So I guess you guys must like what I do, because I’m through to round 6 of Project Food Blog, hosted by Foodbuzz.com! Thank you all SO much for you votes. Am thrilled to pieces. For this round we were told to create a meal that would travel well for a road trip, including an entree, side, dessert and drink.
So when you’re planning a road trip one of the key parts of said trip is transportation, right? Well. Next to food, of course. However, with my car currently out of action the travelling part of this challenge was going to prove tricky, so I got to thinking about where I was going to go and how I was going to get there, and more importantly about what I was going to make to eat. This then led to me thinking about this city I live in, and all of its transportation options, and how freakin’ proud I was to be the only Londoner in this competition… and then it hit me: I have to make High Tea and go see The Queen. And as for transport? My preferred mode is public, because if it doesn’t travel well on a double-decker bus and the Tube then, baby, it ain’t gonna travel at all.
My day started at 7am and it was horrible, grey and rainy outside. Not that unusual for London, but not great for the purposes of a public transport road trip. I was somewhat comforted, however, by the knowledge that it was also grey and rainy across the pond, so at least we were all on equal footing.
Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Tartlets: preheat oven to 200 degrees C and cube 4 tbsps worth of butternut squash. Roast with olive oil and salt and pepper for about 15 mins until soft. Meanwhile, roll out some ready-made shortcrust pastry onto a lightly floured surface, lightly dust some small tartlet moulds, fill with baking beans and blind-bake for 15-20 mins. Beat together 2 tbsps double cream and 2 eggs, and season with salt & pepper. Fill your tartlet shells with 1-2 tbsps of the butternut squash and top with about 1 tbsp of crumbled blue cheese. Fill the shells nearly to the top with the cream/egg mixture, then place back in the oven for 10-15 mins until the filling is set.
I started making the components of my Miniature High Tea (High Tea because it’s so very British, darling, miniature because… well. It’s miniature) when suddenly disaster struck: power cut. There’s an age-old British adage which states that in times of adversity one should “keep calm and carry on”. Well. I didn’t. I freaked out. Eventually, however, I just got on as best I could with no power (the gas hob was still working, thankfully) and after about half an hour the electricity came back. Hallelujah! Ten minutes later it went again. And so went my morning. The third time the power went I didn’t care anymore, and I did manage to keep calm and carry on, doing all the Brits out there justice.
Coca-Cola ham (featuring Momma Lee’s hands): boil a medium ham hock in 2 litres of Coca-Cola with an onion and 3-4 star anise for at least 2 hours. Remove from the liquid, place on baking tray, remove the skin, score the fat, brush with a mixture of honey & English mustard and stud with cloves. Sprinkle with a little golden caster sugar and place under the grill for about 5 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Allow to cool slightly and slice.
I had decided on a menu of Miniature Coca-Cola Ham & English Mustard, and Cream Cheese & Cucumber Mini Sandwiches (very British, don’t you know), followed by Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Mini Tartlets, a side dish of Quail’s Tea Eggs (a Chinese twist on an old favourite), Mini Scones with Mini Pots of Clotted Cream & Strawberry Jam, Mini Blackberry Cheesecake & Lemon Iced Tea (this is High Tea, after all, the key is in the name!) and, despite the power cut and general panic, managed to get it all made just in time.
Lemon Iced Tea: boil desired amount of water, then take off heat and steep 3 teabags in for a few minutes. Slice up a lemon and throw it in too. Remove the teabags, add sugar to desired sweetness and stir to melt. Allow to cool to room temperature, then remove, add ice-cubes and a little more cold water (optional), stir and serve.
Quail’s Tea Eggs: hard-boil 6 quail’s eggs. In another saucepan combine hot water with 2-3 strong teabags, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp sugar, 2-3 star anise & a chicken stock cube. Cool the cooked eggs, then crack the shells all over and steep in the tea mixture for at least 15 mins. Remove and allow to cool. Eggs will have a beautifully marbled effect when peeled.
Daniela’s Cheesecake: Combine 100g melted butter with 100g crushed biscuits, press into spring-form cake tin and place in fridge. Stew 250g blackberries with about 50g golden caster sugar until soft (10-15 mins). Strain and reserve liquid. Smush stewed blackberries into simple jam and spread over biscuit base. Return to fridge. Beat together 400g mascarpone, 150g golden caster sugar, lemon zest and juice of half lemon. Mix in 250g blackberries. Soften 4 gelatine leaves in cold water and heat 150ml single cream to just below boiling point. Stir in gelatine leaves until melted, then pour into mascarpone mixture. Beat 150ml double cream to peaks, then 1 egg white to stiff peaks and gently fold both in. Pour over the biscuit/jam base and return to fridge for at least an hour. Heat the leftover blackberry juice to just below boiling point and stir in 1 softened gelatine leaf until melted. Pour over the top of the cheesecake and spread evenly, then top with some halved blackberries to decorate. Return to fridge until set.
My good friend Genie from Young & Poor had agreed last minute to accompany me on my expedition to visit good ol’ Lizzie up in the Palace, but by now it was 3pm and I was supposed to be meeting her on the other side of London in half an hour. Amazingly, throughout the course of the morning the grey had cleared away and it was now not only NOT raining, but actually sunny! I had a good feeling as I finished up the food prep, popped it into my special Project Food Blog Cooler, and rushed out of the house to catch my ride.
Here’s a hint: if you’re ever in London, riding public transport, clutching a cooler as if your life depended on it, and taking photos of said cooler as well as most of your surroundings, people are going to stare. So if you don’t like to draw unnecessary attention to yourself… maybe don’t do this.
One bus, three trains and many bewildered looks from strangers later, I had reached destination #1 to meet up with Genie and say hello to some old London favourites.
Second photo credit: Genie Lolay.
Quick photos and back on the tube then, and off to our main destination: we’re off to see the Queen, thank you very much.
Second photo credit: Genie Lolay.
So we arrived! Only to discover that Lizzie was out. Doh.
The police weren’t being very helpful, either, and the guards wouldn’t let us in… oh well. So we perched ourselves underneath another Royal figure (the Queen Victoria Memorial Statue opposite the Palace) and cracked open the cooler to see how the food had fared the rather long journey…
Here’s another hint: if you decide to have a picnic outside Buckingham Palace and bring things out like Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Tartlets, then supply your fellow picnic-er with a little fork, and follow this up with incredibly impressive looking blackberry cheesecake, people gonna stare. And whisper. And point. So if this ain’t your cup of tea… er, maybe don’t do it.
The food fared very well, in fact, and we were particularly impressed to see just how well my little cheesecake rounds had turned out! Definitely my piece de resistance. High Tea over then and with the sun setting behind Buckingham Palace, it was time to go home. So maybe we didn’t get to share High Tea with the Queen, but y’know what? It was her loss.
Photo credit: Genie Lolay.
Hope you enjoyed! Special thanks to Genie for being so very wonderful all day, for happily posing and nomming, and particularly for her patience & understanding when I was half an hour late to meet her because of public transportation issues! Typical, innit? Voting opens on Monday – thank you again for all of your lovely votes and comments! Until next time, peace and love.