Care to join me for a cuppa?

img_6701 Afternoon tea; carrot cake and mango coconut tarts. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Wherever you are, and whatever is happening in your world, welcome.

Since Covid 19 is such a huge issue impacting all of us, I’ll get my update out of the way and let you all decide whether you want to discuss or ignore the virus in your own comments and posts.

Here in Aotearoa New Zealand we have, to date, been extremely fortunate that the number of cases is still in (low) double digits, and all of those suffering seem to have relatively mild cases which have required minimal or no hospital care. They have all occurred in people who have either returned from overseas, or are family members of those people, so we’ve so far avoided the sort of local transmission that will produce exponentially more cases.

I don’t think any of us are kidding ourselves that things will stay this way, but our government does seem to be proactive in taking steps to try and limit the spread, and help those affected financially as well as medically.

The Big T is fortunate that he already works remotely a lot of the time, and since I’m also home-based (and let’s face it, seriously introverted), social distancing feels much like business as usual. Things are tough for our son though, who is a student and works in a retail business in the CBD. He’s struggling emotionally and we’re doing all we can to make sure he knows that we will always be there for him. I flip flop between  being really proud of his resilience and wishing he was two again so I could at least feel like I was protecting him.

‘Nuff said. Let’s talk about food.

The menu

This month, I’m testing out a couple of recipe ideas on you (as well as offering tried-and-true carrot cake).

The first I alluded to in yesterday’s post; the second has sort of evolved as I’ve gone along.

img_6709 Fairy bread for grown-ups? Image; Su Leslie 2020

The strange places my brain visits

I’m not sure if it’s just an Antipodean thing, but when I was a kid, birthday parties weren’t really complete without a plate of fairy bread — thinly sliced white bread, buttered and sprinkled with hundred and thousands (AKA sprinkles or jimmies if you’re not British apparently).

Since I have an on-going interest obsession with updating old (and nursery) recipes, I got to wondering what fairy bread for grown-ups might look like.

And this is my take on it; homemade sourdough (crusts removed), spread with my friend Duncan’s wonderful raw honey, and edible flowers. At the moment the garden is a bit drought-challenged, so the mix is viola, borage and lemon bergamot, with a few petals of rosemary and thyme, and lemon balm leaves.

To be honest, it looks pretty but taste a bit medicinal. So back to the drawing board.

img_6706 Mango coconut tarts. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Instant(ish) entertaining

My second dish, you lovely culinary guinea-pigs, is a mango coconut tart. It contains a sort of instant custard of cream cheese mixed with coconut cream and lime juice, and it’s topped with fresh mango and toasted coconut flakes. The pastry is genius (I’m allowed to say that because it’s not actually my idea). I bought dumpling wrappers from the local Asian supermarket and baked them blind in a muffin tray.

img_6708 The big reveal — “instant custard” of cream cheese and coconut cream. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The Big T says they are delicious and I agree.

Finally, we have slices of carrot cake with lemon cream cheese frosting. It’s a recipe I’ve made lots of times before and it is yummy, though quite sweet, so I’ll cut thin slices (at least to start).

img_6707 Carrot cake. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I’ve brewed English Breakfast tea this time, but I can offer you coffee or green tea if you’d prefer.

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 anytime soon, I hope this will do instead.

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.

#virtualteaparty2020 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)

And finally

I found these, and rather liked them.

“I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”  ― Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Honestly, if you’re given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don’t say ‘what kind of tea?” ― Neil Gaiman

An update

Both Del at CurlsnSkirls, and Brian at Bushboys World have baked delicious bread for us to share. Thank you both — bread is my absolute food weakness!

Aggie at Nomad brings us some delicious mint and rosewater tea.

A Wonderful Sheep has brought some Golden Milk — and her recipe.Yum!

And if you scroll through the comments you’ll see Karen/Elizabeth‘s fabulous afternoon tea at Sydney’s QVB Tearooms.

Ju-Lyn At All Things Bright & Beautiful has baked some fabulous PB&J bars.


Getting ready

Preparation. Join me tomorrow for another virtual tea party and find out what I’ve got planned for these ingredients.

In January, when I posted the first monthly virtual afternoon tea, it just seemed like a nice excuse to bake a cake and share a few random thoughts with you.

I had no idea that within a few weeks millions of people would be living our lives in an increasingly virtual space; avoiding overseas travel, working from home, stock-piling loo paper (NOT GUILTY OF THAT ONE) and suddenly showering elderly relatives with the attention they have always deserved.

Self-isolation, social distancing, flattening the curve; phrases that meant little or nothing in January, have become not only part of our everyday speech, but principles guiding daily life.

Luckily, my local grocer has been spared panic-buying of baking ingredients, so I’m off to make a few treats to share with you tomorrow.

Hope you can join me. Face-masks NOT required, and virtual hugging positively encouraged.

Care to join me for a cuppa?

virtual tea invitation feb2020 Afternoon tea, al fresco. Raw chocolate peppermint slice, with lemon balm and peppermint tea.  Image: Su Leslie 2020

The cold has lingered longer than expected, so despite putting in the hard yards reading recipe books and magazines, I wasn’t up to baking for our afternoon tea.

Instead, I nipped out and bought some raw chocolate peppermint slice. Dairy and gluten-free, it’s made with nuts and coconut oil and cacao, with a little coconut sugar for sweetness.

A bit creamy, quite minty and delicious, it’s kind on my recovering immune system. And did I mention it’s delicious?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my eating habits style preferences lately. I know friends and family would like me to just “come out” as a vegetarian, or a vegan, or gluten-free, dairy-free — a label they could get their heads around. But the truth is; apart from baked beans, cooked avocado (yes, I’ve actually been served that), pizza with sweetcorn and/or pineapple, and anything swimming in salad cream — I’ll eat pretty much anything.

And if someone else has cooked it for me, I’ll say thank you and find something — however small — that I can truthfully praise.

I’m trying to find a way to explain that my food preference are really a food philosophy. I want to “do good”; for my physical and mental health, for my bank balance, for small businesses, and for the environment. That means I eat home-grown where I can, buy as much as possible from local, preferably organic growers, avoid foods and manufacturers I believe to be harmful or unethical … and a bunch more considerations I won’t bore you with but which make trips to the supermarket time-consuming, frustrating and really difficult without my strong glasses to read the small print.

I know that’s a roundabout way of selling you on the raw vegan mint slice, but it really is delicious.

And the drinks …

Despite the dry weather, my herb garden is thriving, so I’ve harvested some mint and lemon balm to brew our cuppa. There’s raw honey from my friend Duncan’s bees to sweeten it, and some local lemons if you’d like to add a slice.

But if you’d prefer, I can make you some builders’ tea (old-school with milk and sugar if that takes your fancy).  Or there’s some Sencha green tea if you’d like something lighter that’s not mint! Both of these come from my local tea shop.

So pull up a chair and let’s put the world to rights over afternoon tea.

The invitation

I was so pleased to get positive feedback on my last tea party, that I’m going to continue to post once a month — mid-week, mid-month probably — at least for the rest of 2020.

I’d love to read your thoughts on the food, the drinks, whatever I’m rambling about. A few words about what you’re doing/reading/making. 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 — great. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it, A recipe?

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?)

I’d love to be part of a global rolling tea party. Hopefully a few of you would too.


Brian at Bushboy’s World has polished the silverware and provided some music.

Del at Curls n Skirls has brought some delicious “traditional bread and butter sandwiches, hot buttered toast, and maybe a few raspberry jam sandwiches, .. and a fresh Raisin Spice cake.” Yum!

Sue at Words Visual enjoyed tea (or coffee) with friends. And it was obviously delicious — judging by the empty plates and cups.

Anabel at Glasgow Gallivanter has shared not only a rather sumptuous cream tea (in a beautiful wee cafe), but shared her thoughts on eating ethically and well too.

Manja at Manja Mexi Mexcessive brings us a cornucopia of tea (and coffee)-drinking images.

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

With regret …

I’d been looking forward to inviting you all to my next virtual tea party, but I have a cold. So instead of baking goodies and tasting teas, I’m on the couch with a hot lemon drink, a box of tissues and stack of food magazines.

I may not be able to taste anything, but I can still look at the pictures.

Oh well, I’ll try again next Tuesday. Hope you can join me.

A virtual tea party

An invitation to tea. Image Su Leslie 2019Image: Su Leslie 2020

Those of you who pop round often will know how much I love food, and afternoon tea is no exception.

A couple of weeks ago when I posted An Agreeable Hour, my Comments section filled up with offers to join me in this rather civilised institution. One conversation with Del at Curls and Skirls really got me thinking, and led to the idea of hosting a virtual tea party once a month.

Naturally you’re all invited.

I’m not quite sure if how it’s going to work, but I’ll start, and we’ll see where it goes.

My afternoon tea

My tea palate isn’t particularly refined, so that’s a pot of English Breakfast Extra Strength you’re looking at. It’s loose tea, blended by local company Tea Total. They have a lovely shop near us where we can taste and smell the huge number of teas and tissanes they offer.

The cake is a gingery plum cake, from the BBC GoodFood website. It’s the first time I’ve made it and I actually managed to follow the recipe much closer than is usual for me (except to use fresh grated ginger in place of dried, and grated nutmeg because I didn’t have any mixed spice).

It’s incredibly easy to make; but does have lots of butter, sugar, eggs, milk and wheat flour. Not great for my vegan and gluten or refined-sugar free friends, but easy to give away the excess (it makes a BIG cake) to my neighbours who aren’t particularly amenable to my “hippy” offerings.

What kind of tea (or other beverage) would you have with this cake? Or would you prefer something a little less traditional in the sweet treat department?

Some “back in the day” musing

My first post-school “proper job” was at the local council. Working conditions there were, by today’s standards, exceptionally good. I mention this because our work day included fifteen minute breaks for morning and afternoon tea with biscuits provided (chocolate ones, if Leonie from Rates was allowed to shop for them).

Compared to the hastily grabbed mouthfuls of food my son and his girlfriend are forced to take in their break-free working days, morning and afternoon tea may seem unnecessary and indulgent. But in truth, it probably made us more productive. Not only for the well-being that social contact fostered, but because it was in the tea-room that we learned what was happening in the organisation, and that knowledge meant we could do our jobs better.

I’m not part of an organisation any more, and I doubt many modern companies have tea-breaks, but I still find that stopping mid-afternoon to step away from what I’m doing, make a cuppa and regroup helps focus my mind on the rest of the day?

Who else takes tea-breaks? Coffee? Is mid-afternoon a favoured time to meet friends for a cuppa?

The invitation

If you’d like to contribute a post of your own — a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it; a recipe, a few words about what you’re doing/reading/making. What’s making you happy or pissing you off — that would be great. 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.

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

I’d love to be part of a global rolling tea party. Hopefully a few of you would too.

Brian at Bushboys World has joined the party; bringing some delicious treats and music.

Del at Curls and Skirls, my co-conspirator in this tea party project, has a biscuit to dunk in her cuppa.

Morning coffee and the thought of scones from Lois at On Pets and Prisoners

Aggie at Nomad is sharing her cuppa from her new home in London

Amanda at A Home by the Sea has brought a delicious honey spice cake — using a recipe from Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful. What a great, connected community we’re building.

Ju-Lyn joins uswith thoughts on her family’s tea-drinking preferences.

I can almost taste the Duba tea Manja describes in her lovely post about tastes and memories ‘Virtual cook, eat, repeat party.’


Afternoon tea in the shearing capital of the world (allegedly)

Te Kuiti in the King Country proclaims itself the “shearing capital of the world.” I’m not sure how such a title is bestowed, but the town definitely takes its links to sheep shearing seriously — with this seven metre high statue of a shearer at work.

Sheep shearing is not really my thing; but carrot cake is. Eaten at Stoked cafe in the old Te Kuiti railway station.

Regular Random: five minutes with tea and macarons

Pink, white and gold china cup with green tea, and matching plate with two macarons. Shot on white background. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

A little afternoon indulgence. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

I bought these macarons as a little post house-cleaning treat, and while normally I’d make myself coffee to have with them, it is so hot here at the moment that jasmine tea felt like the perfect alternative. It’s a bonus that my neigbour’s jasmine is in full, fragrant bloom and trails over our communal fence. I love how the flowers echo the pattern on my tea cup and plate.

Five Minutes of Random (the #RegularRandom challenge) is hosted by Desley Jane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist. 

If you’d like to join in:

  • choose a subject or a scene
  • spend five minutes photographing it – no more!
  • try to see it from many angles, look through something at it, change the light that’s hitting it
  • tag your post #regularrandom and ping back to Desley’s post
  • have fun!