Archive for the 'Tea' Category

High Tea at the Dorchester

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

England is the home of high tea – dainty sandwiches, scones and clotted cream and bite sized desserts served on a tiered tea stand.  There are many versions of how high tea came to be.  But a popular version is that one of the ladies in waiting to Queen Victoria was peckish in the afternoon and asked for sandwiches, cake and tea to be brought to her, in ths 17th century as dinner wasn’t served until late.  It certainly isn’t a surprise that it caught on as a trend for her and still continues to be up until its recent popularity worldwide now, not just in England.  In London, ‘the’ place to have it is the Dorchester apparently, in fancy Park Lane.  A beautiful grand hotel with doormen and waiters in coat tails.  You could easily imagine ladies in hooped skirts and hats taking tea in the same place many years ago! 

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The tea is taken in the Promenade lounge in the hotel.  As we went during the week of the Chelsea Flower show, the tea cost £50 per person plus 12.5% service charge, instead of the usual £35.  Effectively A$100.  So expensive :(   Well if they say that that’s where it is, better try it.  I actually don’t know what the extra £15 gets you and it seemed quite like a standard high tea.  If you took the special flower high tea for another £11, you got to take home a small pot plant of flowers as well as a more expensive type of champagne.  Standard high tea for me! 

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I’m not a drinker, so I contemplated substituting the champagne for a softie. But looking at the menu, the champers itself was £15!  It was actually very fruity and sweet and bubbly still, unlike some other venues that have pre-opened bottles without the fizz.   

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I was so ecstatic when the waiters asked if we had any allergies or dislikes.  I actually don’t eat mayonnaise, and the evil white sauce is found in sandwiches the world round, as if there wasn’t such a thing as a sandwich (or sushi in fact!) that could survive without it!  The chefs obliged without any complaint and made them without the sauce for me! And made them vegan for my friend too.  The bread was made fresh and was obviously made in house.  There was a standard cucumber sandwich on caraway seed scented bread, caponata/roast veg on pumpkin bread.  My favourite was the chicken on basil bread, and there was also smoked salmon.  Something I wasn’t accustomed to was the fact that we were asked if we wanted seconds!  Free refills – awesome!  We had both fasted in order to come so we relished another serve of each.

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We were served a pre-dessert then, a white peach jelly with jasmine tea foam.  Wow, the peach was the perfect mix of sweetness with a hint of tartness, and it complemented the jasmine tea foam perfectly.  The foam’s tea flavour was so intense without being overpowering, and the texture – so silky!

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I haven’t actually had clotted cream before, in Australia we often just get double cream or whipped cream.  On the table I actually thought it was butter – wow, now I know why they call it clotted cream – artery clogging perhaps??  We also had some really runny not set strawberry jam (more akin to syrup) and some blueberry jam which was better.

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Mini Martha Stewart Carrot Cupcakes

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

A brilliant way to use excess carrots, these mini bit sized cupcakes will be a perfect addition to a high tea party or to surprise supper guests or even as part of a petit four! Good for the cholesterol conscious as it uses oil not butter.

To make the icing just mix sugar, margarine and milk until almost sti ff but still mixable. Then pipe stars on top.

Here’s the recipe:

Jill Dupleix’s Amazing Orange Cake

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Surfing around the net for a new cake recipe to try, I found this one by Jill Dupleix (quoting someone else!).  Jill is the food writer in delicious magazine so I knew it would be reliable.  My colleagues loved it (so they tell me), as it was very light and fluffy. It takes a bit of elbow grease to cream the WHOLE BLOCK of butter with the sugar (I halved the recipe), but the result is a cake with a good crumb, not too oily and an awesome orange flavour from the rind.  I actually baked it in a kuglelhoph tin, and let the icing drizzle down the sides. I also put some orange zest through the icing also.

Yum Cha – Marigold Citymark, Haymarket

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

One of my favourite ways to spend a day on the weekend is to meet friends and family to have Yum Cha – or “Dim Sum” as the yankees call it.  “Yum Cha” means “Drink tea” in Chinese, whilst “Dim Sum” is what you eat there as an accompaniment for the tea as you catch up – although in modern times, the food overshadows the tea!  Get to Marigold early, as there can be a queue from 11:30am on the weekend – an alternative to the take a number and listen to the microphone approach adopted by some.   Then when you get your table, order your tea (Jasmine, green, oolong etc), and cast your eye over the trolleys filled with steaming hot food (literally – some of the trolleys are mobile steamers filled with hot water).  I love Yum Cha also because the food is mini.  Bite sized so you can have a bit of everything.  Sorry on this trip we didn’t eat that much but here’s what we did have.

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Char Siu Bau (or BBQ pork buns) are well known to the general population as fluffly steaming white dough buns filled with sweet pork. But have you tried the baked and glazed version – with a brown top, rounded and smooth?  Another favourite bun of mine is the polo or pineapple buns, filled with custard and topped with a sweet, crispy topping.

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Essential but unhealthy – the mandatory spring rolls are crispy, deep fried asian sausage rolls – filled with mince of pork, mushrooms, and prawns if you’re lucky, as well as wood ear mushroom shreds and bamboo.  For the more health conscious, the steamed dumplings are a solid offering.  Prawn dumplings (har gau) are often chased by enthusiastic impatient diners (oh no, I would never do such a thing! ;) ) and are often the first to go; and the most asked for.  Like a steam prawn wonton, wrapped in rice paper and steamed.

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