Biscuiteer biscuits in the post

A lovely birthday, Food stuff, Interesting people, Walking in the park and reminiscing

A tin of Biscuiteers biscuits arrived recently – belated birthday biscuits from the UK from my wonderful friends Sarah, Paul and Olivia Ryan.

A parcel in the post. But when I turned the card over to discover my biscuiteer, it was completely blank!

A parcel in the post. But when I turned the card over to discover my biscuiteer, it was completely blank!

Very exciting! Yummy biscuits and the dilemma of what to use the empty tin for...

Very exciting! Yummy biscuits and the dilemma of what to use the empty tin for…

Biscuiteer belated birthday biscuit... pretty spectacular!

Biscuiteers belated birthday biscuit… pretty spectacular!

The Biscuiteers are a London company specialising in, you guessed it, biscuits. They are a great idea for a gift, and I have used them for friends and relatives in the UK reasonably often. I have their cookbook which is a great guide to making biscuits, and I heartily recommend it. I have baked many good biscuits from this book, including with my nieces, although not quite up to their standard of icing (yet).

Very special to get a tin sent all the way here, as the postage is not insignificant.

Mysteriously, the enclosed gift card did not say who had sent the biscuits to me. My biscuiteer was unknown! The card was completely blank. I deduced it was probably related to my birthday.

My sister-in-law Suzanné has previously sent me a tin of THANK YOU biscuits from Biscuiteers last year, and I had first learned about the company from Sarah Ryan. These two wonderful women were on the top of my ‘most likely’ list. The time difference to England meant the solution to my mystery was a few hours away, fortunately I could eat a biscuit or two with my tea to tide me over.

It was indeed Mrs Ryan who had sent the delightful parcel, although Suzanné had also considered sending me some for my birthday (she sent me a lovely Polli necklace that arrived a few days later). Sarah had stuffed up the message entry whilst using purchasing the biscuits online – rather than been mysterious on purpose. I would have gone the mysterious explanation myself, but she is too good and honest for that!

I first met Sarah Thacker (as she then was) back in January 1997 when I arrived to spend a year as a resident tutor at King’s School Bruton, in Somerset, which is in the South West of England. We have been firm friends ever since. She is a woman of the finest character and it was fitting that there was intrigue surrounding her family’s gift to me (yes, there is an ‘in’ joke there). I was the non-bridesmaid at her marriage to Paul Ryan in 2000. Sarah has been on an odyssey of sorts over the last year since she turned 40, and you can read about our visit to the Savoy Hotel here.

And here is an excellent photo of Sarah that sits on the bookshelf in our study. It was from 1997 or 1998 and we are having tea in Oxford. She is talking on what now appears to be a big, black brick with an antenna at its peak, but at the time was an incredibly sophisticated and cutting edge mobile phone! I thought she was the epitome of cool, and there was not an ounce of irony (although the photograph might now suggest otherwise).

Such a model woman - I want one of those phones, so retro!

Such a model woman – I want one of those phones, so retro!



High Tea in West Footscray

A lovely birthday, Food stuff, Interesting people

This post has been delayed because I am still catching up from my technical difficulties a few weeks ago… there’s still a few to follow in a non-linear fashion.

We decided to have a high tea with my family to conclude the festivities of my birthday week. It gets more and more difficult to get everyone in my family together (especially as some live overseas), and so it was wonderful that so many were able to come.  It was only right and proper that there be plentiful tea, sandwiches and cake. It was quite a success, even if I do say so myself!

Greg used the interweb to learn how to turn plates from the op shop into glamorous tiered displays. Easy to take apart and store as well, although the drill bit is very blunt now. His handiwork was much admired and he is a man-for-all-seasons (or something).

I was able to put my new KitchenAid pleasingly through its paces. We had mud cake, scones, savoury puffs and pikelets, sandwiches, flourless orange cupcakes, vegan flapjacks, and biscuits. I’m probably forgetting something, and then people also brought more food. Including some yummy, but quite frankly quite confronting, age-appropriate biscuits made by Nat and Josh (no elegant obfuscation of my real age!).

Len and Judy came down early to help make crustless sandwiches and other organisational support. Judy had made a wonderful fruitcake (she is known for this in our family), iced with stylish minimalism.

We had the immediate Taylors (besides Matt and Suzanné in England who had held a parallel tea party in my honour on my actual birthday), Taylor/Strijder Aunts and Uncles, cousins and a group of Iretons as well.  Greg and I did observe that it is on occasions such as these we see the opposite nature of our families. The Taylors are very loud, eat a lot and could be confused with the Paparazzi. The Iretons are not loud, don’t eat as much, and never seem to take photos. Having said that, we all get on famously! This is a large number of people to cosy (cram!) into our little house (I think around 24), but fit we did (people are happy to be cosy in if not for too many hours, there is a point at which it shifts most noticeably to crammed).

Rather excitingly, it was also the first party that baby Isabelle has attended – so I am quite honoured. She certainly provided the Taylors with more reason to get snapping with their cameras. In addition to several nieces and nephews running around and having adventures and who are very used to ignoring adults with camersa. Josh brought a Polaroid camera along which added further interest to the afternoon.

Another tradition in the Taylor family is over-catering. We eat a lot, and you don’t want to under-cater (disaster!). So many of my guests took goody bags away with them and my workplace also enjoyed left over cake for a number of days.

An experiment in clotted cream

Food stuff

I had a couple of attempts recently at making clotted cream. Not something readily available here in Australia. Have read of others giving it a go a go and so thought I would have a go too.

I read a few recipes online. For example, this entry on the Cupcake Project blog and this one on the Joe Pastry blog.

The basic idea seems to be that you cook normal cream at a low temperature for a long time, the liquid evaporates and you have a much thicker, richer cream.

I tried it one weekend with a ‘normal‘ 700ml bottle of thickened cream from the supermarket. I cooked it overnight for 12 hours on about 80 degrees.

It seemed to work quite well – with a really thick, caramelised layer on the top. We tried it immediately on some fresh scones and it was yum. Not exactly like clotted cream that you get in England, but good.

A week later, I had some people coming for afternoon tea and I thought I’d impress them with some fresh clotted cream. I bought a container of the posh cream that is really thick and is much more expensive than thickened cream (and it has a much higher fat content). I thought that this would make for a really clotted batch of clotted cream. I baked it for 12 hours as I’d done before. This was a complete disaster! It became thinner, although did separate into layers, and I couldn’t use it. I ended up using it in a cake recipe so that I didn’t waste it. Weird!