I’m learning how much I’ve taken for granted in life, and how easy it used to be to follow a whim.
A couple of nights ago I craved fish and chips, but as all our takeaways are closed, I cooked dinner instead. It was tasty, but contained neither fish nor chips.
This morning I woke up and thought how very much I would like to visit the Auckland Wintergardens.
The two glasshouses and surrounding formal gardens opened in 1913 and have provided generations of visitors with a chance to enjoy rare plants, spectacular floral displays and most importantly a calm, beautiful sanctuary in the middle of the city.
In recent years they have also given me a chance to practice my photographic skills and learn about plant care from the incredibly friendly and dedicated staff.
Tropical House, Auckland Wintergardens. Image: Su Leslie 2019
But since there is no indication that the Wintergardens will be open in the near future, I’m going to take a virtual stroll through some of my old photos.
I apologise in advance for the lack of species labelling; most of these were taken back in the days when my personal flower taxonomy went something like “roses, orchids, daffodils and tulips, daisy-like things and weird stuff.”
Welcome. Pull up a chair and I’ll put the kettle on.
It’s Day 22 of NZ’s Covid 19 rahui, and even I’m getting a bit fed up being at home all the time. While we have plenty of food, and I’m getting used to the long queues at the supermarket, flour has become an almost mythical commodity, and most of the projects The Big T and I planned are stalled due to a lack of materials (pretty much all NZ businesses are closed unless they’re selling food or medicine).
But we’re well, and so far our families and friends remain healthy too, so there is much to be grateful for.
And that’s enough about me.
How are you coping with these strange times we find ourselves in?
My baking for our tea party has been a bit constrained by both the flour shortage and the new reality of infrequent, time-consuming trips to buy ingredients. So my savory this month uses the same type of pastry (dumpling wrappers) as last time round, and both my sweet dishes contain rolled oats and coconut (sorry Jude).
Our fig tree has begun fruiting and we’re harvesting a dozen or so luscious fruit each day. Rather than use them in a sweet dish, I’ve opted for a little tartlet with blue cheese and thyme. The figs have been caramelised a little bit in butter and balsamic vinegar. It turns out that blue cheeses are short supply at the moment, and the only one I could get is quite sharp, so I’ve softened the impact by mixing it with a little cream cheese.
I’m serving it with English breakfast tea, though I suspect an Earl Grey might work better with the flavours.
And in the same spirit of making do, both my sweet dishes are variations on a theme.
With just over a week until Anzac Day, it was inevitable that I’d make some Anzac biscuits. The story goes that women in New Zealand baked these to send to their menfolk serving in WWI. With relatively few ingredients (and quite a lot of sugar) they were supposed to survive the long journey to the battlefields of Europe and the Middle East. You can find a recipe here.
Recipes for ginger crunch have appeared in Kiwi cookbooks since at least the 1950s. Traditionally, it’s a ginger-flavoured shortbread base topped with a liberal spread of ginger icing, but in recent years it’s not uncommon to see a variation that uses the same ingredients and method as Anzac biscuits to form the base. The icing; butter, golden syrup, icing sugar and ginger remains the same.
I like the oat version, though it doesn’t have the crunch of the original. It works well with coffee — either espresso or a flat white. And I can conserve my flour supplies for bread-making.
With luck, by next month we will have more freedom of movement and a wider range of shops will be open. I may have to celebrate by baking something really decadent!
Why a virtual tea party?
When Del (at CurlsnSkirls) and I started talking about a virtual tea party, we saw it as a fun way to share our love of food and conversation. It is that of course, but for me at least, it’s also an affirmation of how important you — my blogging whanau — are to me. Over the years you’ve shared your thoughts, stories, advice and support and I really would like to invite you all round to mine and cook for you.
But since that’s not going to happen any time soon, I hope this will do instead.
I’d love to hear from you. What are you doing/reading/making? Your thoughts on the food, the drinks, and whatever I’m rambling about. What’s making you happy or pissing you off? Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.
And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.
I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.
#virtualteaparty2020 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)
Wow. So many people have joined in with the tea party and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you all for sharing kai (food) and aroha (love); it means a lot to me and I think reflects how many of us believe that food really does bring people together.
After our conversation about fairy bread last month, Brian at Bushboy’s Worldhas made the real thing. Now I really have to make good on my promise of chocolate crackles next month.
Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind has set a beautiful table — complete with a dahlia in a vase — and made Anzac biscuits, (proper) crunchy ginger nuts and a chocolatey slice containing all the things that good, grown-up chocolate crackles should have. Inspired!
Ladyleemanilahas made some dalgona coffee and dalgona matcha latte. Am I the only person who had never heard of dalgona coffee until about a week ago?
Dawn at A Shared Spacehas made a gorgeous-looking chocolate cake with ganache and Ferrero Rocher crumble. Yum.
I don’t know where to start with the array of delicious treats from Jo at Restless Jo.
Ju-Lyn has baked a lovely Wholemeal & Oat Soda Bread — and shared the recipe. She has also shared a link to a really lovely performance by the Singapore Virtual Choir which Ju-Lyn and one of her daughters took part in. You really have to watch this.
Sarah at Art Expedition has baked a delicious blueberry cheesecake (using her last egg), and has served it, with tea, on beautiful crockery.
… based on the 1936 novel The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White, the film is about a beautiful English tourist travelling by train in continental Europe who discovers that her elderly travelling companion seems to have disappeared from the train. After her fellow passengers deny ever having seen the elderly lady, the young woman is helped by a young musicologist, the two proceeding to search the train for clues to the old lady’s disappearance.
Released in 1938, the film’s fictional countries and political turmoils were thinly veiled references to the world war that was looming. The triumph of the British characters over the alternately evil and bumbling foreigners was inevitable, but executed with great skill and wit.
The Lady Vanishes had a truly execrable Hollywood remake in 1979. I can’t even bring myself to talk about it. Avoid it at all costs!
It’s almost time for the next virtual tea-party. I’ve got the recipe books out and am looking for some yummy treats to share with you all.
I’ll post my afternoon tea next Thursday, April 16th (which will still be the 15th for lots of you, so you might have to treat it as breakfast), and I’m sure Del at Curls N Skirls will be sharing some deliciousness too.