Thursday, 26 March 2009

High tea

Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, first conceived of the brilliant idea to partake in afternoon tea having proclaimed, much as I do, that she had a 'sinking feeling' between lunch and dinner.

High tea is a decidedly English occasion in my mind: a time to sip freshly brewed leaves from delicate porcelain cups and to savour the comforting flavours of small, elegant cakes with one's favourite ladies. A vintage treat.

So what could possibly more appealing - or apt - for my birthday celebrations? This year I didn't plan anything much in advance so it was a small 'do', just Kate, Liz and me.

We went to the Charlotte Street Hotel in central London - a boutique hotel. In London you can have tea in grander places like the Ritz or Fortnum & Mason, but we chose somewhere more intimate. We even had a glass of champagne with our tea. It was such a lovely time - it is all too rare to have the time to while away an afternoon in such leisurely fashion.

Here are some photos from the day!

They brought us these miniature ice cream cones at the end - so sweet!

If you would like to prepare high tea for your friends then here are a few things to get you on your way. The first is a book recommendation 'Afternoon Tea Parties' by Susannah Blake.

A beautiful book with all sorts of high tea menus - from baby showers to gentleman's tea! A beautiful book brimming with ideas. Go on, get out your china (the more mismatched the better) and treat your girls!

Here is a recipe for the primary ingredient: scones, to get you started!

225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
55g/2oz butter
25g/1oz caster sugar
150ml/5fl oz milk

1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
2. Mix together the flour and salt and rub in the butter.
3. Stir in the sugar and then the milk to get a soft dough.
4. Turn on to a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/¾in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up.
5. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.
6. Cool on a wire rack and serve with butter and good jam and maybe some clotted cream.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Your posts and me

I have never failed to post for so many days in a row. How I miss it! I miss you all! I miss the creativity and thought that goes into posts. I miss our conversations. And I have so much to tell you. So much to say about leaving Paris, about being back home in London, about my dreams and thoughts, about turning a year older and even about some baking adventures.

These things will come, but I am in the midst of a work nightmare, spending most of my nights (and some of the weekend) in the office and there is no time. I believe that things happen for a reason though, that we are meant to have various experiences to give us the realisations and perspective that we need to navigate our lives in the right direction. After the initial shock of finding myself in a difficult and emotionally draining work situation I now firmly believe that it was meant to stop me in my tracks and force me to evaluate my priorities. It is easy to shut yourself off in a whilwind of work and not ask yourself important questions for lack of time and sheer energy. Sometimes I wonder where the last six years have gone and feel as though I'm still 20 but today I feel older and wiser than my younger self. These long hours at the firm, leaving at midnight, enduring difficult treatment, being stripped of my passions and hobbies, I realise that this isn't what I want, unequivocally, and that I have the strength and introspection to be honest with myself about that. In the past I wanted what I thought I was meant to want. I am perhaps for the first time listening to myself, really listening, and despite the barrage at work it feels so good.

I never thought when I started blogging that it would turn into such a conversation - that the blogs that I read would tell me about myself, about who I want to be, about what I believe in. As I read your blogs at work, I am reminded about all that is true and good and all that I believe in. Perhaps my favourite post ever, by Amy about her son Alex, makes me realise that it is not just what we do or achieve that defines us but who we are. As I read her posts about family, bloggers' posts about their creative businesses, from wedding planners to cookery school teachers, incredible mothers, fabulous bakers, women in their twenties and thirties figuring it out, much like myself, I remember what matters, what love and passion can achieve. I am also reminded of what it means to be a woman, for all these women, all of you, are so amazing to me.

So another thank you from me for sharing your lives and passions - they infuse my days with impromptu smiles and plant dreams in my tired overworked mind.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


I promised my lovely friend Audrey, in Paris, that I would update my blog after weigh-ins at Weight Watchers both so that I could hold myself accountable to her and so that we could motivate each other. 2.7lb or 1.2kg down. My Leader asked me how the week had been and whether I'd been following the plan. Honestly? I've just been too stressed out to be hungry. And certainly too busy to calculate points!

It's horrid, actually. The sight of most food makes me feel nauseous and all I seem to want to eat is salad and potatoes. It's not like me! I'm normally the one who moans about being hungry from about 10.30am and goes down to lunch before everyone else, at 12! Today I worked straight through lunch and ended up having lunch at 5pm. I just didn't have time to leave my desk. And I left at 11.20.

I am handling the stress a bit better though.

In this seat I will only have a 3 month appraisal. Normally there is one at the 3 and 6 month mark, but because this is my last seat and I will qualify in August there will be just one appraisal, as soon after that I will know in which department I will work once I am a solicitor, and at that point it is irrelevant how the last 3 months of this seat go.

Six months minus a week and a half and counting.....

This heart is for YOU, to thank you for your amazing comments....

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Birthday cake

Thank you all for your wonderful comments of support re. work - I appreciate every one of them. They really help.
Today was Marc's birthday and I dropped some cake off at his work and surprised him! He had bought some cake for his colleagues over the weekend but had said it was disappointing (he brought the cakes in yesterday).
I got home at 10 yesterday and went to the supermarket to get ingredients and set off to make a chocolate peanut butter cake from one of my new baking books, Sky High. Fabulous Deb of Smitten Kitchen followed the recipe to a T and got perfect results! I on the other hand took the cakes out of the pans too quickly, they crumbled, my frosting didn't come out right.... a bit of a disaster! Just as well I bought Cadbury's fingers to put around the cake to hide the big mess inside! I was pleased with the outcome, even if disguise saved the day and I did stay up super late achieving it. But there's nothing I like more than to get home from work and get baking!
My one comment about the recipe is that I think the batter isn't chocolatey enough and I added 200g of melted dark chocolate to achieve the requisite flavour. Hopefully Marc's colleagues enjoyed it!

My awesome new cake caddy!

Sunday, 8 March 2009



Sunday, 1 March 2009

The fabulous boutiques of Paris

On my penultimate Saturday in Paris, I meant business. I had a long list of delights to savour - and discover - and I set off early in order to do just that.

First stop of the day was to the Maison du Chocolat, one of my favourite chocolate shops, for some raspberry infused ganache. Yum!

Then onto Pierre Herme for the most delectable macaroons imaginable. They were not around for long enough for me to photograph, but just imagine a dark chocolate and passionfruit macaroon... I have never tasted anything better. He is just so creative, he even has a foie gras macaroon. That was a step too far even for me! Pierre Herme is my favourite patissier without a doubt. Mine and so many others'.....

I then walked around one of my favourite areas and my old home: Saint Germain des Pres, an area filled with little boutiques and wonders. Here is a picture of my walk and of my old street! I treated myself to lunch in a restaurant and felt like a real 'Parisienne' eating lunch with only the company of a book and notepad.

Next onto the foodie area of Paris: Les Halles. Here I went to Dehillerin, a renowned shop in which to buy professional cooking equipment. It is a veritable Aladdin's cave of goodies. The 'service' is curt and swift - these people are busy serving professionals and don't have the time to talk to you... which all adds to the no-fuss attitude. This is where you go for the cake tin you couldn't find, the cannelle mould... the list of products is interminable and there were so many items I had never seen before, like a croissant cutter. Fascinating!

Next onto G Detout! A pun - it looks like someone's name but sounds like 'I have everything'. And indeed it does, if you are looking for professional baking supplies and the like. Random ingredient you can't find? They'll have it. Like the long strips of dark chocolate they put in pain au chocolat. Amazing.

My next stop was Mora (aka cake decorating heaven). My American readers may not be so impressed but may I just say that all this stuff is just unattainable in Europe. I had been looking for something like this for months and months. I could hardly be made to leave...

These are all chocolate moulds in a myriad of shapes... incredible.

I came home with all of this! Crazy, I know! But I was just so excited!

Then I went to a 'mercerie' to buy some ribbon to customise some jumpers that are boring me... look at the choice and at the colours! Could you bring yourself to choose?

The lovely day ended with dinner at dear Mathilde's house. I think I've written about her before: one of the loveliest, most humble people I have met. It was so lovely of her to invite us over, and I made some heart-shaped cupcakes using my new moulds and decorations. It was a wonderful evening full of fun conversation and laughter! The perfect ending to the perfect day!

PS: If you're going to Paris and want any addresses, please get in touch!