Ever since I can remember, my parents served hot tea–not always a full afternoon tea, but definitely the steaming cupful with milk and sugar. Mom and Dad brought this tradition home with them from England on an early visit when I was little, and it stuck fast. Having grown up with “teatime,” I just naturally kept to it when I was married, and now I love to share it with my own children. Some days it’s just a hot cup during afternoon quiet time without ceremony. But, every now and again, we pull out all the stops and put on full afternoon tea. Today was such a day!
After our recent tour, sweet Amanda and Cari gave me a gift from Fortnum & Mason of loose-leaf tea, strawberry preserves, and tea biscuits. We broke these out today, enjoying the unmistakable fragrance that came when we opened the lid of the tea canister. Oh, this was going to be good! I pulled out our favorite “pink” china (a gift from my folks for my hope chest when I was 15), polished up the “Silver Beethoven” cultery, and laid out the tea tray with all we’d need.
Next, I tied on my favorite apron (a new find from the scrumptious Cath Kidston store in Bath!) and pulled out the ingredients for Suzi’s utterly delicious scones: self-rising flour, butter, sugar, salt, and buttermilk.
Let me tell you, I’ve tasted scones from all over, and Suzi’s are the best I’ve ever eaten. They have a moist texture and a slightly sweet, almost creamy taste. I’ve never had better. But don’t take my word for it! Here is Suzi’s recipe:
My mother worked in a cafe in Stratford on Avon, and was given this recipe by a French lady who ran the place. It was called “The Cobweb Tea Rooms.”
- 10 oz self-raising flour or 1 1/4 cups (You can use all-purpose flour with a raising agent – the best thing is to read the instructions on the packet for this, if you can’t get self raising flour.)
- 1.5 oz sugar (3 tablespoons)
- 1.5 oz. butter or margarine (I think about 3 tablespoons – equal weight to sugar.)
- pinch salt (don’t leave this out – it really helps.)
- about 1/2 cup sour milk or buttermilk, or milk curdled with lemon juice. Plain milk will also do.
Rub the flour, sugar, salt, and butter together until they look like breadcrumbs. Stir in the milk, very gradually, to make a firm, pliable dough. Don’t let it get too sticky. Roll out on a floured board to about 1/2″ thick. Cut in circles – I use a cutter about 2″ – 2.5″ across. Place on an ungreased baking sheet – you should get about 12 from this quantity.
Put in a hot oven, 200 degrees C (that’s about 400 degrees F), less for a fan oven, for about 10 minutes. I know this has to be different at altitude, but I don’t know by how much.
Serve with strawberry jam and thick heavy cream, or clotted cream if you can get it.
Now, I completely forgot to bring home clotted cream from England, so we had to make do today with whipped cream. If you’d like to try clotted cream (which is like a thick, rich, sweet butter), you can get it Stateside from the English Tea Store, which offers lots of exclusively British teas and treats.
Here’s our spread with the scones hot from the oven!
We sliced our scones in half and dolloped whipped cream on top, followed by a generous teaspoon of Fortnum & Mason’s strawberry preserves:
Absolutely delicious! We savored every bite and enjoyed the amazing tea fresh from the pot. My girls adore the ritual of a proper afternoon tea, complete with cloth napkins and beautiful silverware. I am thankful to my parents for always bringing home the best of foreign lands and for taking my siblings and me all over the world when we were growing up. It’s one thing to travel and just be a tourist; it’s another thing to study each culture you move through and come to appreciate and enjoy its own unique traditions and pastimes. Going through England and Germany as a teenager and staying for a goodish stretch in South Africa was a great gift. So was driving all over the United States and Canada and visiting in different homes. Each family has a culture, too, and it is so good to learn what is important to others and what they treasure. I feel my life is infinitely richer for the gift of “studious travel” given to me by my parents. They whetted my appetite for more. My husband and I desire to give our children this same gift as the years go by. On my next trip across the pond, I’ll be taking my daughters. I can hardly wait to share my love of England with them first-hand!
But you don’t have to hop in a plane or board a ship to dip into foreign places and learn from them. There are books galore that will take you on journeys, show you exotic ports, and even let you step into another household and see how life is lived there. Over the years, I’ve picked up books at used book stores, flea markets, and all kinds of yard sales, including lots of “coffee table” eye candy. These books have influenced my decorating style, my color choices, and even my taste in literature and food. Here’s a stack of some of my favorite (well-worn!) books on English living:
I never tire of dipping into these and enjoying a glimpse into someone else’s well-loved home. If there’s anything that describes the English house, it’s certainly “cozy.” Little nooks for reading, warm kitchens, wide hearths, groaning bookshelves–these are England to me. Pots spilling over with flowers in abundance, gardens crammed with color, roses climbing old stone walls–these, too, are England. And how much richer our lives have been from bringing these things home, whether from a trip or from the pages of a book! This last journey over with our lovely tour group was an opportunity to share the things we love with others, and we are so glad we had the opportunity to do it. It’s a pleasure we hope to repeat with our children and with friends many times in the coming years. Perhaps you’ll come along next time and drink it all in? I’d love to have you! Thank you for sharing “my” England with me through this blog and indulging my lifelong delight in all things English. Until next time….