Sunday 2 October 2011

Tea-time treats and memories ...

I’m going back to the time when I first took an interest in cooking ... first of all it was cooked breakfasts with the excitement of taking it upstairs to my parents ... I seem to recollect “the works” ... eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms – and I was quite young: 8 or 9 I guess. 

Tea Party for a group of artists in
Paris1929 (by Jules-Alexandre Grun)
I went off those because I ‘overdosed’ on eating mushrooms and that was that for a few years!  I ate too many ... as greedy kids can do!  Also I probably got into the habit of staying in bed to read, cuddle the cat – who I could not possibly disturb! - for many hours: enjoyable days – wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a child again .. no cares in the world and plenty of time to read?

Tea-time has come to mind ... as I am going to meet someone for the first time this week – and this will be one big delight for both of us ... a blogging friend from over the pond – we hope to meet Tuesday afternoon.  Excitement looming!  I will post about it next weekend – as in between I have another date to be kept – on Wednesday.

Tea Time ideas -
Mrs Beeton
Tea-time seems to have done a full circle ... Mrs Beeton, that most revered of cookery writers, dealt with every aspect of household management possible.  The Georgians and Victorians really spread their wings with tea-time treats ... so many new things were being imported in or tried out, or invented ... new recipes with new ingredients ...

... all being consumed by huge families in the most show-off style possible in the dining room newly decorated – new wall paper and fabrics, new bone china, different style dishes to serve the food off ... times changed – World War 1, the Depression, World War 2, rationing ... until Sir Harold Macmillan said “We’ve never had it so Good” ...

We probably did have it so good ... my parents were very good gardeners and my mother was an excellent cook – so we did have fresh fruit and vegetables, had our own chickens and after the War years kept a few pigs (smoking the bacon and hams) ...

The Kenwood Chef  (+/- 1953)
designed by Mr Ken Wood
We were always in the garden playing in the trees, riding our bikes, swinging on the swing, doing things kids do ...  so come tea-time we were ready for a good slice of cake.  About the time I moved onto wanting to make cakes or puddings (as we called desserts) the Kenwood mixing machine had come out.  Frankly I’m glad I was born in the era of appliances!

From an early age I made Victoria sponges all the time ... probably most of the raw mix was consumed before it ever got into the oven! and if I’d made small sponge cakes – they’d have been eaten before they got to the tea-table ... we couldn’t cut into a cake – could we?!  The ones I made were usually coffee, chocolate, or plain if we had plenty of jam to fill the middle.

We always used self-raising flour and to this day I cannot stand baking powder ... it seems to leave a taste in my mouth ... sometimes worse than others ... and we always had plain sponges – because my mother could not stand vanilla.  Mrs Beeton calls them Victoria or Jam Sandwiches.

The recipe I’m referring to for Mrs Beeton’s Victoria or Jam Sandwiches is made with plain flour and baking-powder!  On looking I see that self-raising flower was invented by Henry Jones and patented in 1845 – it does use baking powder ... but it seems the mix within the flour is finer and perhaps the proportions are more accurate, when we used the bought self-raising type.

For years ‘I was deprived’ of vanilla – when I was about 16 and we could walk up to the village from school I remember finding vanilla slices ... puff pastry interlined with cream and jam, topped off with vanilla icing and a swirl of chocolate ..  more commonly known as mille feuille ... delicious and a real treat.

We did have almond essence ... and for that I move onto macaroons – which certainly my mother made ... and I know that when I cooked for her at her Care Home I used to churn them out.  Mrs Beeton features macaroons – under the categories ‘Recipes for Biscuits’ and ‘Recipes for Sweetmeats’ – this is from a 1924 version I have – which runs to 1680 pages!

A few years ago I went to afternoon tea at the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly, overlooking Green Park in London (5 star luxury hotel) ... the tiers of afternoon delicacies (fancies) were quite extraordinary – sandwiches ... many flavours, scones, and lots of biscuits, tiny cakes ... almost petit fours style ... highly decorated, full of cream, fruits and jam.

Now when we go out we can get ‘Macarons’ in coats of many colours ... the double deckers ranging in so many flavours ... raspberry, chocolate, truffle, green matcha tea with fillings of jam, ganache or buttercream ...

So on Tuesday I am looking forward to my tea time treat of some delicious cake – I suspect not macaroons ... though I still love the plain ones, made on rice paper – and meeting a fellow blogger and having a good old tea-time chat.

Dear Mr Postman .. all is quiet with my Mama – though I know she would be very interested to know that I’m meeting one of my blogging friends from the States – she was always amazed to hear about other bloggers.  We are still very hot and it’s quite extraordinary to think we’re in October and the temperature has been over 84 degs F (29 degC) – I’m not sure it’s good for the wildlife .. but we can do nothing about the weather.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Karen Jones Gowen said...

What an absolutely delightful post. I can just see you fixing up "the works" and being so careful about all of it. What a treat for your parents! I look forward to the day when I can meet you there for tea, only I'm afraid we might not be able to understand each other due to our different accepts. I know, I'll bring my laptop!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

LOL, I meant accents not accepts! My laptop won't do me much good if I can't spell right :)

S. Susan Deborah said...

Hilary, your posts are always wholesome, you know. Just like your detailed comments, your posts are also equally delight-filled insights for readers like me. This post would have been complete if you could have added your recipe for a simple sponge cake, which I do think would have delighted your readers.

This post informed me of many things and I'm glad that I learnt something new. Your blog is one place where one cannot hurry but should stop, savour and think.

Thanks Hilary for your lovely posts.

Joy and peace for this new month and week,

jabblog said...

Delicious post in so many ways;-) I know what you mean about baking powder - it's an unpleasant aftertaste.
Enjoy your tea-time meeting!

Diane said...

Interesting post. Oh I have to agree half of the cake mixtures when I was a child never reached the cake tin, to me it was always the best part LOL. Diane

Patsy said...

Right, that's it. I'm going to have to have a baking day AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!!!

Bob Scotney said...

But the best thing is still 'licking out' the mixing bowl. a privilege I'm allowed less and less these days as it's not good for me.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Yikes as Lenny would say - I deleted my own replies!

@ Karen .. thanks I seem to remember getting things 'just right' .. not sure if I had to call for help - we had a very narrow staircase ..and the tray might have been a bit much!

I hope American & British accents won't be a problem .. otherwise on Tuesday I will have a headache - no we'll be fine .. get on like a house on fire.. spelling is another matter .... colour v color - and in this post flavour v flavor!

Would love to meet you for tea sometime ... and have a real good old 'gossip' ..

@ Susan .. you're so very kind - these sort of comments make a blogger's heart pluff up with happiness! I just try and give value in commenting and in my posts ..

Ah now sponge cakes - you know I probably haven't made a sponge cake since those days! Possibly one or two .. but I can send you the recipe ..

.. but cooking in India will be like cooking in South Africa .. just slightly different ingredients, different humidity etc etc .. - it makes a lot of difference in the result!!

I'll email you the recipe .. and I don't post recipes - because I'm a very avant garde cook - rarely measure or follow recipes .. and thankfully there are plenty of detailed cooks blogging my food though!

I really appreciate your comment - you too have a great October .. you are a very good teacher now - enjoy your time with the kids ..

Cheers Karen and Susan .. happy week ahead - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Janice - oh! I'm so glad you agree about the baking powder .. some people can't think what I'm talking about! I shall enjoy my Tuesday tea-time get together - thank you!

@ Diane .. oh I'm so glad you, like me, enjoyed the contents of the bowl rather than the actual cake .. mind you that was pretty good when the butter icing around!

@ Patsy .. are you starting baking at 6.30 in the evening?! Lovely to see you here .. when you have your cooking cookie day - enjoy! Please invite me up though ..

Cheers Janice, Diane and Patsy .. thanks so much for your wonderful comments - Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Too bad we have no tea time here. I'll admit, I don't drink tea, but I could handle the treats.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bob .. yes - you sure are right .. especially as kids - just sorry you can't revert to being a kid too often now - cake licking is such a good exercise!

@ Alex .. well you're right we don't really here .. at weekends perhaps we sit down still - but it's a flexible feast!

I'm sure we could arrange coffee to enable you to share the treats with us!

Thanks Bob and Alex - good to see you both .. cheers Hilary

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,
Another delightful post and a reminder of my confusion when I first arrived back to this land.
I was invited for 'tea' and thought I was only going to get 'tea'. Funny how 'Tea-time' involves more than just tea.
And your posting has made me rather hungry. Anyone for tea and cake and scones and who knows, maybe even a Staffordshire oatcake..if that's allowed :)
29.9 degrees c at Gravesend. Who'd of believed that.
Cheers and enjoy your Tea-time Tuesday....

Theresa Milstein said...

I love mushrooms too. Oooo, and mille feuille. And those macaroons remind me of that wonderful bakery in Paris.

Now I'm so hungry.

Thank you for such a delicious journey through some of your favorite treats.


A wonderful post, I saw an insight of a Hilary I didn't know existed.
Loved the childhood memories, wonderful.

This weather be gone by Wednesday because I am going to Bristol to see Daniel and a few relations(I was brought up there) and stop overnight. So if the weather changes blame me.

Have a good week

Joanne said...

I find I drink tea only in the colder months. I like to have a cup of green tea in the evenings, but as soon as the warm months arrive, the tea falls by the wayside. So I'm just getting into tea season here!

Enjoy your blog chat, sounds like a great time :)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

My mouth is watering, Hilary. Such delicious treats. Wish I could be there having tea with you. One day, hopefully.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary -

You sound like a wonderful cook. Now, I'm hungry again, and it's much too late to eat!

Have fun with your blogging friend. It's a true delight to meet an online friend. I've had that pleasure several times this year.

Susan :)

Chris Edgar said...

Hi Hilary -- succulent post -- I'm sure your "the works" is like none other, even to this day. I can definitely get a sense of how much love you had for your parents as a kid, and that is touching to experience.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gary .. you're so right even now we never really know what "tea" means if we're invited to share teatime .. the high tea - always flummoxed me .. something I'd never come across .. the table was groaning! Delicious though .. Staffordshire Oatcakes sound good ..

The weather has been quite incredible .. and one last day of it sadly .. thanks - I'm looking forward to tomorrow ..

@ Theresa .. I love mushrooms now .. and still do mille feuille, but we don't cook with it so much. I was going to write just about macaroons and the patisserie Laduree .. but as usual the post became something slightly different ...

I know when I read bloggers' posts on food .. I crave their delights - whatever time of day it is! Glad you enjoyed this ...

@ Yvonne .. I'm tucked away along the coast .. I bring in childhood memories occasionally but don't want to make it too personal .. though it is me - as the posts are all things I'm interested in.

I know Yvonne .. but lets hope you can have a dry time in Bristol .. and enjoy seeing Daniel and your relations .. it looks a lovely city. Have a wonderful time ..

@ Joanne .. I must say we do that here .. but sometimes with the length of days .. a good cup of tea and fruit cake late afternoon can sustain us til supper rolls around when the light starts going .. sometimes quite late.

I decided I didn't need tea yesterday .. it was too hot - I suspect that's the last day of feeling like that .. and I have a reason to have tea tomorrow .. we will I'm sure ..

@ Joylene ... one day we'll get together .. a cup of tea by your lake sounds wonderful .. such views ..

@ Susan ... I certainly could cook - just rather haphazard now ..

Thanks - I'm so looking forward to tomorrow .. it'll be a real treat - and yes I've read about your meetings with fellow bloggers - so much fun!

@ Chris .. lovely to see you - yes .. it always an amazing experience to give back to ones parents and share their joy. We were lucky in so many ways .. and had a very good grounding in just about everything - little tasters of life ..

Thanks so much for coming by .. Gary, Theresa, Yvonne, Joanne, Joylene, Susan and Chris - enjoy your weeks .. Hilary

The Blonde Duck said...

I wish we had tea-time growing up!

Unknown said...

I am so jealous. I can't cook worth beans. Well, that's not exactly true. I can cook but don't really enjoy it. I never bake. Probably because I never find the time. But, those pictures make me want to eat dessert.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Blonde Duck .. you love your desserts and cakes .. perhaps you're making up for lost time?!

@ Clarissa .. I love cooking and don't do enough of it - love being creative and different ..

.. when I bake I have to be very very careful and follow the recipe - not something I often do!

The photos are rather enticing .. I just might be tempted with a tea time treat tomorrow!

Thanks Blonde Duck and Clarissa - good to see you - Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I used to do so much baking when our kids still lived at home, their friends called me a bake-a-holic. (Didn't stop them from stuffing their faces, though.) First pie I ever made, at the age of 8 or 9, was a complete disaster, though. It was lemon meringue, and the only good part about it was the lemon filling. I used my hands to fit the crust into the pan, so it was, shall we say, a tad tough, and the meringue wasn't whipped nearly long enough so it was flat, flat, flat. Enjoyed your post.

The Exception said...

Hi Hillary - I heave the day off today and found this tea post a delightful treat. I love tea and hae enjoyed it with French Press coffee and scones from the small towns of Western Australia to regular coffee and scones and shortbread in England and Ireland... Always a treat that I share with my daughter whenever possible - In fact, we do a high tea for her birthday most every year with fancy hats - she loves it. (Suddenly I thought of Keeping Up APpearances" as I believe the Buckets often have "tea"?) What a lovely post. I hope that you have a delightful time on Tuesday. I wanted you to know that I do love your posts though rarely comment as it is difficult for me to read the google mystery word/letters... But I am here reading and loving your writing.

Marinela said...

Hilary, I love your posts they are always interesting and beautiful posts!

Shirley Wells said...

What a wonderful post. However, I feel the urge to make a sponge now (definitely no baking powder). I always make extra so I can eat some of the mix before it goes in the oven.

I had afternoon tea at the Ritz several years ago. What a treat!

Patsy said...

Hilary, I do sometimes bake in the evenings - not yesterday though. I waited until this morning to make my tart.

Julie Flanders said...

How exciting, I hope you have a wonderful visit with your blogging friend!

This post made me so hungry, everything looks and sounds so delicious. I think the jam sandwich cake is my favorite, yum!!!

Wonderful post as always. :)

Connie Arnold said...

Thanks for sharing the lovely memories, Hilary! I loved tea time when we visited London and think it's a terrific tradition. All those delicious looking goodies are making me hungry!

Susan Scheid said...

Oh, so many delicious things about this post (literally and figuratively). So sweet to think of you taking a cooked breakfast up to your parents (& we know what it is to overdose--we have neighbors who give us the most lovely wild mushrooms that they gather . . . but we learned the hard way that moderation is required). Have a lovely visit with your blog friend. I do so love that this can happen--from cyber to real world, but a short step, sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Macaroons! I haven't thought about them since I was a child. But I didn't discover mushrooms until much later in my life. Jen loves them; I just think they're okay! But I love to see them on the grass when I'm out walking. I used to pick them to see how they felt.

We are finally COOL here in Virginia, too cool, really. But I don't want to be as hot again as we were, not in the 80s as you are.

I'm so glad you liked my excerpt #3 from the memoir I'm ghost writing. You are one of my best supporters! Thanks for cheering me on!!
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan .. I'm sure if I'd had had kids .. I'd have been baking too - but don't we all remember stuffing our faces with home made biscuits, buns etc? Funny - how we remember the first attempts - that was quite ambitious: lemon meringue pie .. patting the pastry out with your hands = yes tough!! Oh dear poor topping ... at least you had the filling to guzzle down!

@ TE - how lovely to see you here ..Yes - tea can mean so many things .. and shortbread is a favourite .. I wanted to write just about macaroons - but as usual got stretched into the Mrs Beeton direction! High tea - always used to flummox me - I guess we never had that sort of food (tinned fish!) at home .. and so I was definitely not used to it - or eating so early. But it's an easy way to eat - you give people choices and they can select whichever delicacy they'd like and in which ever order they'd like! I can imagine your daughter and her friends having a ball - or a Mad Hatters Tea Party ..!!

Your remembrance of Mrs Bucket - is such a good one .. that conjures up so many memories .. I occasionally see episodes now - when they're put on to infill time!

The funny thing is .. I'd only just put back word verification for Judy and her post - but I'd been getting spam comments (that drive me nutty!) .. and though they don't get through to the post - they get into my inbox .. one day I had 14 of my own - I was very unimpressed .. so Judy was the excuse to put word verification on. That must be so irritating for you - because those letters are a jumble to read sometimes ..

Thanks Susan and TE - wonderful to see you both here .. lovely comments - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marinela .. thank you - glad you enjoyed my tea time treats

@ Shirley .. oh thank goodness to the no baking powder .. oh now that's clever thinking .. mine used to come out very thin!! Isn't tea at the Ritz something .. piano playing with tables laid on the dais - then all those delicacies to tempt us .. I'm sure dinner was off that night?!

@ Patsy .. how did the Bakewell Tart go? I do love a slice of BT .. delicious!

@ Julie .. a little snag with the meeting - but that's life .. yes a good Victoria Sponge filled with home made jam is very delicious .. especially if it's warm from the oven.

@ Connie .. Perhaps it tends to be something we do here in the UK more than elsewhere ... and there seem to be lots of places for tea around now .. glad you enjoyed your visit to London with its traditions.

Thanks Marinela, Shirley, Patsy, Julie and Connie .. writing about food always makes me hungry and wanting to get into the kitchen - lovely seeing you here - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan .. I guess I'd just started learning to cook and decision made ... that's so kind of your neighbours but too much is too many mushrooms isn't it - can you dry them for later in the year?

It is fantastic that we can meet blogging friends if our travels take us into similar vicinities - sadly anno domini has got the better of this meeting.

@ Ann .. like you I love macaroons .. mushrooms I go in and out of using .. but I do love stuffing them for an easy party dish or added vegetable. Those gills under the mushrooms are quite extraordinary aren't they - under that smooth velvety top .. with a lovely colour ...

Yes - we're cooling down - Arctic air by the end of the week!!! Still warm for now .. but damp .. it sounded like your weather was pretty unbearable a few weeks ago and glad you're feeling more comfortable.

Ann - your writing is superb .. it's a pleasure to read the excerpts - I love them and am always caught up in the story .. well done and definitely don't stop writing or ghost-writing.

Thanks Susan and Ann .. cheers for now - Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

How exciting to meet your blogging friend from the states! I can't wait to hear all about it! My first tea time visit was with a dear friend from South Africa who moved in down the street from us. She invited our family over for some of the lovely cakes and mini sandwiches you have pictured here, and we immediately became close friends! Everything looks scrumptuous! Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie .. well unfortunately anno domini took over .. so it's not to be - and I was like a small child .. so excited!

Really - a South African tea .. yes they grow Rooi Bos out there - red herbal tea .. it's delicious ..

Sounds like she did you proud with cakes and mini sandwiches etc - no wonder you remained friends!

Delighted to see .. and we'll meet for tea one day! Cheers Hilary

nutschell said...

I love your posts--and the pictures that go with them. Tea is one of my most favorite things, and even though I'm not English, I do make it a point to have my tea time!
BTW, Come drop by my blog to claim your AWARD!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nutschell .. thank you so much - just delighted to hear you enjoying visiting the blog and its accompanying photos ..

A good tea round the table with plenty of chatter - is a wonderful way to wind down before the evening ahead starts. Great that you enjoy your cup of tea ..

Cheers and thanks again for the award .. delighted to have it .. Hilary

Sara said...


Boy am glad I read this post AFTER I ate lunch. Wow, the pictures and the descriptions made my mouth water.

I'm a terrible cook. Well, that's not exactly true. I have a few dishes I can prepare relatively well. Fortunately, for me the men in my life have always had a knack for cooking. Although, both of my daughters are good cooks and enjoy cooking.

My mom wasn't great either. She hated getting up in the morning to fix breakfast, but that's what a good mom was supposed to do. We'd wake up and hear cabinets slamming and pots and pans banging. Then she'd call us to breakfast. None of us wanted to go downstairs. Hmmm...maybe that's the reason I'm such a good cook:~)

I hope you enjoy your meeting. It's been HOT where you're at!!

Have a good day.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. oh well you're probably ready for a cup of tea and a slice of Victoria Sponge now?

You're lucky that JC is a good cook and enjoys cooking at home too .. but glad your daughters have picked up some flair from their Dads ..

No wonder you woke up .. saved the alarm clock, I guess!! But I can understand your reluctance to get downstairs to your morning burnt offering breakfast ...

Well .. sadly anno domini took over - so we've postponed it for a year or two!

It has been desperate here .. though everyone has been loving the warmth and Indian Summer - but Arctic air on the way - so winter kicks in very soon. I expect your London daughter has been in contact .. saying Mum it's HOT over here!! It was much hotter in London .. at least we have the coastal breeze ...

You too .. have a good week .. Hilary

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

We are having above-seasonal temperatures right now as well, which is lovely since we are heading into a long weekend here.

It's Thanksgiving and there certainly is lots to be thankful for (including blogging friends)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chase .. I forget your Thanksgiving is earlier than the States' .. and I hope it stays hot for you .. it's cooling down here.

Have a lovely long weekend - a good break away from school .. or just a good break .. enjoy it .. Hilary

Anonymous said...

Growing up in the great state of Michigan, we drank tea, although we did not have tea time. We drank milk with our pastries.

One of my best friend's parents owned a bakery. On Saturdays, we would go there early in the morning and clean trays and other tools of the trade. In return, we would receive free pastries, breads, and such. Warm and fresh. All washed down with ice cold milk. So delicious. Ahhh ... the memories.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Stephen .. as kids I'm sure we had milk too - just wasn't my favourite .. still isn't - and being the eldest I suppose I had the choice of tea or squash. Tea time features pretty high in our day .. that refreshing cuppa in the afternoon.

Well you had the right friends didn't you .. that must have been very interesting going to the bakery and helping out .. and that freshly baked smell .. scented breads, sweet iced buns ... I can read your enjoyment in your comment ... yes - memories!

Thanks for your tea time memories they sound rather delicious! Hilary

amy@ Souldipper said...

I thoroughly enjoy stories depicting your life in England - at various ages and stages, Hilary. I wonder if I will recognize the blogger friend! How exciting.

When I was younger, with a more determined metabolism, I loved those vanilla bars. Amazing that they are still made and decorated in the same manner here in Canada.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Amy - good to see you .. childhood memories so different for all of us - I love hearing about your ruralhood days.

Weren't tea time treats delicious .. I occasionally still have one - very occasional! Vanilla slices we call them .. and I'm glad they look the same and taste the same ... so much is reformulated - and it's not the same.

Lovely to see you - have a good week .. Hilary