Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A very 'trendy' Afternoon Tea Party

Want a civilised party?
Well why not have an old fashioned 'Afternoon Tea Party'?

The History of Afternoon Tea

Everything may not stop for tea at four o'clock any more, but afternoon tea
has a strong heritage, not to be forgotten

Tea, that most quintessential of English drinks, is a relative latecomer to British shores.
Although the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China, it was not until the mid 17century that tea first appeared in England.

Afternoon or 'High' tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840.
The Duchess would become hungry around four o'clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o'clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner.
The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon.

This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.
This pause for tea became a fashionable social event.
During the 1880's upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o'clock.
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves.Cakes and pastries are also served.

 An 'Afternoon High Tea Party' at my house all made by my own fair hands
(except the Cup Cakes)

Tea Etiquette

In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel of a cup with no handle is to place one’s thumb at the six o'clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o'clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance.

Tea cups with a handle are held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie up again allows balance. Pinkie up does mean straight up in the air, but slightly tilted. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand.

Do not stir your tea, with your tea spoon, in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o'clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o'clock position two or three times. Never leave your tea spoon in your tea cup. When not in use, place your tea spoon on the right side of the tea saucer. Never wave or hold your tea cup in the air. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer. If you are at a buffet tea hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap. The only time a saucer is raised together with the teacup is when one is at a standing reception.

Milk is served with tea, not cream. Cream is too heavy and masks the taste of the tea. Although some pour their milk in the cup first, it is probably better to pour the milk in the tea after it is in the cup in order to get the correct amount.

When serving lemon with tea, lemon slices are preferable, not wedges. Either provide a small fork or lemon fork for your guests, or have the tea server can neatly place a slice in the tea cup after the tea has been poured. Be sure never to add lemon with milk since the lemon's citric acid will cause the proteins in the milk to curdle.

I always have a  wide selection of tea available in the house


Thursday, 16 June 2011

Blood, Wine and War

The History of Sangria

Sangria—The word that once meant ‘blood’ is now one of the most popular drinks in the world. This refreshing concoction, usually made of fruit soaked in red wine, is a refreshing summer drink enjoyed around the word. But what are its origins? What is the history of sangria?

In order to discover the true history of sangria, we have to go back hundreds of years, when the world seemed much larger, modern history was unwritten, and vineyards were beginning to spread across the Iberian peninsula.

And the people who did this—the people who planted the ancient vineyards of Spain—did not arrive peacefully. They arrived spilling blood. They were the Romans. This was around 200 BC. They conquered Spain. They planted the vineyards that would one day become responsible for the very first sip of sangria.

The local citizens, in their quest for refreshment, and alcoholic enjoyment, created fruit punches from the red wines they were now enjoying. They called these drinks sangria. For they were the color of blood, and packed a punch because they were often fortified with a ‘punch’ of brandy.
This also explains why red wine is the most commonly used base for sangria—because those very Romans who planted vineyards thousands of years ago discovered that red grape varietals produced the best wine. Thus red grapes were planted, red wine was made, and red wine sangria was born.

Fast forward thousands of years and history was made in the United States when the sangria was brought to the 1964 world’s fair in New York City.

Sangria is now enjoyed around the world, in restaurants, cafes, bars, and especially at home. You can even buy pre-made sangria, but I recommend making your own. It is very easy, and far more delicious, with your choice of fresh fruits, wine, and any amount of ‘punch’ you desire.

For approximately 1½ litres of Sangria

1 bottle of red wine
Lemonade or Gaseosa
a shot glass of Brandy
a shot glass of Vodka
a shot glass of Grand Marnier or Cointreau
Lemon, orange and lime

Into a punch bowl or a large jug pour 1 bottle of red wine and more or less the same amount of lemonade (in Spain they use gaseosa). The quantity of lemonade depends on your taste. Add a good amount of ice.
Wash the fruit well as you are going to being using the peel as well. Then slice up the citrus fruits and add to the mix.
You can stop at that if you want a light drink but if you want a zing add a shot of Brandy,Vodka and a shot of Grand Marnier or Cointreau. This is up to you and you may want to experiment with it to find what you like.
Spanish people often add a little sugar but again this depends on your taste, personally I think a little sugar enhances the flavour.

oil on canvas

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Total lunar eclipse

Moon to turn blood red Wednesday 15th June as UK experiences total lunar eclipse

Sky watchers in the UK will be hoping for a cloudless sky on Wednesday evening so they can get the best view of the longest total lunar eclipse since 2000. The dramatic event will turn the moon blood red for 100 minutes during the period of totality. 
The eclipse begins at 6.24pm (BST) and ends at midnight but sunset doesn't occur in the UK until 9.19pm.

A total lunar eclipse in Japan, 2007: During totality light only reaches the moon
 through Earth's atmosphere, back-scattering blue light and making it appear red

Monday, 13 June 2011

Recipe of the day

Thai curry ingredients - Watercolour

(Krung Kaeng Pha Gai)

This recipe for Thai Jungle Curry, is based on a famous dish from Chiang Mai. Spicy and layered with flavor, Jungle curry is a splendid variation of red curry, but with the addition of a few key ingredients. While the authentic Jungle Curry is usually made with wild meats (which most Westerners would have trouble obtaining and stomaching), this is a version using chicken.

Serves 4
4 large chicken breasts, cut into pieces
Generous handfuls of fresh coriander, basil, and slivers of red chili for topping

for the Jungle Curry sauce
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 medium size piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh lemongrass , minced
2 Tbsp fresh green peppercorns
6 cloves garlic, chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves, cut into slivers with scissors (available frozen at Asian stores)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1-2 fresh red chilies
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. shrimp paste (available by the jar at Asian stores)
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 can good-quality coconut milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place all curry sauce ingredients in a food processor. Process well to form a sauce. If using a smaller chopper:only add a little of the coconut milk - just enough to keep the blades moving. The rest can be added later, along with the chicken.If you don't have a food processor or chopper: finely mince the ingredients and then stir all together in a bowl with the coconut milk to create the curry sauce.

Place the chicken in a casserole dish and pour the curry sauce over top. Mix together. Cover the curry and place in the oven for 1 hour. If adding vegetables: Remove curry after 40 minutes and add your vegetables, then return to the oven to bake for 20 more minutes.

Check the curry after 1 hour, ensuring the chicken is well cooked. If needed, return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until chicken is well done.

Before serving, stir sauce well and do a taste-test. If not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce (1/2 Tbsp. at a time) . If not spicy enough, add more chili or chili sauce. If too spicy, add a little more coconut milk or plain yogurt. If too sour for your taste, add a little sugar.

Serve right in the casserole dish, Top with generous amounts of fresh coriander and basil, and thin strips of fresh red chili. Serve with plain rice  ENJOY!

Thailand - Chiang Mai