A tea party road trip?

Image: Su Leslie 2021

I’m heading out of town next week, so this month’s virtual afternoon tea will be brought to you by wherever I’ve found the best cuppa (and cake?).

I’ll post as usual on Thursday 15th April; at around at 3pm-ish NZ time (GMT +12), but at this stage I’ve no idea where I’ll be or what will be on the menu.

I hope you can join me.

Virtual Afternoon Tea, March 2021

Cup of tea and a slice of cake? Image: Su Leslie 2021

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all)

After our recent see-sawing in and out of lock-down I’ve been feeling the need for a wee celebration cake. And in our household, that means banana cake with (lashings of) coffee buttercream.

Banana cake with coffee buttercream icing. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Do you have a go-to cake (or other sweet treat) that’s your family favourite? What is the story behind it? How does a particular cake cake come to take on the mantle of “celebration”?

In my case, I have my late mother in law, Joy, to thank. My mother didn’t bake banana cake, so my early memories of it are from cake stalls and “ladies a plate” events (see below).

Joy made banana cake for the Big T’s birthdays, and then later for mine. They were unfailingly moist and tasty, had a generous, but not overwhelming, application of coffee-flavoured buttercream, and were often decorated with walnut halves.

First attempt at candied walnuts to top the cake. Image: Su Leslie 2021

For me this is the perfect banana cake, and I’ve never understood why other people’s versions seemed to be coated with anemic and thoroughly unappetizing chocolate icing.

Until last week.

I always bake banana cake from the recipe in the Edmonds Cookery Book — something of a cooking bible in NZ. What I had never noticed before is the last line of the recipe — “When cold ice with Lemon or Chocolate Icing or dust with icing sugar.”

Well, as you can imagine that got me thinking (and quizzing T) about his mother’s coffee buttercream, and about the history of banana cake generally.

Is banana cake a “thing” where you live? If so, what sort of cake is it. Is it iced? Coffee buttercream???

Sorry to bombard you with questions; I really want to know.

My banana cake is basically a butter cake with mashed bananas folded into the mixture. Practically all banana cake recipes in New Zealand are variations on this, and have been for many years. However, one local recipe — from (the delightfully named) Bush Advocate in 1906 — included currents and coconut, while one published in Britain’s Daily Mail published a recipe in 1928, was more of a sponge. In several early recipes from both Australia and New Zealand the banana component is basically sliced banana between layers of cake.

What’s really amazed me about this is a) how old some of the recipes are (1891 in both New Zealand and Australia); and b) how often NZ newspapers printed recipes for banana cake: 136 times between 1891 and 1950, which is the last year for which newspapers are available online through Papers Past.

Image: Su Leslie 2021

But enough of my Musa musings. Pull up a chair, grab a plate and help yourself to some cake.

Tell me what you’ve been up to? What’s happening in your world?  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.

#virtualteaparty2021 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)


The term “ladies a plate” was ubiquitous in New Zealand when I was growing up, and referred to the convention that catering for social gatherings involved all of the women bringing food. As a new immigrant to this country, my mother suffered the embarrassment of arriving at her first such gathering carrying — literally — a plate, having assumed that the hosts must be short of crockery.


Update

My lovely co-host Del from CurlsNSkirls has baked soda bread, in honour of St Patrick’s Day. You can find her recipe here.

Pop over to see Margaret at Pyrenees to Pennines for a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a cashew nut butter cookie.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has baked banana bread and shared her recipe. Please check it out.

Have some chicken pasta salad with Ladyleemanila.

Carrot cake is particularly popular, and Ju-Lyn from Touring My Backyard has not only made one (and posted the recipe), but shares a new perspective on what “carrot cake” means in Singapore.

Deb at The Widow Badass has made some fabulous blueberry lemon oatmeal muffins (with recipe).

Save the date: Thursday 18th March

Yep, it’s coming up to that time again. Del (Curls n Skirls) and I are hosting another virtual tea party next week.

Although I bake a lot, I seldom make cakes— birthdays and Christmas being the main exceptions. But having just baked our family’s old favourite, the sociologist/historian in me got thinking about how recipes evolve, and the ebb and flow of their popularity. Naturally, I’ve now wasted spent far too much time reading old recipe books and newspapers.

Curious? I’ll tell you all about it next week (and share a slice or two of cake with you).

We hope you’ll be able to join us. I’ll kick off at 3pm next Thursday (Kiwi Time = GMT+13), and Del’s post will be up a bit later.

Virtual Afternoon Tea, February 2021

Peach galette. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora koutou katoa  (Greetings. Hello to you all)

I don’t know about you, but I really need this cuppa. What a week it’s been.

First of all, some minor eye surgery I was meant to have on Monday was rescheduled … to this afternoon. Then Auckland went into a mini Covid lock-down and I was sure my appointment would be moved again.

It was, but was brought forward to this morning.

So by the time you read this I should be back home, though probably with blurry vision.

Just as well this is a virtual tea party; you won’t be able to see if I drop food or slop my tea.

Homemade oatcakes. Image: Su Leslie 2021

I love Scottish oatcakes and have been thinking for a while I should make some. I found a recipe in Maw Broon’s Cookbook (my bible for Scottish cooking) plus many more online. I also found huge variation.

Some recipes specify wheat flour as well as oats. Some include a raising agent; others not. Some contain sugar (ugh). The proportions of dry and wet ingredients varies; as does the ratios of different kinds of oats. Most include butter or lard, but one suggested goose fat.

Needless to say, I’ve experimented (though not with goose fat). The Big T and I have (stoically) chomped our way through several batches now and I’m generally happy with the results.

Especially with a little bit of brie and some peach and Scotch Bonnet preserve.

Oatcakes, brie, and peach chilli preserve. Image: Su Leslie 2021

You may have already guessed that my favourite golden queen peaches are still in season, still utterly delicious, and still on the menu.

I’m not really a pastry lover, but I found a nice-looking recipe for a peach galette, which was also ridiculously simple. And since the Big T made such positive noises when I suggested it, what could I do?

Just baked. Peach galette. Image: Su Leslie 2021

I confess I modified the pastry slightly, replacing some of the flour and butter with almond meal. That accounts for the slightly darker, mottled colour and crumblier texture — which I liked — but I think T would prefer it if I just stuck to the recipe.

I also baked some banana walnut bread, which turned out super-moist and more like cake. You could butter yours, but I think I prefer it without. Just a nice flat white.

Banana bread and a flat white. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Pull up a chair, grab a plate and help yourself. Tell me what you’ve been up to? What’s happening in your world?  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.

#virtualteaparty2021 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)

Update

Despite a fierce storm, my co-host Del (CurlsnSkirls) has made some delicious cranberry bread, and shared the recipe.

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind has baked what looks to me like a wonderfully gourmet damper — which is Australian bush-bread.

Fellow Kiwi Leanne joins us this month, with a wonderful Blueberry Lemon Verbena Bundt Cake. Please visit her at The Herbalist’s Cottage and say hello.

Janet at This,That and the Other Thing has made some totally yummy-looking macaroons (not macarons).

Sarah from Art Expedition has baked some oat shortbread cookies which look utterly delicious. Pop over to try one, or some pomegranate turkish delight. You can also find out what Sarah’s been reading — a great source of book recommendations don’t you think?

Irene at My Slice of Mexico is celebrating her third anniversary blogging, and has shared an absolute feast with us. Do visit her post to see the yummy dishes and recipes.

Jo at RestlessJo is sharing treats from Valentine’s Day and a special family birthday.

Ladyleemanila is enjoying a slice of apple crumble cake amidst some beautiful flowers.

Deb at The Widow Badass has not only created a wonderful comfort food feast (hint, pasta, pancakes and rice pudding), but has wrapped it all up in a lovely, funny post with lots of photos. Go and see for yourself.

ReginaMary at Cosmicknitter has some very elegant-looking tea and chocolate chip scones.

Streusel-topped blueberry muffins from Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful. What can I say ….. yuuuum.

Yvette at Priorhouse Blog has found a delicious combination of English Breakfast tea and Frooze Balls — a little sweet treat made here in Auckland. How cool that Yvette can buy them in a shop near her place.

Save the date: Thursday 18th February

Yep, it’s coming up to that time again. Del (Curls n Skirls) and I are hosting another virtual tea party next week.

I’m still finding delicious Golden Queen peaches in my local greengrocer, and I’ve found a couple of new ways to use them. And I’ve just about perfected an oatcakes recipe …

We hope you’ll be able to join us. I’ll kick off at 3pm next Thursday (Kiwi Time = GMT+13), and Del’s post will be up on Friday.

Virtual Afternoon Tea, January 2021

Image: Su Leslie 2021

Major General Urquhart:
Hancock. I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?

Corporal Hancock:
Couldn’t hurt, sir

From the film, A Bridge Too Far (1977) Dir. Richard Attenborough

On that note; wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, Kia ora. Tau Hou mai i Aotearoa  (Greetings. Happy New Year from Aotearoa).

With Auckland’s hot, dry weather showing no signs of easing, I’ve made my first ever iced tea.

My past experiences with this drink (generally the sort that comes in a bottle from the corner shop) left me a bit underwhelmed. Then I read about cold- brewing; which is essentially adding cold water to tea leaves (it works best with green or white teas apparently) and allowing them to infuse for a long time (think 12 hours in the fridge). This avoids the bitterness, and consequently the (for me, excessive) sugar which is meant to balance it.

It works — certainly for the Big T and me. I’ve experimented with adding kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and mint to different brews (lemongrass is my favourite), and stirring through about 1/2 teaspoon of coconut sugar per cup to the finished product. I’ve experimented too with warmed honey (which certainly dissolves better), but I’m keen to hear from any iced tea drinkers your preferred sweeteners — and additional flavourings.

Iced green tea. Works well with these mini tartlets. Image: Su Leslie 2021

So on to the food.

I’ve just bought a copy of the new Yotam Ottolenghi book — Flavour — and am in love with all things charred. I hope you don’t me experimenting on you with these little tartlets (using my “cheat” baked dumpling-wrapper pastry).

First of all we have grilled prawn with charred fennel and lemon sorrel mayonnaise. I love prawn and fennel together, and the mayonnaise is based on one we were served in Matisse — a wine bar in Napier. My version uses Rick Stein’s Lemon Mayonnaise recipe (from Fruits of the Sea) with a big handful of blitzed-up sorrel from the garden.

Grilled prawn, charred fennel, lemon sorrel mayonnaise. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Or, if you prefer, we have grilled peach with Kapiti Baby Kikorangi blue cheese and thyme.

Grilled peaches, blue cheese and thyme. Image: Su Leslie 2021

My favourite Golden Queen peaches have quite a short season, so I’m making the most of them at the moment. This is the first time I’ve served them grilled in a savory dish, and I quite like it.

The cheese is quite mild, but does seem to balance the (fairly sweet) peach. If there’s a Mark #2 version, I’ll be adding some acid. A balsamic glaze would work — even though the Big T will have a field day reminding me of all the things I’ve said about the ubiquity of this in NZ restaurants.

Homemade Christmas cake and English Breakfast tea. Image: Su Leslie 2021

And if none of this is appealing, hopefully a slice of Christmas cake and a proper cuppa will hit the spot.

As we begin a year that shows no signs of being easier than the last, it feels more important than ever to connect with the people we care about. For me, sharing food has always been an expression of aroha (love); even when it’s delivered virtually. So pull up a chair and help yourself.

The invitation

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.

#virtualteaparty2021 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)

Update

Janet, from This, That and the Other Thing has an Irish theme with Irish Breakfast tea AND home-made soda bread. Yum!

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has made some delicious waffle-iron churros; perfect for dunking in hot chocolate. And she’s included her recipe.

Aggie from Nomad joins us from her new(ish) home in London. A hot cuppa is perfect in an English winter.

My lovely co-host, Del at Curls n Skirls has produced a feast. Cheese, fruit and crackers, chicken sandwiches and chocolate cake. Can I go straight for dessert please?

Yvette from Priorhouse Blog has brought some key lime cheesecake to have with tea.

Ladyleemanila is serving pancit, coleslaw and vegetable quiche with some hot apple tea. Perfect!

Be sure to pop over to Deb’s (The Widow Badass) and drool over her Christmas Black Forest Trifle. And read the hilarious back-story!

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful has brought us a wonderful persimmon loaf. I love persimmons and can’t wait until they are in season to try the recipe she’s thoughtfully included.

Save the date: Thursday 14th January

We’re back!

Del (Curls n Skirls) and I had so much fun hosting virtual afternoon tea in 2020, we’re doing it all over again.

I hope you’ll be able to join us — anytime from about 3pm next Thursday (Kiwi Time = GMT+13). Golden Queen peaches are in season here (my absolute favourites) so expect to find them on the menu. And I still have a whole Christmas cake waiting to be eaten.

Coming soon … Christmas afternoon tea

Image: Su Leslie 2020

It’s hard to believe that next Thursday (17th) will be the twelfth virtual afternoon tea Del and I have hosted.

In the beginning, I had no idea if anyone would even read these posts, let alone join in. But you have, and your comments, posts, yummy food photos and recipes have made us so, so happy.

It’s been a tough year for all of us. But I am painfully aware that my home country has managed (so far) to keep the virus at bay and my life has been considerably less impacted than many of yours. So in line with my personal motto “when the going gets tough, the tough bake cookies” — I’m making a few extra goodies this month; sweet and savory.

Yes, I can do savories that don’t involve pastry or scone dough. Image; Su Leslie 2020

Save the date: Thursday December 17th

… or whenever you get here. Virtual food never runs out and the tea’s always hot.

Save the date: Thursday 17th December

Virtual Tea Party; an invitation

As it’s the final tea-party of 2020 — and to thank you all for embracing this wacky idea of mine — I’ve been busy baking a few extra goodies for us.

I’m letting you know in plenty of time to work up an appetite, and I might even manage a preview next week!

Looking forward to seeing you all on the 17th.