For the umpteenth time, I find myself re-reading "Gossip from Thrush Green" by one of my favourite writers, Miss Read. Here are the first few paragraphs of the book..........
In far too many places in England today, the agreeable habit of taking afternoon tea has vanished.
'Such a shocking waste of time', says one.
'Much too fattening a meal with all that dreadful starch', says another.
'Quite unnecessary, if one has had lunch or proposes to eat in the evening,' says a third.
All very true, no doubt, but what a lot of innocent pleasure these strong minded people are missing! The very ritual of tea-making, warming the pot, making sure that the water is just boiling, inhaling the fragrant steam, arranging the tea-cosy to fit snugly around the precious container, all the preliminaries lead up to the exquisite pleasure of sipping the brew from thin porcelain, and helping oneself to hot buttered scones and strawberry jam, a slice of featherlight sponge cake or home-made shortbread.
Taking tea is a highly civilised pastime, and fortunately is still in favour at Thrush Green, where it has been brought to a fine art. It is common practice in that pleasant village to invite friends to tea rather than lunch or dinner.....people can set off from their homes in the light, and return before dark, except for the really miserable weeks of mid-winter when one would probably prefer to stay at home anyway.
Big sigh.........don't you just love those Miss Read books! I'd love to move to Thrush Green, but apparently it's not real! We can all dream though, can't we.
My favourite tipple is Redbush Tea, because it is naturally caffeine-free, and has less than half the tannin of black tea, and, what is more important, I love the taste of Redbush, although I love Earl Grey too, especially when it comes from Bettys. I have already told you about their wonderful tea-rooms here.
I also enjoy making cakes, and my most basic, simple cake recipe, which I bake most weeks is an old recipe passed on to me by by mother-in-law, many, many years ago. I double up this recipe for an 8" round cake tin, and I usually make 2 cakes at a time, so I quadruple everything!
8oz self-raising flour
quarter teaspoon of salt
4oz sugar - I always just use granulated, or brown
2 tablespoons of milk
6oz mixed dried fruit
1. Place flour and salt in a bowl, rub in the margarine.
2. Add the sugar and the fruit. Beat together the eggs and the milk.
3. Mix all together to make a soft consistency.
4. Place mixture in a greased tin.
5. Bake in a moderate oven (Gas mark 4) for 1 1/4 hours.
If I want to make a more moist version, I add an extra few ounces of margarine or butter.
I do all sorts of variations of this. For a yummy chocolate chip cake, I add a few ounces of cocoa powder to the flour, and buy 3 bars of cheap supermarket chocolate, and roughly chop them up and add to the mixture instead of the fruit.
To decorate this for a birthday party, I can't be bothered with icing, so I cover the cake with melted white chocolate, and before it sets I cover it all in dolly mixtures and smarties, adored by adults and children alike in this house!
Enjoy your tea-time! We really do need these special oases in our lives.