Join In The Fun! Join In The March 2020 Tea Party!

What better way to suggest friendliness – and to create it – than with a cup of tea?

-J. Grayson Luttrell

I’m taking part in The Little Mermaid’s  regular monthly tea party. Who doesn’t love afternoon tea? Exactly! Sadly I have to be rather more careful since most afternoon teas are chock full of dairy which is now strictly verboten. Much to my delight, I have found that many hotels, such as the Shangri-La Paris, now offer a vegan afternoon tea.

When I first moved into my current apartment, I used to hold physical tea parties for some of the very elderly residents who’d befriended me. They used to love coming round but it wasn’t for the food, it was for the company and a chance to have a chat. I much enjoyed these get-togethers as the ladies  – sadly none of whom are still with us – had all lived such interesting lives.

Consequently, I’m re-joining The Little Mermaid’s monthly tea party. This one unfortunately doesn’t include scones with strawberry jam and cream unless, of course, you provide your own. No, the whole point is to encourage an affable exchange of dialogue among ourselves because blogging is more enjoyable when done interactively.

The Little Mermaid’s tea party is the ideal occasion for socialising and making, as well as maintaining the acquaintance of those in the blogosphere. It’s a chance to truly relax and to take some time to recharge one’s batteries by engaging in light-hearted conversation, to be with friends and simply delight in one another’s company.

While her first tea party was open-ended, subsequent ones have been topical and this month’s theme is PETS. Sadly, I don’t have one but that’s not going to stop me from joining in.

Here’s The Little Mermaid’s Questions and my Responses

1. Do you have a pet or would you ever consider getting a pet?

I do not have a pet and, much as I like animals, I’m not intending to acquire one anytime soon – just don’t hold me to this. My beloved husband would love to have a dog, a big dog. While we have a sizeable apartment, in grounds where you could easily walk one, we won’t be getting one. This is largely because I’d be the one cleaning up after it. Frankly, my husband makes enough of a mess, I don’t need more work. We also travel a lot and it doesn’t seem fair to keep putting a dog in kennels for extended periods.

 2. What is its name?

We’ve both had pets in the past. Like most kids I’ve had goldfish, though these never seemed to live for too long. A tortoise called Gladys, after my great-aunt, who used to escape from the garden to munch her way through a neighbour’s vegetable patch. My mother eventually tired of apologising for Glady’s antics and gave her to our milkman who bred tortoises. Turned out Gladys was a he not a she!

I also had a black poodle called Candy who so loved going to stay with my great-aunt Gladys and her husband in the summer on Hayling Island that she never came back. In fact the dog and husband are buried under the flowering cherry tree in what was my great-aunt’s garden. You can see a bit of a pattern emerging here, can’t you?

My beloved husband’s brother adopted a Golden Retriever called Chiapa, previously owned by neighbours. She was a lovely dog and everyone was inconsolable when she passed away.

3. How do you care for your pet; and what is the best part of having this particular animal around you?

While we don’t have a pet, many of our neighbours have small dogs. This encourages them to get out and about regularly, provides them with a much-needed talking point and, for those on their own, companionship. All of these dogs recognise me and will happily rush over for some excited petting. I’m always happy to oblige. This way I feel I get all of the best bits without any of the downside.

4. Tell us an interesting story about your companion.

One of my neighbours used to offer a dog-walking service. One of her client dogs was a white Highland Terrier called Anthony who was particularly fond of me (typical British understatement). One day while out shopping, Anthony saw me and, catching its owner unawares, slipped out of her grasp and raced over to greet me enthusiastically. Anthony’s owner arrived as I was petting Anthony and started to apologise profusely. I cut her short, explaining that we were old friends. She was a bit taken aback as she and I had never met. She now keeps Anthony on a tight rein whenever he sees me!

The March 2020 tea party closes on the 31st. If you want to join in – and why wouldn’t you?  – make sure that you share a blog post around the subject, This is a golden opportunity for newcomers to share with a huge gathering and I know many of you have adorable pets. So, why not join in?

But before you do, don’t forget to check out The Little Mermaid’s tea party etiquette:

Etiquette Number 1- Introduce yourself.

Introduce yourself, your blog or even your latest post to the community in such a way that it encourages others to converse with you. Avoid posting just a link as a comment which looks rude and spammy. Be polite.

Etiquette Number 2- Mix and mingle.

Tea is a communal experience and there it requires that you meet and greet at least some of the other wonderful people in attendance. Participate by actively reading others’ comments and visiting their links/sites.

Etiquette Number 3- Share the most recent tea party on your blog.

The purpose of the event is to create a platform where everyone benefits from real diversity of thought; and for that we need to find people who genuinely hold different views and invite them into the conversation. So, please spread the word in the blogosphere through reblogs.

That’s not too difficult is it?

So, drag up a chair, pour yourself a cuppa, help yourself to some cake and introduce yourself and your pet. There, what could be nicer?

 

The Musette: vegan scones

What better to enjoy with my recently made strawberry jam? Actually, it was my beloved’s idea. He said:

This jam would be even more delicious on scones.

Now, I cannot eat scones because they contain dairy in the form of butter and milk/cream. So I wondered whether I could create some non-dairy scones. Turns out you can and they’re incredibly light, soft and flaky!

Instead of plain (all-purpose) flour, I used white whole-wheat which gives the scones a lighter colour and a subtler nutty flavour. I also used raw cane sugar instead of granulated. Like the whole-wheat, this translates into a deeper flavour – in this case, caramely, molasses-y vibes. It also means a crunchier, crustier crust.

Ingredients (makes 6 scones, enough for 3 hungry cyclists)

  • 240g (2 cups) white whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp  raw cane sugar, plus more to sprinkle on top
  • 3 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 375g (1 2/3 cups) very cold coconut or oat cream (non vegans can use double cream), plus more to brush on top

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F). Line a half sheet pan with greaseproof (parchment) paper or a silicone mat.

 

2. Sift the flour and combine it with the sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add half the non-dairy cream, stir a few times, then add the rest of the non-dairy cream and stir until a mostly-cohesive dough forms.

3. Finish bringing together with cold hands until there are no more noticeable dry spots, but don’t overwork the dough! Transfer it to a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to pat the dough into a square or rectangle approx. 3 cm (1 inch) high.

 

4. Divide into six pieces. Brush the tops with plenty of non-dairy cream, then sprinkle with lots of sugar (they should be completely covered).

5. Transfer the scones to the lined baking sheet, spacing them out evenly. Bake for about 23 minutes – rotating the tray halfway through – until well-risen, with browned bottoms and a light golden crust.

6. Scones are always best the day they’re baked – especially when still warm. However, any leftover – as if! – can be frozen to enjoy another day.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. While these scones were really light and fluffy, they did look a bit rough around the edges. The second batch I cut into squares and then, once baked, cut out scone circles which looked much more presentable.

The Musette: Almond Macaroons

I’m always on the look-out for recipes which use up left-over egg whites. I typically freeze these in batches of four until I have need of them for financieres, meringues, pavlovas, brutti ma buono or, in this case, macaroons. Now these are not the fancy flavoured macarons  – notice the different spelling – piped onto baking trays and filled with delicious buttercream and jam. No, these are a much more rustic affair and are spooned, or scooped, rather than piped into muffin trays.

Ingredients (makes 20 or so)

  • 150g egg whites
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 100g flaked or chopped whole almonds

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/325°F fan). Beat together the egg whites, ground almonds and sugar until thick and smooth. The batter will be quite runny. Don’t worry, this is what makes them gloriously and satisfyingly chewy.

2. Rest the batter in the fridge for at least half an hour.

3. Scoop (I use a range of different sized ice cream scoops) or  plop a tablespoon of the batter into each non-stick muffin hole. Sprinkle the top of each macaroon with chopped or flaked almonds.

4. The small ones bake in around 20 minutes, or until lightly golden, and set on top. The larger ones need 30 minutes.

5. Cool completely  – if you can wait that long – before serving with tea or coffee.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. The almonds can be replaced with ground hazelnuts, or ground pistachios. In which case, instead of topping with flaked almonds, top with chopped hazelnuts or pistachios.

2. For a lemon flavour, add a drop of lemon essence and the zest of a lemon. Top with glace lemon peel.

3. I like that the centre of these resembles and tastes like marzipan but you could, insert a dark chocolate chip into a hazelnut macaroon or a fresh raspberry into a pistachio one. or maybe even a cherry. The possibilities are endless.

4. I’ll often serve these warm with some fruit compote for a dessert.