I’m a huge fan of a good afternoon tea, be it during those days when I have people over, or going out with a couple friends for a catch-up. There’s something special about it that I can’t really place my finger on, but I think it might evoke memories of our time in Surrey. Luckily, since moving back to Malta I found terrific places for tea alone or with friends. When I want to stay at home but still want to feel as if I’m in a quaint little tea house, in for example, places like Rye (in East Sussex), all I do is bake a couple of cakes and whip up some sandwiches, et voilà, I am there.
So let me set one thing straight: I’m definitely not on some kind of health kick, as in eating clean and all that hoo-ha. However lately I’m on this…how shall I put it?…try-many-new-things…thingamabob. I’m sorry, but my vocab skills are out the door today. Please bear with me just a tad longer. This little gem of a recipe is worth the wait.
There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell!
Thorin Oakenshield (from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit)
I know that these past few days have been all about Writing 101 and today is no different, but I wanted to combine three things at once. I know you won’t mind, mainly because there’s a recipe at the end. You have all been so good. Even though many of you come here for the food and photos, you have been so positive and supportive of my other non-foodie ones. I’m thankful. Truly. On to the quote.
It’s a public holiday here in Malta and I just had a day and a half. This week we are having some work done at the house and we needed to get ourselves prepared. Things needed to be stored and placed out of the way – I’m dreading the dirt and dust that will undoubtedly be going around in the air during the next few days but I keep telling myself that it will pass. In the meantime I am bracing myself. Now on to the more enjoyable stuff…
I know that you will forgive me for revisiting some recipes with you this evening. The photos you are seeing in this post were taken during a get together in the form of an afternoon tea at our place a few months ago – on the 29th June to be exact (another public holiday coincidentally. I’m not doing this on purpose. Promise.) J’s uncle, aunt and cousins came over for a visit from the land of Oz for a few months and instead of worrying about preparing dinner, the idea of tea and coffee plus a few goodies seemed appealing. I never had people over for afternoon tea, so this was a first.
Writing about some of my favourite cake recipes at the end of every April has become a sort of tradition here on C&T. It’s my birthday later on in the week so it’s kind of themed, at least for me! It started a few month after the birth of this blog, when people started asking me about the cake or cakes (because yes, there were times when I made more than one) I usually make for the day. I try to vary as much as possible, but I can happily say that more often than not there’s always a copious amount of chocolate involved.
A very good friend of mine always asks me for more muffin recipes. I get this. Unlike cakes, my personal preference if I were to choose (I don’t think so), muffins are charming little things. Even though I may have a muffin with my coffee when out running errands, I prefer homemade ones. Somehow shop-bought ones seem too big, too out there if you know what I mean.
Sometime ago I was invited to a YSL event at a local store. In one corner the ladies prepared a spread of pretty little cupcakes, which seem to be all the rage nowadays. To me they looked more inviting than all the expensive stuff in the shop. They were good, a bit on the small side, but good nonetheless. One would argue that you cannot look sophisticated while devouring a large chunk of cake! I went home and I wanted to bake something in between.
Homebaked muffins will be smaller than the huge things you might get at the store but don’t let that deter you. You can make the mixture in five minutes flat and they are so convenient when you have people round for afternoon tea. All you need is coffee! Blueberries are great here, but you can use whatever you want…strawberries, raspberries, or perhaps a mixture of both. Makes 12.
- 250g plain flour
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 120g unsalted butter, softened almost melted
- 120g golden caster sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100ml milk, preferably full-fat
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 180g blueberries
Line a 12-hole muffin tray with muffin cases and preheat the oven to 190ºC.
In a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
In another bowl, beat the butter together with the sugar, eggs, milk, lemon zest and juice till everything is just combined.
Fold in the flour mixture gently into the wet ingredients preferably with a spatula. Tip in the blueberries, and don’t overmix. A lumpy batter is exactly what you want here!
Using an ice-cream scoop, distribute the mixture evenly in the tray and bake for approximately 15 to 18 minutes. They should be ready by then but always check by inserting a skewer in the middle of one muffin just to be sure.
Place them on a cookie rack to cool, and eat them when they are slightly warm on the same day. They should keep in an airtight container until the next day – good excuse to invite a good friend for tea. Enjoy!
(Adapted from River Cottage Handbook No. 8: Cakes, Pam Corbin, Bloomsbury, 2011.)
A very good friend of mine came over to London for a short work-related visit. I hate not having a cake or some cookies standing by for days like these, but, as is so typical of me lately (don’t ask me why because I have absolutely no idea), I found myself frantically flipping through countless cake recipes and notes, not knowing what to do. After a few deep breaths and one lemon and ginger tea, it became as clear as day. The solution was simple: lemon cake. I love this recipe and I knew it was going to work. It brings so many memories of when I first started this blog. Enough nostalgia though and on with the baking.
- 125g unsalted butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- zest of a lemon
- 175g self-raising flour
- pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 100g icing sugar
Tin: 23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin (or similar), properly greased and lined
Preheat your oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. When you line your tin with baking paper make sure it comes up to around 1cm or a bit more to the sides (see photo). This will make unmoulding much easier.
In a large bowl whisk together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and lemon zest and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt (you can leave the salt out if you want), and add the milk. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and place it in the oven. In the meantime prepare the syrup (see method below). Bake for around 45 minutes, or until golden and check with a skewer or knife to make sure it’s done.
Prepare the syrup by placing the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small pot over the heat and swirl the pan gently until the sugar dissolves. Puncture tiny holes in the cake and pour the syrup over the cake while it is still in the tin. Make sure the middle part absorbs as much liquid as the sides.
When the cake is completely cold, you can lift it up from the loaf tin onto your serving plate. If the cake is still warm it might crumble.
Incidentally my friend brought me a big bag of Mediterranean lemons from the tree in her garden. These will be very happy days, with many many baking days ahead! Enjoy! R xx
(This recipe is adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.)