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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: tea

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Mixed with cream, baked in butter…

It is funny how most nationalities really believe in their national specialities. 
In Holland we are proud of many things, we have the best cheese (conveniently forgetting the French and English varieties) best football (not sure about Brazilians though…) and best beer (hmmm Trappist monks will probably not agree)… 

One of the things I always thought the Dutch to really be the masters of, is Pancakes…
(best made with cream and water instead of milk, as the milk will make them rubbery instead of crispy…)

Where else do you find restaurants dedicated to this flipped floppy disk?

Today however I learnt that the English really have one up on the Dutch, by dedicating a special day to eating pancakes…

Shrove Tuesday

For the sake of my Dutch friends I will try to explain. 
It is the last day before lent, where people finish up all the rich ingredients they have left in the pantry before fasting for 40 days. 

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Carnival… festival of dropping meat?

Sounds plain and simple, but why then do the English keep their pancakes so simple?! Simply served with sugar and lemon juice, or in some extravagant cases Rhum.
Surely they should be able to come up with something more vice riddled? 
I was surprised that no one here had ever tried a bacon pancake with syrup… I’d say that is pretty rich, while even incorporating it with the Catholic meat referenced in Carnival….

It made me think about what I would give up for lent. In other words, what I would put on my pancake as a farewell for 40 days… 
But I couldn’t come up with anything, as at the moment I am living a rather moderate lifestyle. Most of the food is locally sourced, no biscuits, no chocolate, no smoking… There’s an occasional glass of wine with dinner. And a small piece of cheese after…

I don’t drink or eat enough of anything to worrying about giving it up. 
The only two possible items I would worry about are Tea and Butter
But tell me honestly… is there really life without either of those two? 

How will I cook without butter? 
I could try giving up tea and replacing it with herbal infusions? 
Would my niece and nephews start calling me Aunt Woopsie Tea instead?!

Hmmm. 

Thank God I just found out it will be next week instead of today… So I have a week to think about it.

So, what habits will you break, and what will you give up for lent?

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Drink T, you fool!

Yesterday was a special day in the Netherlands.

I doubt anyone here really noticed, but it was National Tea drinking day

I am sure many of my British friends are sniggering at the thought alone!
What do you mean? Are there any days you don’t drink tea?!

Anyway, the Medical Research Center in Utrecht found out that daily drinking of tea reduces coronary artery disease.

Pfff. I have always known that drinking tea is good for the heart…

(I am even more proud now  that my nieces and nephews call me Auntie Tea…)

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Cages at the White Rabbit tea room.

Some time ago a good friend of mine from Paris told me the most exquisite story. It was one of those stories, where the pictures never ever really leave your head again:

She told me about her grandmother who had been a Persian noble woman, who had moved to Paris  with her Russian husband. The story she told me about her was that she would frequently go to a special Tea house in Paris where all the ladies would bring their birds, in their cages.
The birds would be hung up on the ceiling to sing to each other, while the ladies were seated below, gossiping and sipping their tea…

Admitted the walls need some help...

Needless to say I have searched for such a place, but never found it. Only online did I find a contemporary art gallery in Sydney that has antique cages in their tea room… I found the picture through a great tea blog: The Tea Urchin.

When living in Newport there was the most elegant tea house in the garden, with a domed ceiling, and windows on the four corners. The walls were covered in old Zuber hand painted wallpaper, showing birds and greenery. It had been my dream to change this tea house into a functioning room again. With antique cages on the ceiling and comfortable seats and tables scattered round below.

The original interior... Love the lantern.

This tea house in Newport is an early 20th century copy of the 18th century original summerhouse, designed by the great Salem, Massachusetts carver/architect Samuel McIntire for Capt. Derby’s summer farm in Danvers Massachusetts in 1795. A young lady who visited the estate in 1802 wrote of going upstairs to the room above, “The air from the windows is always pure and cool and the eye wanders with delight over the beautiful landscape below…The room is ornamented with some Chinese figures and seems calculated for serenity and peace.”

How wonderful would it be to drink tea there on a summer afternoon, listening to the birds while catching up on the latest news.

Well, one can dream, no? Tweet tweet.

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Crumble...

Even in a haze of volcano ashes the season for pic nics has finally arrived.

So yesterday we had the great pleasure of having tea in the garden (yay first time, even if it involved extra blankets)

Apart from vast amounts of tea, the main ingredient of this event was Crumble.

For those who do not know this delicacy: it is the simplest thing on earth and also the most satisfying. What could possibly be better than warm fruit, topped with crispy sweet topping from the oven?

A raspberry experiment...

Originally it was my Irish uncle Frank who taught my brother Olivier the recipe when we were little, but over the 4 years in London I have practiced and perfected. (kids love the messy mixing of the topping, the messier the better!)

The main lesson is that it is the combination of ingredients is where the real skill lies.
If the fruit is more soggy (raspberries) > add more flower to the topping
If the fruit is more dry (old apples) > add more butter.

If the fruitis more acidic (mango) > add more sugar.
etc. etc.

Then there is the quality of the ingredients:
Chunky moscova or demerara sugar and whole grain spelt flower are brilliant in the topping, while older apples or a variety of different kinds usually help the filling. Raspberries amp up the flavour of the pie,  but are more acidic and need apple to balance.

Rhubarb with Lavender honey...

Thirdly there is the addition of something extra.
The bog standard Apple crumble is brilliant already.
But if you want to make crumble really exciting, try using fresh ground cinnamon bark instead of powder. (It is an amazing difference) Cardamom is also a great addition to apples and it also works well with raspberries.
Or experiment with honey:  drizzle lavender honey over rhubarb. Or try Lime blossom honey on apples, yum!

If you are really adventurous you could try my New England version (merging a peach cobbler with crumble) adding lavender flowers to peaches. Truly a brilliant combination.
Vanilla pods and Pears are also great friends. (but make sure not to make it too sweet)

Newton's Pride

There are millions of possibilities, each one better than the next.

I remember really enjoying one of my more successful dinners, where one of the guests had brought his own apples… There we all were after the main course, peeling and assembling our own pudding… Ha. The Apples were an ancient race called ‘Newton’s Pride’ and how proud we were of the result 🙂

Sorry I am getting hungry again…

PS. thanks sooo much Bella for climbing in through the bathroom window when we locked ourselves out yesterday. And thanks Victor for letting us in… Hope you both enjoyed the adventure and the crumble. 🙂

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