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Monthly Archives: December 2015

An Introduction to Tea Time and British Cooking

What could be more British than the concept of tea time – pots of hot tea, little scones, finger sandwiches and cakes, and all the fun that goes hand in hand with that? Although it is true the British love their tea, there is a whole lot more to British cooking than that. There are famous British dishes like fish and chips, the full fried breakfast, steak pies, and bangers and mash, but there is a whole other side to British cuisine, one which is fascinating to anyone who is curious about cooking in the UK.

What People Think about British Cooking

The main misconception about British food is that it is bland and uninspiring, but the reason for that is when they had rationing during wartime you just could not buy meat, eggs, fruit, sugar, tea and other staples, and just had to make do with meat (occasionally), vegetables and other simple things. Meals during that time (and this lasted up to 1954, remember) were bland and dull, but the war was on and people just had to make do.

Because rationing lasted so long, a whole generation went without previously much-used ingredients, and the rationing policies are largely blamed for the decline of British cuisine in this period. Modern British cuisine really began after the end of rationing, although some ingredients were still hard to find. Olive oil in the 1950s, for example, was only available from the pharmacy, not from a shop! Continue reading

Sensational Steak and Kidney Pie

This delicious pie is made with beef, kidney, onion, carrot and beef stock, and we are adding Worcestershire sauce for flavour. You can swap the carrot for an extra onion if you prefer. We are using a pastry topping on the meat mixture, but if you want a base and sides for the pie, use double the amount of pastry to make a base and sides, pressing those into the dish before adding the meat. This steak and kidney pie is delicious served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. You do not need to make extra gravy because this pie has built-in gravy. Cut into it and that rich gravy will slowly ooze out.

This pie is made with cheap cuts of beef, and kidneys tend to be cheap too. The long, slow cooking tenderises the beef and mellows out the amazing flavours in there. One of the most famous British dishes, steak and kidney pie can be made with ox, lamb or pig kidney, although we are using lamb kidney here. Some people add ale or stout to theirs, while the pastry may be hot water crust, puff pastry or shortcrust.

This is a hot and hearty meal, perfect for the autumn or winter evenings when there is a chill in the air and you are in the mood for comfort food. You can also find homemade steak and kidney pie on traditional pub menus, where it is often served with chips (fries!) or mashed potatoes and vegetables, often peas and carrots. You can also buy readymade ones from the supermarket, either tinned (canned) or boxed, which just need to be warmed up in the oven. Continue reading

Festive Mince Pies

Also known as mincemeat tarts, mince pies are sweet little pies filled with mincemeat. In England, mincemeat is a mixture of dried fruits, aromatic warm spices, citrus, cognac and sugar, although recipes vary. You can either make your own or check for it in the international aisle of the supermarket if you are not in the UK. We are making homemade pastry for our mince pies. They are simple to assemble, and you can bake them in the oven until they are golden brown. Mince pies are a real staple in England in December and the closer Christmas gets, the more unusual it becomes not to serve these to every visitor!

The traditional way to serve them is to pop the lid up, add a spoonful of clotted cream (or the thickest cream you can get), then close them. Let people add their own cream just before eating. Mince pie ingredients can be traced back to the 13th century when returning European crusaders brought back Middle Eastern recipes with fruits and spices. Early mince pies contained meat, suet, fruits and spices. Suet is the hard white fat on cattle or sheep kidneys and loins.

Mince pies, which used to be known as ‘savoury Christmas pies’ were negatively associated with Catholic idolatry by Puritan authorities during the English Civil War, although they stayed popular in their original form (they were larger then, not individual) until the Victorian times, when they become smaller and sweeter, like they are today. You can buy them readymade from the supermarket or give our recipe a try and make your own. Continue reading

Patriotic Union Jack Flag Tart

This delicious Union Jack tart looks amazing and it is also a lot of fun to prepare. We are making a homemade pastry crust and filling it with a creamy sweet mixture, before adding the final touches – blueberries and raspberries – on top. There are various ways you could make this. If you prefer a cake to a tart, prepare any kind of cake, cooking it in an oblong tin, then you can use the berries on top. If you prefer strawberries to raspberries, either whole or halved, feel free to use those instead. A slice of this makes a patriotic sweet snack or dessert and everyone is sure to admire your creativity when you present this.

There is nothing difficult about making this British flag tart. The pastry is largely just a case of combining the ingredients and then rolling it out, while for the filling you need to combine mascarpone, crème fraiche (or sour cream if you prefer), vanilla and icing sugar. We like to add a layer of jelly between the pie crust and the creamy filling, but you can omit that step if you prefer.

The pie crust is baked but that is all the cooking you need to do because the tart filling is not cooked at all. Make this ahead if you like, then keep it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. Whether you are making this for a Jubilee party, St Andrew’s Day or another patriotic occasion, everything is sure to love the sweet flavours in there. The creamy filling, fresh berries and crispy pastry combine perfectly. Continue reading

Impressive Beef Wellington

This exquisite dish is perfect for a special occasion. There is a fair amount of work involved, but it is worth it to make this spectacular recipe. You can make it ahead too if you like, up to 24 hours before baking in fact. Beef wellington is fillet steak coated in a mushroom mixture, and then wrapped in puff pastry. Some recipes wrap the beef in prosciutto or similar to stop the pastry from becoming soggy and keep the beef moist. You can either cook the beef wellington in one big piece and then cut it up to serve, or else cut it into slices before baking. Serve it with mashed potatoes and vegetables, for an impressive dinner.

The history of beef wellington is unclear. It is believed it might have been a British reinvention of bœuf en croûte, a French dish, the recipe slightly altered and given an English name. There are no 1800s recipes for the dish, although ‘fillet of beef, a la Wellington’ was featured in the LA Times in 1903. It might even have been named after Wellington in New Zealand, or have some connection with the English Duke of Wellington. No one knows for sure.

You can chop the mushrooms in a food processor or by hand. If you use a food processor, pulse-chop them, else you will end up with a slurry instead of breadcrumb-sized pieces of mushrooms. We like to use chestnut mushrooms along with some wild mushrooms in the mix too. We are also using thyme, white wine, prosciutto and more, for a truly gourmet flavour in every mouthful. Continue reading

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Christine Szalay-Kudra

Hi, my name is Christine and I would like to welcome you to TeaTime Recipes. Tea has always been a favourite of mine and I adore the tradition of serving this wonderful beverage with all kinds of little snacks both sweet and savoury. Read More