is best eaten the next day and can be kept for a few more in a plastic or tin air-tight recipient. It is delicious toasted and spread with butter or cream cheese!
One of the best cakes I have made this year, according to my children!

Perfect tea-time treat…

>TEA AND BARE NECESSITIES

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On Friday, I spent the morning cooking a full English to a TV crew from a French channel (more on that soon!) and it got me thinking about Englishness and things… What is “English”?

Listening to the radio while cooking later in the day, I caught a young student who was wondering about “What constitutes English culture” and he clearly did not know… He even claimed “English” culture did not exist anymore. As a French woman living in London, I feel there is a strong national identity surrounding me. But how would I define it? So I wondered… and pondered…
…And listed a few things that are Truly English :
A full fry-up early morning in a greasy-spoon caf’
Bunting and cream teas, especially served at a village fete – or a Royal Wedding!
Tolerance and sympathy (preferably given with a cup of tea again)
The Monty Python
The red pillar box above
Upstairs-Downstairs
The class system – And being proud of it, whether you’re working class or upper stock
Public schools (that are anything BUT public)
Contradictions in terms (see above)
Feeling free to add new words to the vocabulary – and not being hung for these neologisms
A kind of stubborn bravery against adversity (as in the Blitz, The IRA Terror years…)
Absurd and charming eccentrics…

I was in John Lewis earlier this week (very English, that) and encountered a man who was putting up with tremendous care and patience little standing labels on multicoloured boxes.
-Could you please, Sir, tell me where I can find bedding and things? I ask.
-Sorry Madam: I am a customer! Says he with a short self-excusing giggle and he still progresses with straightening the small wobbly labels, in his steadfastly manner.
“Very English, I though: A polite refusal of service.”
He could just as well have been a true OCD afflicted customer, of course. Who knows?!..

So back to what constitutes proper “Englishness”… In her funny and well observed book “Watching the English”, Kate Fox tries to give a pretty complete answer in 400 or so pages! My radio caller could have done well to read her but I myself have the answer in three little letters:
TEA.

“Tea-making, writes Ms Fox, is the perfect displacement activity: whenever the English feel awkward or uncomfortable in a social situation (that is, almost all of the time), they make tea. It’s a universal rule: when in doubt, put the kettle on.”

Trying to explain the components of the full English breakfast to the TV crew yesterday, I felt I never quite got to convey properly the delicate nuances and the paramount importance of tea-making in the English culture. Tea is what fortifies and bonds the nation, before you even mention the Queen. Republicans and anti-monarchists – if they exist- would agree with that: Tea is the essence of Englishness. Being of equal importance to a Chelsea supporter, a financier or a builder, it is the drink that suits every possible social occasion and every possible setting. It is “le mot juste” whenever a word is needed and even more apt when none are required. In “The silence of Colonel Bramble”, André Maurois, describes the return from the Front of two new recruits clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress and the Colonel first and only order is to “fix those boys a good cup of tea”!

The English like their tea either the colour and taste of cement with plenty of milk and sugar or a light golden brew with neither. It is the drink of choice with a full English breakfast or with an afternoon tea – two meals the English have mastered to perfection.
These are my own two favorite mealtimes, which is lucky because I live here!

On Sundays, my British husband proudly cooks up the traditional spread best loved by the children: fried eggs, black pudding,  Cumberland sausages, baked beans, roasted mushrooms, eggy bread and bacon rashers… The list is endless and frequently changing depending on our imagination or degree of hunger.

But whatever is prepared is always served with plenty of strong tea and lots of warm … baguette- this is certainly my influence, I confess. All in a spirit of “Entente Cordiale”, bien sur.

So where do you get the best fry-up in London? Obviously, in a “greasy spoon caf’, of which only a few remain around Spitalfields or Bermondsey markets essentially… I have one current favourite and this is where I took my French TV crew to sample a full fry-up: A quaint little number in Hammersmith, Plum cafe on Crisp rd, one of the best places to sample the best meal in Britain with the day’s newspaper.

PS: The pillar-box picture is from a sweet little blog called “Little devil’s adventures”, with thanks.