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Archive for the ‘Biscuits’ Category

I recently mentioned a box of goodies I received as a Christmas present, and said I would report on the contents when I’d tasted them.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve now tasted 4 of the 5 items in the box, as follows.

The Plum Pudding:

Wine Society Plum Pudding

Plum pudding ready to eat

I like a nice fruity plum, or Christmas, pudding, and this one was particularly well endowed with fruit. In fact, the first thing on the list of ingredients was mixed dried vine fruits, at a lovely big 33%.

Plum pud stuffed with fruits and a heady dash of brandy

I haven’t got the packaging any more so I can’t check, but I do remember that brown sugar came quite low down on the list of ingredients. The pud was stuffed with sultanas, raisins, apricots, cherries, nuts and brandy, all of which were present in larger quantities than the sugar.

The pudding was duly heated up and dished out, steaming, into plates for me and my two most delightful assistants.

All sorts of things can accompany plum pudding, such as brandy sauce or ice cream, but I think the pick of all accompaniments is single pouring cream:

Plum pud doused with cream

A little snowy mountain of pudding

Unfortunately, technology doesn’t yet allow pictures on the screen to be tasted, but I can assure you that this plum pudding was a first class specimen. Fruity, nutty, boozy and extremely rich and delicious.

You might think that after such a pudding one ought to have had one’s cravings for sweet rich foods satisfied.

What, though, if you had a packet of shortbread biscuits and a box of jelly babies that had been neighbours to the pudding in the Christmas box looking as if they, too, yearned to be tasted?

Shortie and jelly babies

A pot of Afternoon Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea (that also came in the Christmas box) was made, and the biscuits and babies laid out for contemplation.

Being a bit of a stickler for my preferred biscuit texture, I’m sometimes a little nervous when it comes to shortbread.

When I took these shortbread biscuits out of the pack they stuck together a bit, which caused anxious furrows to appear on my brow.

However, I needn’t have feared, for the dampness did not in any way impair the flavour or, indeed, texture of the bite. I wonder now if in fact the dampness was there simply as a reminder to me that dunking was called for.

Diving in for the dunk

Dunked shortie

To my mind, a biscuit successfully dunked (i.e. almost saturated with liquid and withdrawn just in time to avoid slippage into the bottom of the cup), is a biscuit that has attained the highest possible achievement in the biscuit world.

The biscuit packaging stated that the contents were duty bound to be dunked. I’m delighted to report that they performed with aplomb.

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Feeling I was on an unbeatable winning streak, I didn’t stop at biscuits.

Baby on the brink

Baby diving head first into tea

The babies, unlike the biscuits, didn’t mop up liquid, but they did melt very slightly and glistened with tea when brought out of the cup.

On the whole, I take my jelly babies dry, but on this occasion the tea-coated baby was a very pleasant departure from the norm.

The only thing remaining for me to try from my Christmas box is the Christmas cake, and I’m saving it for its own little post.

Simply Delicious hand made Christmas cake

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One of my dear chums gave me a box-shaped gift at Christmas.

When I unwrapped it on Christmas morning and saw that it was indeed a box of something, the dimensions immediately suggested a pair of shoes.

Here is the Christmas box unwrapped on the left, with a rather natty shoe box on the right to show the similarity in size:

Shoeboxes? The Christmas gift box on the left with a natty shoebox on the right for size comparison

The wording on the box, however, suggested something quite different:

Christmas box inscription

This might lead you to believe that there was wine inside. However, this chum, despite being something of a wine connoisseur himself, knows that I don’t drink the stuff. What, then, was in the box?

Something much more up my street:

Menu card inside Christmas box

Menu items described

Having so much other rich food at Christmas, I wanted to keep this special box for a later date. It is definitely a sharing present, and was given to me with the intention that I share it with my delightful assistants.

Inside the box

I’m excited about all of it, but I’m especially looking forward to trying the tea:

Orange Pekoe tea

And the cake:

Christmas cake

And the jelly babies:

Jelly babies

And the pudding:

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And the biscuits (which I will be very happy to dunk in the tea, to allow them to fulfil their duty):

Shortie for dunking

I look forward to reporting on the tasting of these in due course.

Having seen what was in the left hand box in the first picture, you might be curious to see what was in the right hand one.

The box itself is rather decorative, with pretty tissue paper covering the the shoes inside:

Decorative shoe box

The shoes:

Decorative shoes

These are in fact the shoes I got married in. The marriage is, alas, no more and sciatica prevents me from tottering around in heels these days, but I do still take these beauties out of the box every now and then to have a look at them.

As you can see, they’re not only decorative on the top, but the soles are covered in rabbits popping out of teapots:

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The shoe is lined with turquoise velvet, the outside being finished in pink velvet with tinselly coloured stripes and a big bow at the toe. The heel is chunky, pink and translucent, with a leaf motif and a blue bit at the end:

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If you happen to be free next weekend, Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 October, and you’re in reach of the Birnam Hotel in Perthshire, you might like to pop along to the “Meet the Makers” fayre being held there from 10am to 5pm on both days.

It’s hosted by Exclusively Highlands, who are advertising it on their Facebook page.

The reason I mention it is because I’m going to have a stall there, flogging my little book,

some lovely vintage china (not the best of photos, the china looks much better in real life – come and see for yourself),

my sister’s handmade teacosies,

and her cushion covers.

I attended the fayre (I don’t know why they’ve adopted this spelling of the word) last year, the very first time it had been held there, and this year when I found myself with things to sell I thought it might be nice to take a stall and see if I could do a bit of business.

I’ve attended a couple of craft fairs elsewhere in the last few days and noticed that, although there were plenty of punters milling around showing an interest, there was a distinct lack of money changing hands. I’ve spoken to stall holders and other retailers, and they’ve all reported sluggish sales this year.

Quite understandable of course, I myself haven’t bought anything from any of the fairs I’ve been to this year, and in previous years I would almost certainly have shelled out for something.

I watched an interesting series of TV documentaries recently about economics (that might sound a tad dull, but they were enthusiastically presented and well researched), in which the point was made that in order for an economy to work money has to change hands frequently. The problem at the moment seems to be that most of us don’t feel inclined to let go of what we have.

photo courtesy of http://www.telegraph.co.uk

Part of what makes us feel a bit nervous about spending, even if we have a regular income, is that our money doesn’t seem to be worth as much as it used to be. Only a few years ago my savings account yielded twice as much interest as it gives now, and the media is full of doom and gloom about how things are only going to get worse. Not surprisingly, all of this makes the ordinary chap in the street feel a little protective of the money he’s got.

My dad made the point this morning that, in terms of starting up in business, I’ve picked just about the worst time to do it, which is quite true. I also chose the worst time possible to leave a secure, well-paid, job in 2008, just when the recession struck and companies put a freeze on hiring new staff. However, when you get yourself into a bit of a hole like that, it forces you to use your resourcefulness and challenges you to find new ways of staying optimistic. I can’t say that I always manage to do either of these things, and I confess to spending far too much time worrying about it and feeling somewhat demoralised, but learning to count your blessings is a very useful tool in life, and one that can be equally valuable whether you’re living on the breadline or lounging on your megayacht shovelling away the caviar.

From what I remember of the Birnam Fayre last year, crafts on sale included photographs, sculpture, jewellery, handmade chocolates, children’s books, tweed handbags, glassware, biscuits and wood carvings. I can’t remember how many stalls there were but I would guess at 30+ and most of them were housed in the hotel’s rather grand and very spacious hall upstairs.

I don’t think my stall will be in that room, which is a pity, so if you do call in be sure to have a peek into the other little areas dotted about. I might even give you something for a knock-down price. In fact, if you quote ‘Lorna’s little bargain’ I’ll guarantee you a quid off any item you buy. Can’t say fairer than that in these straitened times.

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If you’re a Scot, or very familiar with Scotland, you might already be aware of a company called T. Tunnock Ltd, commonly known as Tunnock’s, of Uddingston near Glasgow.

I was reminded of this supreme confectionery company when reading Christine’s most enjoyable post on the subject of the Tunnock’s teacake this morning, and thought it would be the ideal time for me to a) eat a Tunnock’s teacake and b) follow Christine’s lead by dedicating a post to the illustrious creators of this fine confectionery.

Without further ado, here is a picture of the two best-selling Tunnock’s products – the iconic caramel wafer and the equally iconic teacake:

While reading Christine’s post I was reminded of one of my favourite reference books, a tome I would make a considerable effort to save if my house was on fire: Nicey and Wifie’s “Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down”. If you haven’t yet come across this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is, as The Telegraph review states, “a crusading work of genius”. Essentially, it’s a book about taking tea and eating biscuits, but that description hardly does it justice.  More of the book later, but first a few photos of the teacake and the wafer.

This is a sort of upside-down version of the photo above, showing the simplicity of the wrapping method, which consists of a series of folds of the foil around the teacake and a neatly gift-wrapped parcel of wafer:

As you can see from the underside of the wafer wrapping, a staggering 5,000,000 (and more) of these biscuits are made and sold every week. The corresponding figure for the teacake is just under 3,000,000 .

When you unwrap a wafer or teacake you will find that attention to detail has also been paid to the underside of the confection itself:

There is so much to say about these two biscuits (is the teacake a biscuit? It has a biscuit base and it’s listed in Nicey and Wifie’s guide as one of the “Marshamallow Sort of Things”, along with the Wagon Wheel, Kimberley and Jacob’s Mikado or Mallow, which is good enough for me) but it would be wrong not to at least pay homage to the exquisite packaging.  Here I’m going to quote from my favourite biscuit guide book, on the Tunnock’s caramel wafer:

“Each biscuit is clad in its own rectangle of foil and paper, adorned with distinctive red and gold stripes. Poet Laureate Ted Hughes was fond of scribbling short verses on the backs of Tunnock’s wrappers, some of which he donated to the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Appreciation Society of St Andrew’s University. Apparently some in the society thought that he had committed a sacriligious act and defiled the great wafer’s wrapper, and as such weren’t as impressed as no doubt they were supposed to be.”

And finally, a peek inside the wafer:

And the teacake:

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No tearooms today. It’s jolly parky in Perthshire and this morning’s thick frost made me feel like staying indoors and pottering about in the kitchen. I made sweet potato and red pepper soup for lunch, and baked some biscuits.

I christened the beautiful wooden pestle and mortar I received for my birthday recently

using it to crush some sunflower and pumpkin seeds, to put into oatcakes:

I also made some Appin biscuits (so called because, according to the blurb in the wonderful Macmillan Coffee Shop Recipe Book fom whence the recipe came, the recipe was donated by someone who was from Appin, a remote part of northern Scotland), which went down nicely with a steaming teacup of Twinings 1706 tea. The biscuits are stuffed with sultanas:

The Quarrymill Recipe Book is full of wonderful things (including today’s sweet potato and red pepper soup) and I’m steadily working my way through them all.

I’ve put on a couple of pounds since I started this tearoom reviewing business, but I suspect staying at home is just as bad for the waistline with that recipe book to hand.

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