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.

The colour brown

Crunchy Anzac biscuits and a cup of tea. Image: Su Leslie

Brown is not a colour I think of much when I’m taking photos, unless it’s autumn and I’m obsessing about falling leaves.

Image: Su Leslie

But it’s the colour of the month at Jude’s Life in Colour photo challenge. And when I looked in my photo archive, I found more than I’d expected.

There was food (naturally).

Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

And art.

Stay, by Antony Gormley. One of two sculptures created for the city of Christchurch, NZ, post-2011 earthquake. Image: Su Leslie

Bernar Venet, '88.5° ARC x 8'. Seen at Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2015

88.5° ARC x 8, Bernar Venet, Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

(Detail) Tip, John Radford, Western Park, Ponsonby, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Informal Still Life. Seen at Bushey Park, Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie

And small treasures in the natural world.

Cicada shell. Image: Su Leslie

Driftwood, Castlecliff beach, Whanganui, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

If you’d like to join in (even belatedly like me), pop over to Travel Words and read Jude’s introduction.

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.

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.

 

Layers upon layers

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Evening light, Whanganui River estuary. Image; Su Leslie 2019

This week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge asks for interpretations of the word layered.

Do I approach it literally with the layers of a macaron or a cafe breakfast?

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Salted caramel macaron. Not only layering of the biscuits with buttercream, but layers within the baking itself. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Hash-browns, mushrooms, eggs; layered to look good on the plate and distribute those delicious runny yolks throughout the dish. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Or stacked container layers, gone awry in high winds?

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Containers, Wellington Harbour. High winds have wrecked havoc with the carefully constructed layers. Image: Su Leslie 2017

More broken layers?

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Reflections in the contoured glass exterior of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2017

Or maybe layers in art?

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Detail, ‘Wave 2’ sculpture by Annette Thas. A tidal wave of discarded Barbie dolls installed at Tamarama Beach as part of Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2015. Image: Su Leslie

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Layer after layer of discarded Barbie dolls form a wave shape. Layers of plastic and layers of meaning. Image: Su Leslie 2015

And then there are layers created by the two-dimensional nature of photography; compressing landscapes into bands of colour and texture.

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Landscape, Canterbury, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Tutukaka, Northland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Not to mention layered images; double-exposures, super-impositions.

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Double-exposures; a newly discovered camera setting. Su Leslie 2019

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Photo-montage. Su Leslie 2019

Obviously, I couldn’t decide which to focus on.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | layered

Singing in the kitchen

Close up shot of garlic, ginger, coriander, lime ... some of the ingredients in Sarah Tiong's Asian Vinaigrette. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Garlic, ginger, coriander, lime … some of the ingredients in Sarah Tiong’s Asian Vinaigrette. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

“Cooking is a language that express harmony, creativity, happiness, beauty, poetry, complexity, magic, humor, provocation.” Ferran Adrià  — head chef of the elBulli restaurant

Harmony is all about combination. About striking the right notes to create something pleasing. This is just as true in cooking as music. Flavours, textures, colours, even temperature must be balanced.

As a cook, I definitely fall into the enthusiastic amateur category, but with practice (lots more hours than I ever put into learning guitar), I am beginning to create food that is closer to “well-crafted pop song” than “open-mic night at the local folk club.”

For which my boys are ever so grateful.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge | harmony