What will you drink on National Tea Day this Friday?

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Time for tea on National Tea Day

 

I love a cup of tea. Whether it’s National Tea Day or not, I love tea.

If I had to choose between tea and coffee for ever more, then tea would win hands down. Perhaps it’s my northern upbringing, but I can’t start the day without a cup of tea.

Unless I’m in Italy. In which case it’s pointless drinking the tea. Likewise in the USA.

But what kind of tea? Well, it depends on when.

Morning

 

Bellevue Belter for a good strong cuppa

 

I’m a bit of a traditionalist, and it’s usually Yorkshire tea here. That said, I’m also partial to the Bellevue Belter too, which is a good strong black tea. Both will get your day up and running.

Afternoon

 

Make your own black tea kit from Bluebird Tea Co

 

I guess I can take two routes here, depending on what time of year the afternoon falls. For these lighter, occasionally warmer, afternoons, then I like an Earl Grey type. If you want something just a little different on the same theme, then I like the Lady Lavender tea from Bluebird Tea.

If the weather turns cooler, or as we head into winter, then I love the smokiness of Russian Caravan tea. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, literally, but I love the aroma and the dark, smoky taste.

Evening

 

Chinese Treasures from Bluebird Tea

 

I have to admit to not drinking tea after about 6pm, as even decaf seems to cause sleepless nights. There are plenty of good options, if you like fruit or herbal infusions. Certainly Bluebird have over half a dozen different options which might set you on the right track for a good night’s sleep.

So, morning, noon or night, tea can be there all the way, on National Tea Day or beyond. You need a decent mug (back to my northern upbringing, cups and saucers only happen on trips out) and preferably somewhere cosy to get curled up with your tea.

And then, possibly, a decent biscuit, or two to go alongside a marvellous mug of tea. So, what will you choose? What’s in your tea mug?

 

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Going sweet and savoury with Great British Biscotti

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Learning to make our biscotti

Learning to make biscotti on our trip to Italy last year was one of our highlights, and one of the things we make most often. However, when I saw what the Great British Biscotti Co are up to, then it made me think about changing things up a bit.

 

Savoury biscotti from Great British Biscotti Co

 

Savoury biscotti.

Never come across them before, and have to say I’m quite converted. The team sent me a box of pretty much everything they do, and we’ve had a great time sampling them.

Twice baked, as per tradition, these have some great flavours going on. For the savoury ones, they’re great alongside a chilled glass of wine, but I decided to try the tribe out on these with some different toppings too.

 

Great British Biscotti Serving Suggestion

 

For the Chorizo & Parmesan and Parmesan & Fennel, I made some whipped ricotta with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper. I added some parma ham to the chorizo one and then a fennel salami to the other one.

I was a bit stumped on the Indian spice one, and in the end went with a goats cheese with a hint of honey. The sweetness set off the warmth of the spices nicely.

I would say these are great to have in the cupboard as a standby for a plate of snacks like these, or a last minute crouton on some soup, or just for munching. The sweet ones had traditional flavours like the almond one, perfect to go with a coffee. We were also really fond of the honey and lemon as a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea.

 

Great British Biscotto Co

Check out their stockists list to find them close to you, or look out for the distinctive bright packaging in good food stores in your area.

Though I still think they missed out on a great naming opportunity, I’d have gone with Britscotti myself.

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What food says I love you?

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How not say to I love you on Valentine's Day

 

So, it’s coming up to Valentine’s Day, which means only one thing to me.

It’s the night of the year not to go out to eat.

I apologise to all those in the restaurant trade, I know you’re doing you’re best. But generally the set menus are bland or trite (not you, The Modern Pantry, loving your work).

And the worst offenders are those that rename dishes with “romantic” titles. To me, fancy pant restaurant dishes are really unlikely to say I love you, in spite of every good intention.

What would you choose then, what really says I love you? Here’s my choices:

 

Tea & Toast in Bed. Heaven

  1. Saturday morning toast and tea delivered to bed by MFL.

 

Chicken soup makes everything better

 

2. Chicken soup any time you’re under the weather, even if you have to heat it up yourself.

 

Sprinkle as though you're a 7 year old!

 

3. Anything your kids make for you.

 

Time for tea. Any time.

4. A good cup of tea anyone else makes for you, just when you need it most.

 

Macarons from a loved one

5. Someone bringing you something that they remembered you liked, like when a friend arrived with a box of macarons straight from a Parisian patisserie. Or a chunk of Parmesan straight from a cheese shop in Rome.

What does it for you? What says I love you from you to someone else, or them to you?

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Port & Lemon anyone?

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Fish & Ships Galley Cloth from Port & Lemon

 

No, not a Christmas drinks order in early, but just wanted to flag this new to me design company. Port & Lemon are very inspired by all things nautical and sea shore, and I think these are great for any kitchen, whether you’re by the sea or not.

I’m hoping for fish and chips next week when we’re by the sea, so I like the play on words of Fish and Ships.

 

Any Port In a Storm Galley Cloth

 

There again, Any Port In A Storm might be appropriate given we’re down on the Gower Coast, and it’s October. You can have these on tea towels, or coaster or place mats, and mix and match to suit the humour or taste of the recipient.

 

Port & Lemon Mugs

 

They also have lovely mugs too, so you could definitely pull together a great gift for someone. Wrapping stuff in tea towels makes a good alternative to gift wrap, so gift and wrap in one. Products seems to be focused on UK manufacture as well, so a good local business to support.

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The Friday Five – how to kick start your food business dream

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When I tell people that I spend quite a lot of time writing about food, quite often I get someone tell me that they really want to start their own food business. Some have a really great idea, some just fancy the idea. Which is definitely not a great place to start from. But if you think you’ve got a good idea, or want to see what it could be like, then these might set you up well for a different future ahead.

 

A Delicious Life - New Food Entrepreneurs

A Delicious Life: New Food Entrepreneurs

This is a great book for inspiring your idea, and girding your loins into action. To be fair, you could read this and enjoy the stories of the great start ups but I think you’ll find it really inspiring to see what these food lovers have achieved. It should also show that it’s not about wafting around your kitchen knocking up a few cakes. Well, not if you want to make a living!

 

Fabulous Food Concepts

 

Fabulous Food Concepts

This is another book for inspiration, both with the stories and the photography. These are businesses that are working to produce great food but respecting the planet at the same time. Definitely an inspiring book, almost certainly a very pretty book.

 

Cooking up a business

 

Cooking Up a Business

Ok, down to business then. This is a bit more down to it practical advice, from food safety regulations through to how get meetings with grocery store buyers. If that’s the route you want to go. I like that there’s a section on what they wish someone had told them at the start. Always good to learn from others mistakes. And then try not to make them yourself!

 

Packed - The Food Entrepreneurs Guide

 

Packed – The Food Entrepreneur’s Guide: How to Get Noticed and How to be Loved

We’re onto the more serious end of things now, thinking about how you’re really going to get your product out there and noticed. It’s about how to make sure it’s your product customers and retailers pick up. Tessa Stuart has plenty of expertise in this area so you’re really getting thoughts and ideas from the best. Great place to start.

 

Good Food Great Business

 

Good Food, Great Business: How to take your artisan food idea from concept to market place – well this one is going to walk you through step by step from start to shelf. Plenty of real life examples for you to learn from and think about, pitfalls to look out for, and what to plan for.

 

So, if you really have the passion, and the dedication for long hours, then these might inspire and help set you off on the right foot.

If your idea is on opening a deli, then I can highly recommend the Retail Ready course from the Guild of Fine Food. Charlie Turnbull’s finance section was an eye opener for many, but better to decide upfront that it’s not for you than plough everything into it then find out it’s not for you. Forewarned is definitely your best plan! And there’s no harm in saying not for me, or not now.

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Measuring bowls with the cute factor

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I love Fenella Smith’s ceramics, particularly the dachsund range. It’s probably as close as I’m going to get to having a dog running round the kitchen for now.

But I also love things that are practical for the kitchen, as most of us aren’t blessed with acres of space. Just because things are practical doesn’t mean they can’t be beautiful or, as in this case, cute.

 

Fenella Smith Dachsund Stacking Bowls

 

The three are useful sizes, whether you’re measuring or not, at 200ml, 500ml and 1.5 litres, and a good size spout. To be honest, they’re too pretty just to be measuring things, I would want to bring them to the table as well. These are dishwasher and microwave safe, but not suitable to go in the oven.

Gorgeous range, definitely great choices for gifts whether for someone you love, or a little treat for your own kitchen.

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My new favourite shop for radically good tea towels

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I rise. Who doesn't need some inspiration from Maya when drying up?

 

I’ve written a lot over the years about how much I love tea towels, and what a perfect gift they make for a food lover. And for many years To Dry For have been my go to supplier of choice, for sheer variety.

Hate to tell them, they’ve got competition.

The Radical Tea Towel Company is new to me, but I love them! I mean part of me wishes these guys had been around when I was married. I’d have slipped a few of these into the ex FIL’s kitchen, just for the heck of it.

Oh, I wouldn’t have known where to start, although I love the Maya Angelou one up at the top there. And anything remotely left leaning would have definitely been more me than him. Perhaps a bit of Karl Marx?

 

Up the workers! A bit of Marx with your drying up.

 

And a bit of Mrs Pankhurst for good measure.

 

Equality with the drying up

 

They might have started out just with tea towels, but they now have mugs, oven gloves, even fridge magnets so all sorts of options for all kinds of food lovers or just anyone you need an interesting gift for. I think I might need some new mugs, a bit of quiet subversion over the tea run perhaps.

A great site to keep an eye on.

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When figs meet tea

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I really like Mini Moderns, their design work is stunning and I really like their colour choices. I really love the Whitby design, I’m very tempted by the coffee pot.

Mini Moderns Whitby Enamelware Coffee Pot

 

But I also love the home fragrance collection they’ve put together and I particularly like the Darjeeling diffuser.

 

Mini Moderns Darjeeling Fragrance Diffuser

 

It’s partly to do with the colours, but mainly to do with the fragrance notes, which are tea, fresh green fig and spicy white pepper. Sounds perfect for a food lover, and works as well in the lounge as in the kitchen.

Of course those who read my blog regularly might have expected me to pick another of their fragrances. Yes, they have a Gin Fizz version too, which I could also be very tempted by.

Definitely a brand worth keeping an eye on if modern, clean line design is your thing.

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My take on the Bake Off fiasco

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Will there be empty chairs for viewing?

 

Well, we didn’t see this one coming! And it’s probably safe to say it looks like Love Productions didn’t either.

So, it was bad enough to find it moving to Channel 4. I think we’re all in the same place. It’s a BBC show through and through. I mean, we can’t have an advert interrupt the tension of a very tense dough rise. Imagine going to an ad break just as Louise’s gingerbread chapel collapsed?

But we could probably have coped with that. But no Mel and Sue?

Well, now it’s all crumbling quicker than that gingerbread chapel.

And the suggestion seems to be that Mary won’t move either. And without those three, then there is no show. Because whether he likes it or not, it was never really about Paul Hollywood. Before the show he was what? As far as I recall a patisserie chef at a very nice hotel in Cyprus.

But Mary has been a fixture in our homes for years, through books and television. She has more tried and tested recipes than Paul’s had floured baps.

Let’s face it, it didn’t exactly go well when he went to the US version, did it?

Maybe Paul will choose not to go either. In which case Channel 4 really have only bought an empty marquee, and possibly empty seats around television sets up and down the country. Why on earth all of this wasn’t worked through up front I’ve no idea. Or why the BBC hadn’t anticipated this day before now, perhaps when they made the big move to BBC1.

I don’t know why Love Productions thinks there’s a better home than the BBC, so that rather then leaves the question of money, which they claim it’s not about. But given the way the BBC has grown the show, allowing them to sell it overseas, not to mention lucrative spin-off licensing deals and a great many books, then you wonder how much more than want to make from it, how much more they think they can.

Not that it matters, but I think this is hugely misjudged, and only appears to be a question of commercial greed, which would appear to be backfiring quite spectacularly. The format change, the presenter change will all change what has been an incredibly successful, highly loved show.

I get that Channel 4 will recoup their investment even with less of us watching, because of what they can charge for advertising. But there must come a point where the people have dropped off so much that you can’t put up the advertising rates enough to compensate?

Who knows? Television is a weird old game, but I can’t help but feel that Love have killed their golden goose.

What do you think?

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Help a bread lover raise their game

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How to help a bread lover raise their game

 

So, it’s bread week on Great British Bake Off, and home baking of bread has certainly been through a renaissance. It could be to do with the rise of great bread choices from artisanal bakeries, possibly to do with those choosing to avoid wheat and therefore experimenting with different flours.

Who knows? But there’s still nothing to beat the smell of freshly baked bread coming out the oven, and then slathering it with butter. Ok, I know you’re supposed to wait, but where’s the fun in that?

Now, you could go down the whole breadmaker route, and if you think that’s for them, then I’ve written about those here. But I think a lot of us have moved on from that, wanting to really get our hands on the good stuff.

Starter Baking Set from Bertinet

My favourite baker doesn’t do Bake Off, but I love Richard Bertinet. Brilliant baker, great at demos, nothing to do with the French accent. You could buy your food lover the gift of a class at Richard’s school in Bath, but that’s not necessarily convenient for everyone. In which case I would say the Starter Baking Set would be a great gift. From a copy of Richard’s book, Dough, through to the practical stuff like a dough scraper, this gives them everything they need to get going except the ingredients.

 

Sharpham Park Home Baker Kit

 

If they’re experimenting with different flours, then Sharpham Park have got a great Home Baker Pack highlighting their spelt flours. Plenty to get working with, along with Lev Epeautre, a dried spelt leaven combining the rising power of yeast and the flavour of sourdough starter. The Spelt recipe book will give them plenty of ideas to get them going.

 

Beer Bread Kit from Toastie

 

For something simple but tasty, and with something to keep you hydrated whilst you wait for the bread to cook, try the Beer Bread Kit from Toastie, which comes with a tin of craft beer as well. Although it turns out to that is to go in the bread. But you could always improvise. Great gift for a real beginner in the bread stakes, simple to do, tasty results.

Sous Chef Sourdough Starter Kit

Sous Chef is one of my favourite sources for proper gifts for food lovers, and I really like the Sourdough Bread Making Kit. With a dough scraper, banneton and scoring blade, along with Dan Lepard’s brilliant book, The Handmade Loaf, then they’ll be turning out great loaves in no time. Well, no time plus the proving time.

You could always pop out and find some local flour from your nearest mill, and put it together with practical stuff like mixing bowls, which you can probably never have too many of. You could also get things like different seeds for decorating the tops of the loaves…really, the possibilities are endless, the results alway likely to be delicious.

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