My friend F’s winter birthday was celebrated with high tea at the Queen Victoria Building Tea Room.
It was definitely tea with all the trimmings, but with a difference – the Tea Room also catered for various food intolerances and vegans!
All those items on the tea stand was for one person, so be prepared. But where were the scones, I hear you say?
Of course, there were scones – enormous ones, served with the prerequisite jam and cream. Satisfied?
The next day was a very long and arduous drive from El Questro to the eastern edge of the Mitchell Plateau. Along the way, we visited Ellenbrae Station – another million acre property that is still a working cattle station.
We learned from the young manager Logan that things can get very expensive out where they are – everything has to come by road train or plane! So to attract visitors they have a small camping ground and cream tea. That morning it’s been specially baked by his mum, and it was a good scone.
Apparently they’ve attracted so many takers that they can hardly keep up with the demand.
The Outback is full of novelties. We found one in the car park at Ellenbrae – their public phone (and me in my ‘Steve Irwin’ get-up).
Over the winter we had a crop of beetroot on the go. It wasn’t quite ready to eat until spring, and then we had a glut! We could have done what we always did, roasted them and then tossed them into a salad with some sharp fetta and rocket, but one needs to be creative when faced with a glut.
First, I tried making these beetroot burgers, and they were fantastic. I varied the other root veg (used sweet potato) and spicing (replaced the spices listed with a teaspoon of curry powder), and cooked them until they were charred on the outside. We ate them ‘Asian style’ – with rice, steamed greens, and a dollop of Greek yoghurt on top. Spicy, sweet, and very savoury, it was a great alternative to meat.
But I still had more beetroot to contend with. This time I decided to experiment with sweet. I had seen many TV chefs mix beetroot and chocolate, and when I saw this recipe for beetroot and chocolate muffins, I knew I had to try them. Instead of a single square of chocolate in each muffin, I mixed through the same amount of dark choc chips through the batter. The beetroot gave the muffin a savoury-ness against the bitter sweetness of chocolate, and I felt less guilty eating a chocolate muffin knowing that half of it was beetroot.
I would try both recipes again next year when faced with another glut of beetroot.
My first attempt at a carrot cake went well, and tasted even better. Those old Family Circle cookbooks still do a good job.
I tried a recipe for spicy apple tea cake to enjoy the last of the year’s apples. With halved apples and a combination of cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg, it went down a treat.
The batch of hot cross buns this year was more luxurious than before, with craisins and dark choc chips and lots of spices. Beats a store-bought bun any day.
Out of London, the choices were not so varied, but the quality of good old fashioned British cooking and local ingredients were hard to beat. In Chatsworth, I had a Ploughman’s lunch that was of the highest order, complete with a pork pie, homemade bread, assorted cheeses and pickles and salad that was mostly sourced from the estate itself.
The bed and breakfast places that we stayed at were a constant source of good food. In Cornwall, our B&B also served afternoon tea. I had a Cornish tea with scones, jam and the (in)famous clotted cream.
In Derbyshire, the owner of our B&B had hand-caught the trout that we ate for dinner in the Derwent River, conveniently located across the road. Needless to say, the trout was succulent and awesome.
We walked through the snow to the nearby town of Matlock. The cottages looked so pretty in the snow.
We took a bus to the town of Bakewell, home of the Bakewell tart and pudding. A market was in full-swing in the square, despite the snow.
The town’s architecture was quaint, with no power lines in sight. It was like being in a period drama.
But the weather got to us, and soon we were in a tearoom, drinking tea and eating the famous pudding. Incidently, the tart and pudding don’t really resemble each other at all, aside from the smattering of jam at the bottom of the case. The tart has a short pastry crust and an almond filling, while the pudding had a puff crust and a custard filling.
I made up a big batch of pesto the other day with a big bunch of basil that I harvested from my in-law’s garden. After a few pesto pasta meals I was looking for another way to use it up, and found the perfect recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion. The muffins came out lovely and light and more-ish. The secret ingredient was the buttermilk (also a leftover). I also added some English spinach and grated cheddar to the dry ingredients for a bigger flavour hit. Yum!
Work has been so busy lately that baking has fallen by the wayside. I did however bake these rolls the other week. We used them for mini burgers and sandwiches.