Virtual afternoon tea; pull up a chair

beetroot tartlet on tray_1 Straight from the oven; beetroot, feta, spinach and pinenut tartlets. 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 this virtual afternoon tea, in a week where I’m even more glad of your company than usual.

As you probably know; my home city, Auckland has gone into another Covid 19 lock-down after four (now five) cases of the virus were found that can’t be linked back to travel, border control or quarantine facilities. So it seems we have community transmission and need to do what is necessary to stem it.

For the Big T and I, the immediate impact is relatively small — though we probably won’t be hosting the “posh” dinner party we had planned for the weekend. For our son, who’s recently returned to university after putting his course on hold due to the last lock-down, it’s a much bigger deal and it’s hard for me not to worry.

But as before, I am incredibly grateful for a warm home, a loving family and a (reasonably) full pantry. I have taken the planned scones off our menu today though; flour supplies were disrupted last time so I’m in conservation mode.

Instead we’ve got some sourdough rye and fennel crackers — which pair really well with crisp Granny Smith apples, mint and ricotta.

cheese board Sourdough rye and fennel crackers, raw apple and mint chutney, ricotta and some Maasdam for those who prefer a slightly stronger cheese. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Apparently people were queuing outside supermarkets even before our PM had finished making her Covid announcement, so in anticipation of grocery shopping being a less than wonderful experience, I am determined to just work with the ingredients I have to hand.

And that’s the genesis of these little tartlets containing roasted beetroot (my new favourite food), feta, spinach and a handful of pinenuts. I guess the mixture would work with other pastry too, but I had some leftover fillo, and I love the way it folds around the filling. I found the recipe at Bec’s Table, and while I altered the filling a little, I totally stole embraced her wonderful folding technique.

beetroot tartlets on tray Still warm; beetroot and feta tartlets. Image: Su Leslie 2020
tartlet on board Beetroot and feta tartlets. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Though it looks like our dinner party is on hold, T and I have been sampling my test dishes for a few days. I don’t normally get (quite) so meticulous with the food I serve guests, but we’re planning to share our table with some people who make my culinary obsession look lightweight (oh, and one of them is a chef).

They’re old friends, so it’s not like I’m trying to impress the boss or potential in-laws, but I know from experience that I’m happier when the food I serve is tasty and interesting (and properly cooked). And more importantly, that the dishes I make don’t have me slaving in the kitchen while everyone else is enjoying themselves.

So …. the point of this is that I’ve been testing a dessert of panna cotta and fruit. And you get to try it too.

pannacotta with pineapple Coconut and lemongrass panna cotta with pineapple and ginger snaps. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Both T and I find cow’s milk hard to digest these days, so I’ve used coconut milk instead, and infused it with lemongrass. The topping is chopped pineapple with light ginger syrup, mint and pineapple sage flowers. Ginger snaps on the side provide some crunch and extra sweetness.

It’s my first attempt at panna cotta and I have to say, it’s incredibly easy and worked well with coconut milk.

But enough explanation. There’s tea in the pot (or coffee if you prefer), and food on the table. Pull up a chair and tell me what’s happening in your world.

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?)

Update

Amanda at Surprising Lives has joined us today, and brought some delicious raisin and blackcurrant cookies and refreshing lemon ginger tea. Yum!

My dear friend Sarah at Art Expedition has baked pastels de nata — the most delicious-looking Portuguese custard tarts. I am salivating just thinking about them, so pop over to Sarah’s and enjoy one.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has paired a homemade Mexican basil tisane, with some fabulous Mexican Garibaldis. Pop over to her post to find out more about Mexican basil and the garibaldis.

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind has managed to deal with electrical switchboard problems and still bake a chocolate cake. She says one side is a bit burned; I say it looks more caramelised than the other side and bring it on.

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful has baked some yummy cheddar and scallion scones. Delicious! And she has shared the recipe.

My co-host Del, at Curls N Skirls has made her grandmother’s Foundation Cake, and shared some stories from her granny’s life. Understanding our forebears, and the origins of the foods we love, is so important.

 

 

 

 

Save the date: Thursday 13 August

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August’s Virtual Tea Party; an invitation for Thursday 13th. Images: Su Leslie

After the road-trip induced hiatus last month, Virtual Afternoon Tea is back and you are all invited.

I’ve got a bit of an obsession with scones at the moment, and I’m practicing dishes to serve at an upcoming dinner party, so who knows what will be on the menu.

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’s always plenty to eat, and the tea never gets cold.

Save the date: Thursday 18 June

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Virtual Tea Party; an invitation

Yep, it’s that time again; a virtual afternoon tea to which everyone is invited.

The figs are finished, but I have lots of citrus on the trees, and the persimmons are good right now, so I’m sure they’ll make an appearance somewhere.

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.

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.

Tea time in the blogosphere

tea invitation apr 2020 Image: Su Leslie 2020

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).

bowl of figs0415 Image: Su Leslie 2020

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.

fig and blue cheese tarts Caramelised fig and blue cheese tartlets. Image: Su Leslie 2020

And in the same spirit of making do, both my sweet dishes are variations on a theme.

anzac biscuits Anzac biscuits and English Breakfast tea. Image; Su Leslie 2020

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.

ginger crunch no cup Ginger-oat slice. Image: Su Leslie 2020

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.

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?)

An update

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.

A Wonderful Sheep has shared my ultimate comfort food — tea, toast and marmalade.

Lois at On Pets and Prisonersis tantalising us with her collection of recipe books. Surely poring over the books is one of the best parts of cooking?

Janet at This, That and the Other Thing really knows her teas — and has paired a yummy pain au chocolat with Mao Feng black tea. I’ve just Googled it and it sounds really interesting.

Punam at Paeansunpluggedblog has made some yummy dried mixed fruit muffins to serve with savoury banana chips and a roasted orange pekoe Darjeeling tea.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has not only brought the most delicious-looking chocoflan, but also shared the recipe and the science behind how it works. This is such an interesting read.

Aggie at Nomad has made us “a proper brew” — Yorkshire tea. Apparently a controversial choice if you’re Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK.

Amanda at A Home by the Sea has baked a delicious walnut streusel cake.

 

April 16th: save the date

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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.

Hope you can join us.

 

 

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.

 

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.’

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