26 October 2009


Very excited about my new English Journeys collection from Penguin Books:

While journeying cross-country on a side saddle sounds rather uncomfortable,

I reckon a walk in the wheat fields would be quite pleasant,

especially if there's a picnic hamper involved (game pie, anyone?)...

and a garden visit or two along the way:

But must put my (virtual) English journeys aside, as I'm headed off on a (real) American journey tomorrow. Then again, I'm sure I could fit just a few volumes in my hand luggage...

20 October 2009

postcard teas

When presented with a tea menu, my response until now has been to stare completely dumbfounded, then (embarrassed by my own incompetence) order 'ordinary black tea.'

I suppose I could be forgiven, coming from American, coffee-drinking stock. But after so many years in London, it was time for a change. So I enrolled in the Tea School at Postcard Teas:

The shop is in an 18th-century building just off New Bond Street. Elegantly minimalist, the white walls and single wooden table provide the perfect backdrop for the caddies...

and pouches of tea,

as well as the Tea Mail,

by which you can send a pouch of tea anywhere in the world.

The Tea School is actually a series of four tastings led by the owner, Timothy d'Offay. Tim travels throughout Asia, working with and buying from the world's finest small-scale, family tea producers.

While the first session was a general introduction, the second focused on white and black teas. The most surprising was the Pu-erh tea: extremely earthy, with definite notes of hay, leather, and stable yard...not one I'll be ordering from the tea menu!

The third session covered green teas. I'd always thought all green teas were the same, so this was a revelation: six very different flavors from three different countries.

The next session (when Tim returns from Japan) will be on oolongs. I'm particularly excited about this one, as these were my favorites in the first tasting.

I was a bit nervous at the start, but I didn't need to be. While Tim is incredibly knowledgeable, he's also very friendly and down-to-earth. Definitely the most fun I've ever had in school!

17 October 2009

daylesford day, part four

On Friday, we drove out to Daylesford for our last course this term: Introduction to Cider and Apple Juice Making. When he's not managing the Market Garden at Daylesford, Jez runs his own artisan cider business using apples collected locally in the Vale of Evesham.

We started the day with crates of apples...

and Jez' own Heath Robinson-esque equipment, into which his assistants gamely fed apples for milling...

and pressing:

Jez talked us through the process step-by-step, then led us in a tasting of juices and ciders made from dessert, culinary, and cider apples. The juices had been pressed outside in the yard just minutes before, and the ciders came from Jez' own 'cider cellar' at home.

I was particularly excited by the bright flavors of the freshly pressed, unpasteurized juices. My favorite was Blenheim Orange, with Newton Wonder a close second.

After the tasting, we had lunch in the Daylesford Kitchen Garden, then piled into minivans for the short journey to Stow Cider, another artisan producer.

Here we experienced the process from start to finish. We shook the orchard trees to bring down a rain of apples,

used long poles to pull off the remaining apples, then gathered them into bags,

which we hefted back to base, where our apples were combined with apples of different varieties to produce the perfect blend:

We worked the mill and press in teams, filling the hopper with washed apples, scooping up the pomace, building the 'cheeses' (wrapping layers of pomace in cloth and sandwiching them between boards), pressing the cheeses, and dismantling the pressed cheeses.

In the end, we each took home 25 liters of juice to ferment into cider. And if you've never seen a 25-liter barrel, that's a LOT of cider!

14 October 2009

foodie favorites

I've already written about my passion for Ines Rosales Tortas. Now I've discovered another wafer-thin pantry must-have: Peter's Yard Crispbreads.

Not a bit like the ones you find in your average grocery, these traditional Swedish crispbreads, made with sourdough and rye, are so very light with a pleasantly gritty crunch:

And just look at those lovely bumps:

They're perfect with a bit of butter or thinly planed cheese.

In addition to the tins of small rounds, you can purchase tins of (very) large rounds to break off and share, like the ones I remember on Scandinavian breakfast tables.

But while they remind me of summers in Norway and Sweden, Peter's Yard is actually in Edinburgh! So a visit to the bakery and coffee house might just be a possibility.

13 October 2009

really rosie, part two

I was so excited about Rachel's Rosehip Syrup last year, she invited me round for a tutorial this year.

We gathered the rosehips, cleaned them, blitzed them in her food processor, then tipped them into boiling water. We boiled and strained them twice, leaving them to drip through scalded muslin, first for one hour then overnight.

The next morning, we added granulated sugar to the strained juice and, after dissolving the sugar, quickly boiled it into a syrup:

The bottled syrup is simply luminous,

and the taste is just as vibrant. Scrummy!

08 October 2009

new england in england

More autumnal goodness, this time in the form of a puzzle:

This covered bridge may be in Oregon, but it reminds me so much of Massachusetts.

I wish I'd taken more time back then to appreciate both the bridges and the leaves. I used to get terribly impatient come October, stuck behind 'leaf peepers' on my way to work. But now I completely forgive all those slow-driving, leaf-peeping tourists and simply long to return as one myself!

In the meantime, I'll continue sifting through my pile of russet and orange pieces, dreaming of New England in England.

06 October 2009

the icing on the cake

I'd been looking forward to last Tuesday for months, and it was indeed the most fabulous day at Divertimenti. Martha Swift, Lisa Thomas, and Frances Money demonstrated a selection of recipes from Martha and Lisa's new book, Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery:

When we arrived, the countertops were covered with freshly baked (but as yet undecorated) cupcakes. And after a brief introduction, Frances set her KitchenAid in motion, whipping up vanilla, lime and coconut, and rose buttercreams.

All three ladies then got busy with their palette knives, demonstrating how to make Primrose's signature swirl:

I watched closely, but they were so quick! Here's the lime and coconut and rose cupcakes, just ever so slightly smooshed from their journey back to Teddington:

While we sampled the iced cupcakes in class--the rose was heavenly!--Frances mixed up batters for basic Vanilla Cupcakes and Pecan and Orange Marmalade Cupcakes, a slightly less sweet breakfast treat.

The ladies were all so friendly and down-to-earth, and I had a really nice chat with Frances (in the middle) afterwards, who's from Texas!

Feeling very inspired to bake a batch, and I think the Pumpkin Cupcakes on page 86 could be just the thing...