Whilst in the UK one of the most enjoyable times I spent was with some friends for a birthday 'house' party (here).
and just some of the grapes, shame they were not ripe enough to pick.
Magnificent house and a fantastic couple of days - thank you for inviting me.
Whilst there we had a traditional English cream tea, that and the setting, following a game of cricket on the lawn just seemed so evocative of that air of quintessential English-ness that I have been quite inspired and have indulged in some cream tea baking - obviously I have digressed and so my cream tea has more of an international flavour. I hope that you enjoy the recipes as much as I did.
50g caster sugar
1/3 teaspoon of dried lavender flowers
175g plain flour
115g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
Preheat oven to 160°C, you will also need a shallow square cake tin.
Whizz up the flowers and sugar in a food processor, then work the butter and flour together with your fingertips to create a crumbly texture, add the sugar and flowers and create a firm dough, working with cold hands.
Press the dough into the tin using the bottom of a glass, prick with a fork and score into fingers. Sprinkle with a little more sugar then bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Once baked golden cut along the score lines while hot, leaving the shortbread in the tin to cool.
225g plain flour
50g ground almonds
75g icing sugar
130g unsalted butted, diced
1 beaten egg for glazing
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g small strawberries
Line two greaseproof trays with baking parchment, you will also need a biscuit cutter - I just use a glass with the rim dipped in flour.
Whizz together the flour, almonds, salt and sugar, then add butter and pulse to create a crumbly mix.
Beat together the egg, vanilla and add to the flour until a dough ball is formed, then chill the dough for an hour in fridge wrapped in saran wrap/cling film.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Roll out the dough to 5mm thick and cut out the biscuit shapes, arrange on the trays, prick each one a couple of times with a fork and brush with the beaten egg before baking for 15 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then assemble into sandwiches with the strawberries cut in half as the filling, dust with some icing sugar to finish.
Russian tea cookies
75g room temperature butter
25g icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
40g roasted hazelnuts finely chopped - or almonds or walnuts
100g plain flour
Preheat oven to 180°C
Cream together the sugar and the butter, then add the vanilla and the nuts, finally sift in the flour to create a stiff dough.
With cool hands roll small sections of the dough into little balls about 3cm in diameter, arrange these on a greased baking tray and bake for 12 minutes.
While they are still hot, roll them in the icing sugar to coat, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Roll in the icing sugar again before serving.
White Chocolate and Cranberry Florentines
50g caster sugar
3 tablespoons double cream
25g flaked almonds
75g chopped mixed nuts
4 glace cherries chopped (I always seem to have these knocking around - it must be the Martini cocktails!)
40g mixed peel chopped (optional - I hate mixed peel so never add it but the traditional recipe calls for it)
15g dried chopped cranberries
25g plain flour
100g white chocolate broken into small pieces
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two trays with greaseproof paper.
Put the butter, sugar and cream in a saucepan over a low heat, stir until melted then bring to the boil, remove from the heat and stir in the nuts and cherries, peel and cranberries, then the flour. Mix to combine.
Drop tablespoons of the mixture onto the trays leaving spreading room between them and bake for 10 minutes. Press flat with the blade of a knife while they are still hot, leave to cool for 10 minutes on the trays then transfer to a wire rack to allow them to harden fully.
Once cool, melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and spread onto the underside of each biscuit, as the chocolate thickens run fork tines through it to create wavy lines.
225g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
In a food processor whizz together the flour, baking powder and sugar, add the butter to create a crumbly mixture. Tip onto clean surface and make a well.
Beat together the egg and the sugar, pour into the well and form a soft dough.
To get those lovely round high scones I have found that the best way is to roll the dough with cool floured hands out into a thick sausage shape, about the diameter of a rolling pin usually, then cut into slices about 2 cms thick.
Place the rounds onto a lined tray and brush with a beaten egg, then bake for 8 to 10 minutes until risen and golden brown.
Serve with some warmed jam and cream for a traditional cream tea scone.
OK - writing up those recipes and starting the mammoth task of catching up with myself for the blog entries I missed has truly created an appetite.
Tonight's dinner is coming from the garden - I am so happy to be back in my own kitchen.