Don’t Live In A Place Where High Tea Could Reasonably Be Served? Pffffft

Welcome to my friend Amy’s place. Newly separated and having gone from an historic manse to one room with a kitchen and bath, she has triumphed over any kind of needless transitional nonsense.  It is a place filled with fresh flowers, bright colors and all of her Granfmother’s china!  That is all she needs to pull off one of her high teas.

Above is Amy’s own picture of what she had arranged for me today. I am her 4th sitting since she came to reside here.

The simplicity was the key.  Just beautifully sliced strawberries with blueberries. A lovely cream scone – moist.  Unsalted butter is a must.  An elderberry jam not needed on this voyage.  And sandwiches with red pepper/peach jelly and cream cheese and cucumber and ham or any combination of the aforementioned with interesting breads.

The tea was to die for and put up by TAZO: “OM.”  It is a blend of green and black teas and natural flavours of cucumber and peach.  She was kind enough to give me some together with a scone for the road.

Other parts to this cozy room – just a couple –

Here is her charming day bed she has fitted out with an assortment of custom pillows and covers.  You can see the corner of the tea table lower right of photo.

On the wall opposite a lovely small blue upholstered chair next to  an antique granite-topped chest adorned with more flowers.  To the right of that is her kitchen.  All tastefully done with an economy of means but  not of effort.  So you see, grandmother’s traditions live on in any circumstance if you put your talent and time to it.

From a website called “Smitten Kitchen.”

Dreamy Cream Scones
America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably a low-protein brand such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup currants (I used dried cranberries, and chopped them into smaller bits)
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425°F.

2. Place flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl or work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade. Whisk together or pulse six times.

3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender or your fingertips and quickly cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Stir in currants. If using food processor, remove cover and distribute butter evenly over dry ingredients. Cover and pulse 12 times, each pulse lasting 1 second. Add currants and pulse one more time. Transfer dough to large bowl.

4. Stir in heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

5. Transfer dough and all dry, floury bits to countertop and knead dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Form scones by either a) pressing the dough into an 8-inch cake pan, then turning the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, cutting the dough into 8 wedges with either a knife or bench scraper (the book’s suggestion) or b) patting the dough onto a lightly floured work surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle, cutting pieces with a biscuit cutter, and pressing remaining scraps back into another piece (what I did) and cutting until dough has been used up. (Be warned if you use this latter method, the scones that are made from the remaining scraps will be much lumpier and less pretty, but taste fine. As in, I understand why they suggested the first method.)

6. Place rounds or wedges on ungreased baking sheet and bake until scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

At Gampa’s Table

I had Easter dinner this afternoon with a cousin who took his first steps around this  table of long ago.  He is now in his early 60s, I am just 70.  The warm tones of the old color photo let you know at once this must be the 1950s.

Belle Porter, Gampa’s English downstairs “lady” [you could never call them maids – they were the ladies] would serve the food with her pince-nez balancing delicately on her nose and making corrections to my childish actions in low, kindly tones.  Meat was on a silver parsley-ringed platter; green vegetables looked stunning in a silver bowl, and the mashed potatoes were peaked to perfection.  I now know that the only beef served there was aged and what a treat.  Lamb was not served with mint jelly.  No it was served with home made mint sauce and it was warm and sweet.

Grandmother had died the year I was born so my father sat at the head of the table opposite Gampa.  He was weak on one side due to a brain tumor so his foot lay heavily at times on the “buzzer”‘  beneath the carpet Grandmother used to touch to ring Belle for the next course.  Poor Belle, she popped in and out like a cuckoo when Dad hit that buzzer multiple times by mistake.

There were nothing but arm chairs at Gampa’s table.  He felt it was not very democratic for a host and hostess to have the only comfortable chairs with arms. He therefore  had an antique chair he favored copied eleven times by an old Rochester firm named Hayden hat specialized in reproductions.

A word about the silver loving cup in the center of the table. Gampa hated people who went as guests to peoples’ homes and commented on the contents therein.   One poor guest asked what the silver thing was in the middle of the table.  Gampa looked at him and said slowly and calmly: “my father’s ashes; like them near me when I eat.”

My brothers and another male cousin are all living out-of-town with large and growing families of their own but cousin Curtice and I hold down the fort here in Rochester.  We no longer have dinners at one of our homes but at the retirement home where he lives.  It is lovely and we have our even lovelier, warm memories.  We are blessed to have one another and to have learned about the lasting value of family and not “things” at Gampa’ s table.

Bulwinkle Teaches Us How to Catch, Prepare and Cook at Thanksgiving Turkey

SamHenry will be back soon with a seriously good recipe from my grandmother’s cook book.  In the interim, here is Bullwinkle with information about Thanksgiving that will keep you laughing as you prep and cook your bird.

Sarah Ferguson is Drinking French Ginger Tea – Should We?

Our grandmothers used ginger quite liberally – fresh ginger.  Ginger cookies were made with fresh ginger,  jams had fresh ginger.  But today, the taste of fresh ginger is something we know nothing about unless we are into Asian food.  Ginger snaps from the box are nothing like the real deal.

Now it seems there is something called French Ginger Tea and I found out about it from an article about Sarah Ferguson:

She claims to have adopted a strict fitness regime based on exercising, drinking lots of water and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables.

The duchess is also a regular drinker of French ginger tea, which she dubs ‘a great disinfectant for the body’.

There are many websites with good recipes and some even add lemon or honey.  Here is an intriguing one at another blog called Do Right Fear Not.

Ham and Biscuit Ring – Perfect End to a Holiday Ham

In my paternal grandmother’s notebook she kept for her cook was the following recipe written in her hand.  The notebook no doubt dates from the 20s’ and 30s’ since she died in 1941.

Ham Biscuit Ring

  • Put through the food grinder (you can use a Cuisinart but don’t get the meat too fine) 1 lb cooked ham.
  • Add ham to your favorite rich biscuit recipe, adding an extra teaspoon of baking powder to the mix.
  • Bake in well-greased ring mold until done – in moderate oven (350)
  • Turn out on hot platter and fill the center with hot buttered peas.
  • Surround with peach halves filled with ground nut meats, brown sugar and butter having been glazed on a cookie sheet in the oven (375).

Shrove Tuesday Discovery: My Brit Ancestors Ate Pancakes Topped with Sugar and Lemon, Oh My

Photo Elliot Smith - the GUARDIAN

In perusing the UK’s Telegraph (no recipe just a discussion about the auld pancake of yore) and the Guardian this fine Shrove Tuesday, I made a shocking discovery for an American in love with fluffy pancakes topped with butter and syrup:  My Great Grandmother enjoyed thin pancakes (like the French) topped with lemon and sugar.  Brits wax very sentimental about these.

The Guardian provides an overview of the development of the British pancake going back to 1594.  That seems far enough when most humans can’t trace their lineage back more than a few generations.

…[M]odern pancakes are descended from those specifically designed to use up fat before the beginning of Lent, which means they tend to be heavier on the eggs and butter than, say, the fluffy American stack, or the squat Russian blini.

Forewarned is forearmed as they say.  Don’t look to these for any dietary benefit only taste.

Here is a website that will help you convert metric measurements.  Learn to do this because we are going global.

As for the pancakes, the key to remember is this.  The first pancake is always a mess.  That’s just how it is for all of us.  So let the cook eat the first one.  Looks bad; tastes good.  From the Guardian:

Makes about 8

125g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
225ml whole or semi-skimmed milk
Small knob of butter

1. Sift the flour in a large mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, and pour the egg and the yolk into it. Mix the milk with 2 tbsp water and then pour a little in with the egg and beat together.

2. Whisk the flour into the liquid ingredients, drawing it gradually into the middle until you have a smooth paste the consistency of double cream. Whisk the rest of the milk in until the batter is more like single cream. Cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

3. Heat the butter in a frying pan on a medium-high heat – you only need enough fat to just grease the bottom of the pan. It should be hot enough that the batter sizzles when it hits it.

4. Spread a small ladleful of batter across the bottom of the pan, quickly swirling to coat. Tip any excess away. When it begins to set, loosen the edges with a thin spatula or palette knife, and when it begins to colour on the bottom, flip it over with the same instrument and cook for another 30 seconds. (If you’re feeling cocky, you can also toss the pancake after loosening it: grasp the handle firmly with both hands, then jerk the pan up and slightly towards you.)

5. Pancakes are best eaten as soon as possible, before they go rubbery, but if you’re cooking for a crowd, keep them separate until you’re ready to serve by layering them up between pieces of kitchen roll [could be parchment paper – I wouldn’t use waxed].

The King’s Grand Service – The British Royal Banquet Table Since George IV

Although there is one post here on royal banquets, many have reached this site searching for information on the silver flatware used during a royal banquet.  Not all research has been completed but enough has been unearthed that a few salient facts are available.

As you can see by the following excerpt, more than just flatware comprises the Royal Grand Service:

The magnificent dining silver-gilt used at a State Banquet is from the Grand Service, originally made for George IV when Prince of Wales. It was first used to celebrate the 73rd birthday of his father, George III, in 1811.  As king, George IV continued to add to the service throughout his life, and by his death it included more than 4,000 pieces. Today the Grand Service forms the core of the royal silver and encompasses the best examples of 19th-century design, drawing on Egyptian, Greek, Roman and medieval sources.  The dining plate is dominated by the monumental Mercury and Bacchus and Apples of the Hesperides candelabra, which stand over a metre tall.  Made by the master goldsmith Paul Storr and designed by the sculptor  John  Flaxman,  they  are  always  placed  on  the  table  opposite Her Majesty The Queen and the visiting Head of State. [royalcollection.org]

It is meant to overwhelm.  Looking at the flatware, it is given over to what is called fiddle, thread and shell patterns.  It is best illustrated if we look at the silver flatware “Kings Pattern” that Tiffany produced around the turn of the century and that was wildly popular.  It incorporates many of the decorative details of the above flatware and follows the development of these patterns through the Edwardian Era.  Replicas were found in every hotel in America.

As time permits, more research will be done on this.  Meanwhile, it is hoped that many of your questions have been answered here.  If not, leave your question in a comment.

Yellow Melon from Brazil is Delicious and More Widely Available

Trying to wean yourself from sweets to fruit that is good for you goes better when you allow yourself a special fruit.  This week I discovered a Yellow Melon from Brazil.  The packaging was enticing.  It was in a net closed on either end  with a  material handle affixed for easy transport.

These almost white meat melons have been available in the US since about 2008.  The company that grows and distributes them has been cleared for fruit flies.

With an oval shape but with a size approximating that of a cantaloupe, these will produce 2 ample dishes of melon balls.  The taste is mild and sweet. The texture is smoother than that of a honeydew.  Treat yourself.

Here is a website that will allow you to keep up with produce world-wide:

http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail.asp?id=30695

Traditional Lamb Cake Recipe from Griswold Vintage Mold Insert

Now that Easter is not really so far off as we would imagine, if you remember lamb cakes from your childhood or are fortunate to have someone or a bakery make one now, you are very fortunate but you can easily learn to prepare one  yourself.  All you will need is a lamb cake mold  of your choice – new or used or antique.One famous mold is the Griswold 866 (no longer manufactured).  Ebay is a good source for the vintage Griswold mold manufactured by an Erie, PA company that is now defunct.  There is one for sale today for $149 or best offer and another at auction starting at $55.  You need to shop around.  Go to this page to learn more about the Griswold  molds and to know the ones from their line that are best.

NOTE:  You do not have to use the Griswold mold or any other cast iron mold.  Heavy aluminum is OK and good success is being experienced by people using the  lighter aluminum molds.  That gives you a range of prices and sources for molds.

Here are photos of my Griswold mold that I bought on eBay a few years ago, still in its original box.

The mold comes in two parts. The two parts are NOT attached

The back piece below has vent holes (see the one in the head).

There was an insert that came with this mold that had the recipe for the lamb cake.  These inserts, (like the one below) are sold on eBay but the internet has several sources for just the recipe.

Here is the classic recipe that came with the mold in an insert like the one pictured above in the purple frame.  This is from a wonderful site found here. It includes the recipe for the icing.  I can confirm as a former librarian that the text at this site and in my insert are identical.

The key to a successful lamb cake is a carefully seasoned mold.

Cast-iron baking molds must be seasoned before being used for the first time, and re-seasoned as necessary. This helps seal the pores of the metal to prevent sticking. Here is a larger picture of a well-seasoned cast-iron lamb mold.

  1. To season a brand-new cast-iron mold or pan, heat oven to 300 degrees. Thoroughly wash the cast-iron in hot, soapy water. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Apply a liberal coat of solid vegetable shortening to every nook and cranny. Place on a baking sheet, open side up, and heat 1 hour. Cool, pour off any remaining shortening, and wipe clean with a paper towel. DO NOT WASH!
  2. Before pouring in batter, using a pastry brush, apply solid vegetable shortening to every crevice and then flour. Tap out any excess flour. The mold is now ready to be filled. After unmolding the finished product, don’t wash, just wipe the interior with a paper towel and the exterior with a damp cloth.
  3. On subsequent uses of the mold, even though it has been seasoned, before pouring in the batter, the mold must re-greased and heated for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and pour off any accumulated shortening, cool, and re-grease and flour before pouring in the batter. See the instructions for Easter Lamb Cake recipe.
  4. To reseason a mold or pan that is starting to stick, repeat step 1.
  5. To reseason a rusty, old cast-iron mold, heat the oven to 275 degrees. Clean the pan very well, making sure to scrub off any dried/baked on food. Dry it thoroughly and coat liberally with solid vegetable shortening. Bake the pan in the oven for at least 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and pour out the excess shortening. Then put the pan back in the oven for at least 2 more hours. Repeat this process at least twice, more if the pan was really rusty.
  6. DON’T DO THIS:
    • Don’t stack cast-iron molds or pans on top of each other. They will get scratched and lose their stick-free properties.
    • To avoid condensation and, therefore, rust, don’t store cast-iron molds or pans with their lids on.

Even if you never make or eat one of these cakes, the history of holiday baking molds is fascinating.

Enhanced Carrot Cake in an Enhanced Turn of the Century Kitchen

Just park your "brolly" and come into the most interesting kitchen in, well, the United States and Texas.

A delightful family bought a large old turn of the penultimate century home in my village.  The wife, a Canadian transplant and I have cooking and art and music and home restoration and even Canada in common.  She has painted and sanded and worked her way through each room of this manse to bring a new life to an historic home.  Her kitchen is the heart of the “plant” and that is where she embellishes recipes daily.  She is a mother to three but all are in college except one.  She is, therefore, cooking for 3 and often me.

Catherine went out and found period cupboards and hutches to put in the kitchen.  She had the granite kitchen island installed with her sink across from her range/oven.  The brick pillar is what remains of a chimney for an old pot-belly stove.

Harry James is the family’s Beagle mix.  Make no mistake.  He is the king of this castle.  He stays close to the cook because it’s warm and fulfilling in the kitchen.

Large windows overlook the gardens in back of the house.  The pantry can be seen at the far end of the room.Harry James has his own chair at his own large window.

Below, a picture of an interesting lamp Catherine picked up at a garage sale.  She has an eye for prints and old things of all periods and she pulls them all together in vignettes that are fresh and imaginative and completely her own.

Behold, the better carrot cake - a lot like a better mousetrap! It really grabs you if you love fruit cakes.

Catherine loves to tweak recipes and to generally add more of the healthy ingredients to them.  With the carrot cake she baked this week, she added extra nuts (walnuts AND pecans), cran-raisins (in addition to raisins called for by the recipe), extra carrots and, in her one slip from the healthy pathway, she used coconut oil instead of vegetable.  What a moist, sweet cake.  We enjoyed it without frosting.

Just take your favorite carrot cake recipe and tweak it a la Catherine. Bravery in the culinary field of battle should be recognized.  Catherine, this is in honor of  your successful cooking campaigns over many years.  You get a SamHenry heart of appreciation ♥