Virtual afternoon tea; let’s sit outside in the sun

Coffee and a catch-up in the back garden. Image: Su Leslie 2020

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

I thought we’d take our tea outside this month. In the last 24 hours, the wind has dropped and the sun has come out. And while my back garden is very much a work in progress (yeah, ignore the wheelbarrow full of mulch), there is plenty of space for us to spread out and share a cuppa.

Last month I joked I might resort to serving shop-bought gingernuts with our tea. This month, without the excuse of surgery, my energy levels seem to have dropped even further, and I haven’t felt much like baking.

So I am actually serving gingernuts.

But they are home-made.

And crunchy.

And they hold together quite well when dunked.

Who else is a dunker? Image; Su Leslie 2020

And I found a pretty plate to serve them off.

Op-shop find. My new favourite serving plate. Image; Su Leslie 2020

I’m not entirely sure why I feel so meh. I know it’s been a crap year, but I also know that the impacts of Covid-19 are rather less in New Zealand than in many parts of the world. And we’re heading into summer, while many of you are facing rising infection rates and the approach of winter.

I suspect that a major source of my anxiety is that we’re in the midst of a general election, and I am genuinely concerned about the outcome. Our current Labour-led coalition government is far from perfect, but the prospect of the right-leaning National party regaining power horrifies me.

Election day is this Saturday.

In the meantime, I continue to plant seedlings, shovel mulch and direct the Big T’s splendid efforts in constructing new raised beds.

And when my hands aren’t covered in dirt, I’m baking bread.

… cos biscuits are not all that filling. Fresh sourdough bread, cheese and home-made plum jam. Image: Su Leslie 2020

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 kai and korero. 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?)

Update

Yvette at Priorhouse blog brings us oolong tea (or coffee) and cashews

Jo from Restless Jo always brings such yummy cakes. I’m a lemon meringue pie fan, but pop over to Jo’s post to see what else is on offer.

Ladyleemanila is enjoying some jaffa cakes with her cuppa — and a fab-looking jigsaw puzzle.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has made some delicious-looking finger sandwiches with fresh herbs from her garden, cream cheese and home-made bread. Heaven! Oh and there are some Garibaldi biscuits too.

My friend Sarah at Art Expedition has a wonderful way with flavours. Who can resist toasted banana bread with walnuts and goji berries — topped with Nutella. Yum.

Sheree at View from the Back has an absolute feast of afternoon tea treats.

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind has made a delicious apple and ricotta cake. Excuse me while I go make a coffee to drink with it!!

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful has not only brought delicious-looking gingerbread cheesecake bars, but shared the recipe too.

And Amanda at A Home by the Sea has used another of Ju-Lyn’s recipes to make some fantastic cinnamon rolls.

 

The Changing Seasons, August 2020

dance me to the end of love Art play. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Well, August. A month of two halves.

It started well enough; a visit to the hairdresser, dinner with the boy-child and his partner at a new restaurant, preparing to host a dinner party — even checking flights and accommodation for a trip to Christchurch.

Then Covid-19 re-emerged in the community and Auckland returned to Level 3 lock-down for 19 days, ending last night. Today we begin a period in Level 2.5, and wait to see what will  happen next.

Confinement to barracks meant I had no excuse not to embrace my “Arty August” project. If I’d been hoping for 31 finished pieces of work, I would have been disappointed. Luckily my goals were more about process than product and I’m happy. I’ve played a lot with watercolours — trying to understand washes and blending; experimented with some air-dry clay that’s been in the art box for a while, and transformed a pair of thrift-shoes into a … 3D collage?

Embracing process doesn’t come naturally to me; I am very goal-oriented and naturally tend to become incredibly frustrated when my output doesn’t match my vision.

A few years ago my friend Claire — who is both a talented artist and a very good teacher — said something that stuck with me and helps me find value in everything I make, even when it’s simply marks on paper. She suggested that in each piece of work there is something good; maybe just a tiny part of a sketch that really works, or a blob of colour that’s pleasing. The trick is to find that one thing and enjoy it, celebrate it, and use it to move forward. In the last month I’ve covered lots of sheets of watercolour paper with blobs of colour. None screams out to me as the basis for a work in itself, but together, they suggest materials for a collage.

And if that’s good enough for Eric Carle in The Very Hungry Caterpillar –it’s definitely good enough for me.

As always, when I’m at home a lot, I cook a lot.

I am finding more and more that I want to eat a largely plant-based diet, and mushrooms are not only a favourite food, but work really well to provide the texture and depth of flavour found in meat dishes. I also love miso and am experimenting with making a miso glaze/sauce for mushrooms. The first attempt was pretty good, but needs tweaking.

And continuing my obsession with scones; I went right back to basics with a recipe from Maw Broon’s Cookbook. If you’re not familiar with Maw Broon (i.e. if you’re not Scots), she is the matriarch of a comic strip called The Broons which has appeared in the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Post, since March 1936.

Maw Broon’s Cookbook contains recipes that have formed the basis of Scottish cooking for generations. Many were handed down from mother to daughter, and on again.

I was interested in the recipe for Puff Scones because it uses buttermilk, and because it calls for plain flour, baking soda and cream of tartar — instead of the more usual self-raising flour. I’m not sure if it was the combination of ingredients, or the fact of adding the acid and alkaline raising agents as separate entities, but the scones were amazing. Seriously; they were the lightest, fluffiest scones I’ve ever made (and I’d thrown in some cheese which often makes them more dense).

They have the Big T’s approval, so now I have to try Maw Broon’s treacle scones … and maybe a wee Dundee cake.

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

Update

Please visit these bloggers to find out how July played out for them:

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Suzanne from Life at No. 22

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Joining us this month is Ann-Christine, or Leya, who many of you will know as a host of the great weekly Lens-Artists challenge.

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Little Pieces of Me

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

A Wonderful Sheep

Brian at Bushboy’s World

Friday flours (yeah, really)

Sourdough focaccia with roasted tomato, garlic and olive topping. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I guess it had to happen! Friday seems to have become baking day, and there are more flours than flowers in my life at the moment.

I’m trying to perfect focaccia for a dinner party next weekend; 100% organic baker’s flour, salt, water and sourdough starter.

I think I’m getting there.

Sourdough focaccia. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Rye crackers made with leftover starter. Image : Su Leslie 2020

Keeping a sourdough starter healthy involves feeding it regularly, so inevitably you generate spare starter. Turns out, you can actually use it to replace some of the flour/liquid in other recipes, and it makes really good crackers. I use rye flour, partly for the taste and partly because I bought a really big bag of it.

Whole-wheat with grains. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The key ingredient in sourdough baking is time, and I figure if I’m going to be in the kitchen all day, I may as well experiment. This one involves organic whole grain wheat flour (90%) plus 10% organic rye flour, with a porridge of toasted oats and buckwheat folded in for texture. It’s still too hot to cut, so you’ll have to wait to find out if it’s any good.

Teatime in the blogosphere

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Soup and toast? Image: Su Leslie 2020

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

I’m glad you could join me for another virtual afternoon tea.

As we approach the shortest day here, the temperatures have dropped and it feels that winter has arrived. I know that for many of you, it is summer and you’re probably sweltering, but in keeping with my general policy of trying to eat local and seasonal, I’m afraid this month’s menu is very much about what’s available and good where I am.

So; soup anyone?

But because I’m not totally heartless, it is quite a light soup — fennel, squash and orange — easy to drink rather than eat. And it goes rather nicely with a little bit of toasted sourdough.

In the last couple of weeks, the majority of our Covid 19-related restrictions have been (at least temporarily) removed, and we’re getting used to hugging each other again. Equally exciting is that I’m able to invite friends over for a meal. And that’s how the soup came about.

It’s from a recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple; but the first time I made it, neither T nor I particularly liked the sweetness of the rose harissa it used, and we both felt it needed a bit more acid. So I made it again, using plain harissa and replacing the onion with a bulb of fennel. And whereas Ottolenghi used only orange zest, I included the juice. This was partly for taste, and partly to make it a thinner, more drinkable soup.

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Parmesan, rosemary and black pepper straws and some crunchy Granny Smith slices. Image: Su Leslie 2020

And if you’ve still got some left over after you’ve dunked the toast, I’ve made cheese straws. I’m not a dunker, and I prefer to eat them with some slices of crisp, tart apple, but that’s just me and I won’t judge if you do use them to, er, stir your soup.

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Persimmon and ginger muffins. They taste better than they look! Image: Su Leslie 2020

Persimmons are also in season here, and I found a few recipes that use them in baking. I chose this muffin recipe because it also includes ginger (both powdered and crystallized).

The batter (made exactly according to the recipe) seemed a bit wet, and the muffins spread rather than rising in the oven, but they do taste good. At least good enough to serve now, and experiment with until I get the consistency right.

Perhaps because of the weather, it’s been a very indoorsy, introspective few weeks. It’s not that I don’t care about the violence and injustices happening all around the world; but I feel quite powerless and disheartened that after all these years and all the protests, very little seems to have changed.

So I’ve hunkered down; baked a lot of bread, made marmalade with the oranges on our tree and am preparing to make more, this time with grapefruit from the boy-child’s garden. I’ve worked in my garden, visited the library, and am currently enjoying the Documentary Edge Festival online. Last night I watched Saul and Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band — a joyously beautiful film about two men, both Holocaust survivors in their 90s, who make music as a way to celebrate life.

I think this quote sums it up:

This unique and compelling story is about having the courage to live one’s dreams, finding purpose and meaning in life, the transcendent power of music, the complex experience of aging, surviving trauma, the power of love and family, and speaking out against anti-Semitism and bigotry.

It could hardly be more timely.

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?)

A note about next month

I won’t be hosting a tea next month. It’s my dad’s birthday and — unless travel restrictions are re-introduced — I will be spending the middle of the month on a bit of a road-trip to visit him. Normal service will be resumed in August.

Update

Janet at This, That and The Other Thing has baked some lovely, and healthy, doughnuts and is serving them on beautiful Imari ware. Pop over — it really is stunning (and the doughnuts look so good).

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful has baked the most delicious apple pie — and shared her recipe. You have to check this out.

Sarah at Art Expedition has made a gorgeous raspberry cream shortcake. But be quick; raspberries seem to disappear when Sarah is around.

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind brings us banana cake and a beautiful mug made by an Australian ceramic artist.

Pop over to Irene at My Slice of Mexico for a lovely herbal infusion and to learn more about teas and tisanes.

Jo at Restless Jo is serving coffee and yummies on a beautiful tray decoupaged by  her daughter.

For an absolutely sensational afternoon tea  spread, you must visit Sheree at View from the Back

Like me, Suzanne from Life at No. 22 is living in New Zealand. She’s also made soup — cauliflower — and has shared her recipe. Oh, and there are muffins and blissballs too!!!

My co-host, Del at Curls n Skirls has made olive oil herb scones and her wacky cake (with recipe). Del will be hosting solo next month while I’m away so make sure you join her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday 14th, save the date

Well I’ve sampled the test batch and tweaked the recipe!

“Of what” I hear you ask?

Join me for virtual afternoon tea next Thursday 14th May and find out.

Of course, my tea-time will begin while lots of you are still asleep, but rest assured that in the blogosphere you can arrive at any time, there will always be plenty to eat, and tea never goes cold.

See you next week.

The Changing Seasons, August 2019

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In an extremely dreary month, I resorted to buying cut flowers to inject a little colour. Image: Su Leslie 2019

August is often a month in which I feel like hibernating. This year, with rain every day (yep, actually every single day), cold winds and heavy grey skies, I really haven’t felt  like venturing far from home. I know I’ve been busy at home — I’m just not quite sure what I’ve been busy doing.

My photos offer a few clues.

There has been a lot of baking this month; mostly sourdough-based. I’ve been making a sourdough wholewheat bread for a few years, and was getting quite reliably good results until a few months ago. My most recent loaves aren’t developing the gluten properly, and I’m obsessively testing variations on my recipe to understand what is going wrong.

I’m still not sure, but in the process of experimenting I’ve made a lot of sourdough pancakes/hotcakes (excellent for breakfast with berries), some good banana bread, a tasty wheat/rye loaf — and the best basic San Fransisco-style sourdough of my bread-making “career.”

In other news:

I discovered the multiple-exposure function on my camera and have had fun with that.

A bunch of supermarket tulips brought some much-needed floral inspiration as the weather has hammered my neighbourhood’s gardens.

In Whanganui last month I found three bags of dyed, carded wool for felting at $4 per bag. I couldn’t resist buying them, and have had a couple of attempts at wet-felting. I’m not at all happy with the results so far, but — like sourdough baking — I am determined to learn this skill, even if it’s only to make myself a scarf.

And in a moment of (probable) insanity; I decided to refurbish our dining chairs; bought from IKEA over 20 years ago.

I started out just thinking I’d smarten up an ugly, but comfortable $5 op-shop chair. Then I realised the colours I had in mind would work really well with our dining room furniture.

Somehow, I transitioned from that one little “paint-and-upholstery” job to making new seat frames for six chairs (bonus: I learned how to use a jig-saw); stripping and painting six grubby, waxed, wooden frames (plus one that was varnished); and upholstering seven chairs in turquoise and white striped canvas. Only one is completed so far — and boy have I learned a lot from it!

Not captured in the photographic record; I’ve also read more than usual (fiction and non-fiction); and completed the first assignment in a NZ Certificate in Horticulture course I signed up to. As you do …

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

Update

Take a look at these lovely bloggers’ August posts:

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

Marilyn at Serendipity — Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Jude from Life at the Edge

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Little Pieces of Me

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

DJ Ranch

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Brian at  Bushboy’s World

Gill at Talking Thailand

A wonderful sheep