Archive of ‘Cambridge’ category
Last Saturday on a sunny Spring day I enjoyed a very civilised afternoon taking tea and learning about the history and etiquette of the much loved British tradition of Afternoon Tea. Hosted by afternoon tea expert Miss Sue Flay with William Hanson, etiquette consultant, taking us through the Do’s and Don’t’s, we sipped on tea, nibbled on scones and minded our P’s and Q’s.
I’ve heard lots about Sue & Williams’ workshops – the first afternoon tea workshop last September and the recent ‘Dine Like Downton’ event as part of Eat Cambridge – and the intricacies of etiquette fascinate me.
Etiquette still has its place today, mainly as part of the Royal family, but also in more modern situations where it is part of good manners. Historically it is really interesting to see why you should do certain things, they aren’t just there ‘because’ and William’s knowledge is encyclopaedic.
The afternoon tea was held at the Hotel du Vin, a luxurious hotel with a gorgeous library where we all convened before going through to a dining room to have our high tea – we were told by William that it was a ‘high tea’ because the tea was served at a high dining table rather than a lower coffee table.
First, the food, we were served 3 different kinds of tea – English Breakfast, Chinese Rose Petal and the Royal Blend – 2 parts English Breakfast to 1 part Earl Grey. The latter was my favourite, I like Earl Grey but it can be a little strong, the Royal Blend is very light and refreshing. We nibbled first on finger sandwiches – cucumber, salmon & cream cheese, ham and lastly egg & cress. Our tiers were then brought out, with much oohing, they consisted of tall fruit scones, fluffy vanilla marshmallows, a fortified fruit cake, mini fruit and custard tarts and slightly too fluorescent cupcakes. Of course the scones were also served with luscious clotted cream and the traditional strawberry jam. Everything was delicious, except for those lurid cupcakes!
We were told that tea should be stirred in a 6/12 motion so as to coat the sugar cube (if you are partaking) and help it dissolve and also so you won’t tap the spoon on the edge of the cup too much, causing too much noise. Your teaspoon should then be placed behind the cup, furthest away from you.
We were taught that some people have milk in first, traditionally this was because the lower classes would have clay cups – which would crack if hot tea was poured in first so milk was added to cool the tea before it reached the bottom of the cup. The upper classes would use bone china so therefore hot tea wouldn’t crack their cups.
Napkin etiquette was discussed along with the plethora of sizes required for different meals – smaller for lunches and much larger for a formal dinner. Then onto jam then cream / cream then jam (I’m the latter), how to make conversation at the table (talk to your left hand companion first, then right when the first course is over), pouring tea and how to break into a scone (not with a knife, but breaking it open with your hands – this can only be done with a well risen scone).
William took us through where afternoon tea began, at Woburn Abbey where the lady of the manor craved something in between her meals and so asked her maids to bring her something savoury, something sweet and tea around 3pm to see her through til dinner. You can see Miss Sue Flay talking about this on TV, no less, when she appeared on Escape to the Country.
The whole workshop was extremely interesting and a lot of fun. Etiquette can be seen as stuffy, but with William’s way of approaching the subject with humour it is a lighthearted afternoon with lots of laughs and sharing of anecdotes.
I left feeling like my manners were actually pretty good and I am quite a respectable member of society! But maybe boasting about such things is bad manners too though?
Do keep an eye on Miss Sue Flay’s blog where I’m sure she’ll be announcing more etiquette events for the future. You can find out more about William Hanson and his escapades in trying to make the country, and maybe even the world, a more well mannered place on his website, he also records brilliant videos on his YouTube channel.
Twitter is a great place, it is where I nearly always hear about new restaurant openings and where I heard about The Cambridge Brewhouse. I’d heard whisperings a few weeks before, and then Cambridge News picked up on it and by opening night on Wednesday Twitter was awash with pictures of their delicious food.
The Cambridge Brewhouse is on 1 King Street, which is a pub that has suffered from being not that great. It was The Bun Shop for a long time, a shabby looking place which never really held any appeal for me, then just over a year ago it was refurbished and turned into The Jolly Scholar – I blogged about it back then – the food was okay and the service was really quite terrible. I heard many more bad reviews about it after that, and it closed last year.
So now is the turn of The Cambridge Brewhouse, and things are definitely looking up. They brew their own beer as well as having a selection of ales from independent brewers, they smoke their own cheese and meat and make their own sausages. The food is pub style with a twist and they do a selection of ‘British Tapas’ – little light bites to go with your beer or as a starter.
I started off with some Shepherd’s Pie Croquettes which aren’t the most photogenic things, but they were tasty. Very crispy on the outside with soft centre made up of mash and traditional lamb shepherd’s pie filling. I would have liked the mash to be around the outside and a meat filling in the centre but the Mr did point out the logistics of this might have been pretty hard to achieve. So I’m just fussy.
There are a few vegetarian options on the menu, from either the tapas section or the mains, and you can have sandwiches in the day time too. Mr had a butternut squash pearl barley risotto served with a little pot of the house smoked cheddar. Again, it wasn’t too photogenic (hence no picture) but it was delicious, nice and generous on the cheese and lots of herbs to go with the squash and pearl barley.
I had the pie of the day which was lamb and rosemary – served with either mash or chips and red cabbage, and importantly – extra gravy! The pastry was crispy and flaky and the filling slow cooked and tender, perfect. The chips were unfortunately a little bit soggy, only a few of them were crispy.
Feeling full we almost didn’t have pudding, but all the food was 50% off for the soft launch, so it would have been rude not to. I had my favourite – Sticky Toffee Pudding which was sickly, sweet, sticky and perfect. It didn’t look as drenched in sauce as others do, so I was worried it would be dry, but the sponge was perfectly soft and there was plenty of sauce to go with it.
Mr had the ‘Winter Berry Eton Mess’ – as far as we could tell it came with raspberries, which aren’t particularly wintry, and in fact there are no berries around in the winter anyway. Maybe a winter Eton mess would be better if it was served with stewed or preserved fruit of some kind. Despite the fruit, the meringue was chewy and crispy, it had a generous amount of cream and the out of season raspberries were at least sweet.
With 50% off a beer and a glass of wine it came to £23, so at normal prices it is about average for a meal in Cambridge (I know, it is expensive here!). We’ll definitely go back again, the food is interesting and I like that they have their own microbrewery and smokery.
You can find the menu on their website and also follow them on Twitter for updates.
Last Thursday evening a lovely lady called Priyanka delivered a hot, freshly cooked thali directly to my door – my door which is attached to a cottage in a very small village tucked away in Cambridgeshire. Things like this don’t happen often around here, if you don’t fancy cooking our options are a questionable pizza delivery or trekking out in the car to a supermarket or to the dreaded golden arches.
Really you shouldn’t require a knife and fork…
Pri’s Kitchen is based in Priyanka’s home in Saffron Walden – every Thursday, Friday and Saturday she cooks up orders of thalis for residents in Saffron Walden and the neighbouring villages. She’ll make you a meat thali or a vegetarian thali and deliver it to you in the proper metal tray and bowls piping hot and smelling delicious.
To explain, a thali (Hindi for ‘plate’) consists of various different Indian dishes, which vary from region to region, consisting of several different curries, rice, dahl, raita, rotli or puri, sometimes a chutney or pickle and a sweet too.
We ordered a vegetarian and a meat thali. Both had dahl, aloo jeera (cumin potatoes), chole (chickpeas), gobi (cauliflower), raita, rice, roti and a chocolate burfi as the sweet. My meat thali had a lovely lamb curry and a spinach and chicken curry. The veggie thali had a paneer curry and bhindi – okra.
Spinach & Chicken Curry, Lamb Curry
My god everything was delicious! Everything was perfectly spiced, not too heavy on the chilli which good Indian food should be, perfectly cooked and each dish so different from the next – which is the best thing about a thali. It might sound odd but it was nice to eat it from a proper plate, it was obviously the authentic way to do it but it also just made it more like homecooking, which it is, very much so.
If you’re local, or fancy coming around my house for a thali, you can order directly from Priyanka’s website. She will then contact you to arrange a delivery time and day. And then a week or so later she’ll come and collect your empty plates and bowls – and if you are smart you can arrange it for when your next Thali is arriving!
Another day, another cake club! My favourite cocktail is a margarita, and I didn’t have to think hard when asked to make a cocktail inspired cake for the next Clandestine Cake Club. Apart from anything else, I already had triple sec and tequila in my kitchen, all I needed was limes (oh and butter, sugar, flour…) and a spare evening.
I was also particularly excited because last night’s cake club was my first as official co host. It was held at the lovely Greens Coffee in Cambourne, and a dozen cakes and guests settled around a long table filled with all kinds of cakes. We were also joined by the lovely Leanne from Cambridge News, more on that in a couple of weeks….
This cake gets all the flavour after baking – the sponge is a simple vanilla with lots of lime zest stirred in. After it comes out the oven a tequila sugar syrup is poured over the cake to soak in whilst it cools. Then it is topped with even more booze – in the form of a tequila, triple sec, lime and cream cheese icing.
makes 1 loaf cake
For the cake:
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 2 limes
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Preheat your oven to gas mark 4 / 160 c fan / 180 c conventional. Cream together the butter and sugar til light and fluffy. Then add in the eggs one by one til well combined. Add vanilla and lime zest. Add in all the flour and baking powder and gently fold in til just combined. Bake in a lined loaf tin for 25-30 minutes.
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
1 capful of Tequila
1 capful of Triple Sec
juice of 1 lime
Mix all the ingredients together til the sugar is dissolved.
When the cake is cooked, leave in the tin for about 5-10 minutes, then remove and put on a plate. Poke small holes in the cake with a skewer and then evenly pour the syrup over the cake. Leave to cool.
Cream cheese icing
100g cream cheese
25g of butter, softened
1 tablespoon of Tequila
1 tablespoon of Triple Sec
juice of 1 lime
150g – 200g icing sugar
Cream together the butter and the cream cheese, then add in 100g of icing sugar and the spirits and lime. Add in more icing sugar as you combine til you have a thick icing, slightly thicker than custard – you want nice pourable icing. Refrigerate whilst the cake cools.
This cake is best iced just before you serve it – which I didn’t think through very well because it meant I had to arrive at cake club with a tub full of it and a spoon ready to ice at the table. Just pour tablespoon fulls of it over the cake in a ‘rustic’ fashion! If you have some left it will freeze well and you can use it for another cake.
Our next Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club is the 24th November, sign up on the website.
A couple of weeks ago, on the night of the final of another fantastic series of The Great British Bake Off, the Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club gathered for an evening of GBBO themed cakes and a screening of the show itself.
The fantastic First and Last pub kindly gave us a venue to watch the programme and eat cake, there were 25 cakes in all kinds of flavours – flourless chocolate hazelnut, grapefruit bundt cake, hummingbird cake, orange and almond cake.. the list was indeed endless!
I baked the Apple Pie Cake from Edd Kimber’s first book, The Boy Who Bakes – it is a fantastic recipe which makes a rather large cake! It was my first three layer cake – the sponge is light and gently spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon cream cheese frosting between the layers and finally topped with lightly cooked apples and golden spiced caramel.
Watching the bake off in a room full of 25 other keen bakers was brilliant, we shared the tense moments, the oohs and aahs and giggled at Mary Berry’s double entendre. I’m really pleased John won too, he was a fantastic baker and learnt so much from the start of the series.
Our cakey evening also featured in Cambridge Evening News, and my silly face got in the paper later that week, along with my cake of course.
Following the cake club evening I’m really pleased to say I’ve agreed to be Miss Sue Flay’s co-host for future Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club’s – so watch out for more announcements from both of us about the next bake off – coming very very soon!
Find your nearest cake club on the site: http://www.clandestinecakeclub.co.uk