Teas to tease and please

Teas to tease and please

I reckon I’ve had more than a 1000 afternoon teas. Call them Cream Teas, Afternoon Tea, Devonshire Tea, Afternoonsies, or a mid-arvo cuppa and cake – I’ve had them.

This wasn’t a genteel affectation I grew up with. As a kid it was a biscuit and a glass of cordial and as a teenager, “there’s a biscuit in the tin and I’ll have a cuppa too love”.

My emerging addiction to the afternoon ritual began in the 1970s when I ended up in a little kiosk in the Megalong Valley in the Blue Mountains after a rigorous three-day bush walk.

Tired and footsore we ordered tea and scones. The heavenly warm scone-clouds wafted towards us and we had a bowl of strawberry jam and thick, just-whipped fresh cream. I was hooked – and happy.

I didn’t seek out the afternoon tea in my day-to-day working life. I saved the event for special guests at home (cake and homemade biscuits only as I am a terrible scone baker) and as part of my holiday plans.

I’ve indulged in the grand teas of the establishment hotels and traditional tea houses, casual café catch-ups around the world and surprise teas served in the bush and even in the jungle.

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Sacher torte – a sweet treat from Austria.

Years ago I was in Darwin visiting my dad. Now, Bill was a pretty cool dad and a rough diamond who did like a beer or several. My partner and I persuaded him to head down the track to Katherine in the ute for a road trip. It was a wonderful couple of days and on the way back home to Darwin I insisted we stop at Daley Waters for afternoon tea. My father was in a lather of panic. Cups of tea in pretty china and slices of packet rainbow cake was served on a rickety table on the lawn of a truck stop joint. As we sipped tea overlooking the highway my father said: “what if someone sees me”. Nah, it will be fine, who would think you were here.

And while he drew the cup to his lips and jokingly stuck his little finger out a truck drove past and tooted its horn and the voices called out “Onya Bill”.

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Aside from out-of-the-way afternoon locations I’ve managed to enjoy exquisite pastries served with fragrant teas in many places all over the world.

Austria is up there for beautiful cakes and I’ve been known to linger over a Vienna schnitzel lunch so that I can call strudel and cream afternoon tea instead of dessert.

Years ago in England around the Devon region I convinced a none-dairy eater to try clotted cream lathered on fat, hot scones with a scrape of raspberry jam. I promised them heaven – and I delivered. A committed clotted cream convert now.

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My homemade lemon yoghurt cake – yum.

I’ve enjoyed aromatic Chinese teas in China served with delicate egg tarts with buttery, crumbly pastry. It’s not exactly called afternoon tea there – just another small meal among many during the day.

I was at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne once having afternoon tea and sipping on a Lady Grey when I overheard a conversation behind me and it was one of the Twining’s’ family. And he was drinking coffee – quel traitor!

Strudel in a welcoming window in Innsbruck, Austria.

I do love a hotel afternoon tea – there is so much design put into the presentation. Little finger sandwiches around the bottom level, baby quiche and crab tarts second level, scones next one and on the top petit pastries and creamy cakes – and hopefully refillable pots of tea.

I was recently in Beverly Hills, California and slipped into the new Laduree café on Beverly Drive. It’s so fresh and new and green and white! It hasn’t quite settled into itself yet but the coffee was ok and I had two macarons – research!

I’ve also devised a way of eating while on holidays that keeps the weight down. True! Stick to two and a half meals a day.

Late breakfast, mid afternoon tea (with cake and pastry) and a late-ish dinner – do not order dessert.

But of all the afternoon tea experiences – it’s when I manage to bake a decent cake, have friends around, bring out the best cups and saucers, use a pretty tablecloth and go old-school all the way – that this institution of culinary happiness is enjoyed the most.

Following, the recipe for Ginger Earthquake Cookies, adding a little spice to your afternoon tea:

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Ingredients

100g butter (chopped)

1/3 cup (80ml) golden syrup

1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour

3/4 cup (155g) brown sugar

1 egg, lightly whisked

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground mixed spice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/4 (45g) pure icing sugar

Method

  1. Combine the butter and golden syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring for 3 minutes or until butter melts and mixture is well combined. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add the flour, brown sugar, egg, ginger, mixed spice, cloves and bicarbonate of soda and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 45 minutes or until cool and firm.
  3. Preheat oven to 180deg.C. Line 2 oven trays with baking powder. Sift the icing sugar onto a small plate. Roll tablespoon of mixture into balls and roll in icing sugar. Place on the lined trays, 6cm apart, allowing room for spreaading.
  4. Bake in preheated oven, swapping trays halfway through cooking, for 15 mins or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside on trays to cool completely.

Writer Bev Malzard recommends these cookies for an afternoon break with a cup of Chinese White tea. She intends to continue searching for the definitive afternoon tea – and welcomes all suggestions.

Visit: http://www.thehotelwindsor.com.au

https://www.austria.info

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My two scents worth

My two scents worth

There is nothing that screams ‘GREEK’ than an image of a building whitewashed to perfection with the blazing helios (sun) spotlighting its surfaces and reflecting good housekeeping practices with not a speck of dirt to be found. AND across the eaves and tumbling down the walls is the Queen of Colour, the vibrant and saucy Bougainvillea.

 

A riot of colour against the walls of villas excites the senses and adds a special playfulness to the overall effect the Greek islands are unashamedly proud of.

But for me, and I’m not dissing the Bougainvillea, it’s about scents and aroma.

My first time in Greece, I landed in the old, gloomy airport in Athens. It was towards the end of summer and after midnight. Out into the night for my first breath of Greece and I could smell oil, leather and diesel. Oh, it was good.

As I was to spend a couple of years in Greece on and off, I can remember the scents that if I smell them now, take me to the heart of Greece, my spiritual home.

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Recently in Sydney, my first whiff of jasmin hit me and transported me back to Ellas, where I would be smothered in the scent in the late spring when night fell. The days would be stifling and the only aromas wafting through my village was lamb on spits in the restaurants, coffee and diesel.

But when the sun went down and the flowers could again breathe in the cool air – jasmin was queen of the night.

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Jasminum polyanthum.

I’m writing this innocuous blog with a nod to my past but thoughts of the future.

In the early 90s in Sydney I lived in a house where the side wall was a factory wall as high as my two-storey house. The great blank vertical wall was slowly being taken over by Virginia Creeper and jasmin. The creeper was a beautiful display of autumn shades before it became green in the summer and the ‘jasmin festival’ lasted almost two weeks with an abundant, aromatic riot from late September. I always held a ‘Great Wall of Jasmin’ party on the October long weekend and it was a blooming great event.

As I write today, 17 August, I have come back from a walk where I stole several sprigs of jasmin to put in my house to give me the bounty of the scent.

So, now, let’s think about it. Years ago, the jasmin bloomed in late September and now it is almost spent by mid August.

Climate change, changes everything. I’m not saying that it’s only jasmin. Read between the lines. Glaciers are melting in Switzerland, the seas are rising around the islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Nature is confused and she might just throw her hands up in the air and go on strike.

What have you noticed in the weather patterns around you? Talk about it, scream it out. You know, it won’t make any difference to me and people of my age, we’ll be dead, but there are hard times a-comin’ to do with lack of water and weather-affected agriculture. Human beings need water and food to survive.

If it starts with me, good, and will it continue on with you.

I love science, and if it makes a mistake, it goes back and revisits to make it right and give us the correct information.

I love science, Greece, diesel and jasmin.

Writer Bev Malzard will continue stealing jasmin (see picture below), beating the drum on climate change and telling stories about Greece. 

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Spain: Meandering through Madrid

Spain: Meandering through Madrid

Apart from short periods of time in my misspent youth, Spain was just a passing flirtation. Someone I had a few drinks with.
But recently as a grown-up I discovered a few choice locations in Spain and fell head over heels.

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As we couldn’t cover the entire country on this visit we stopped short of a whistle stop trip and picked the eyes out of culture, gastronomy and a little history and some time for reflecting on the cult of gluttony. Gluttony was my failing in Spain – but hey! The country has no mercy and takes no prisoners – just eat!


Arriving in Madrid on a pleasant end of summer day, we drove along tree-lined boulevards and were delivered to Villa Magna in the elegant Salamanca barrio (precinct). This is the time when jet-lag kicks in but it’s too exciting being in a new city and it’s afternoon – lunch time, yay.
And this is when the eating frenzy began.

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First stop was a five-minute walk from the hotel to the beautifully restored and beloved Platea Madrid (featured image at top). The old art deco theatre has had new life breathed into it and has become a fragrant complex of tapas bars, Michelin starred restaurants and snack bars with rustic market-style décor. A cooling ale and a plate of potatas bravas (fried chunks of potato with spicy, paprika ridden tomato sauce) and small bites of battered cod – I was hooked.
And an early dinner eschewed.

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Mercado De San Miguel, undercover market housing dozens of gourmet food producers.

This was the disjointed part of the trip – our timing was not always conducive to being ‘hungry’. Breakfast isn’t a big deal here. Coffee and a little pastry maybe or two coffees. Lunch is from anywhere between 2pm and 4pm and if you are on a schedule, you’ll find yourself having dinner within a couple of hours after a banquet at lunch.

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Plaza Mayor.

So after a quick change in my room and a studious count of the threads in the cotton sheets, we were off to  nearby Tatal, a fancy restaurant owned by Rafael Nadal and Julios Ingelsias (both of them stood us up for the shared plate). The restaurant began to fill up and by the time we left at 10pm (early by local standards) the place was packed with well-dressed patrons – and on a week night too.

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Next day we fitted in a visit to the mighty Prado, and soaked up Velasquez, Goya, Van Gogh and the major Spanish artists; sashayed through a couple of the BIG squares, walked the gardens and snacked along the way on creamy, sexy pastries and cakes. The divine Plaza Mayor is portico-lined and tiny shops offer up traditional goods and cafes will take a lot of money from you to enjoy a café con leche.

Moving again and it’s to the Buen Retiro, a popular city park for locals.

Churros is almost the sweet national dish and the best place to eat this is at Chocolateri San Gines where you will be served by grumpy staff – if they feel like it. But jump right in and join the Madrilians who are stuffing their faces with vast amounts of this beautiful chocolate-dipped stripey doughnut.

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In this tiny tapas bar, mushrooms and green peppers are the hero ingredients.

We finished off our short time in Madrid with a Tapas tour. Our host was a vivacious American woman who had come to Spain with her Spanish boyfriend. The boyfriend is gone, but the woman studied the language and stayed as she fell in love with Spain – who is treating her very well indeed. (During this trip, I met three women, one an Australian, who had the same story – left home for a Spanish bloke, ditched the bloke but stayed)
It was short, it was sweet, but after Madrid there were windmills to tilt at further afield.

The writer Bev Malzard reignited a long past food love affair in Madrid – garlic prawns. They are back in her life again. And several pairs of espadrilles were purchased in Madrid too.

DSC01010Spain   visitspain.com