Wednesday, October 26, 2011

High Five for High Tea

I have truly matured*.

First, there was the KCRW pie contest.  A living testament to my new-found ability to apply logic and civility to my everyday life.

And then, there was the school auction.  In the past, my behavior during these charity events could most accurately be described as "bid-happy mania", or "early-onset competitive buying frenzy."  I'm sure they have some kind of clinical definition for the condition, but it is irrelevant, because that was the OLD me.  The NEW me is all about pure, cool-headed, bang-for-the-buck bargain hunting.  No more mad buying rushes or impulsive insanity. Just calm, adult browsing for things that are truly missing from my life.  I even invented a handy acronym:

NBS = Need-Based Shopping

NBS is my new mantra.
NBS is my new calling.
NBS totally works.

For example, at this year's auction, I bought the following items:

1.  Mah Jong and margaritas on the beach in Malibu
2.  Texas Hold 'Em lessons, including cocktails and a full BBQ dinner**
3.  A cooking class on how to make a traditional English Afternoon Tea***

I think we can all agree that these clearly fall under the category of "household staples".  Yes?

Perfect. Because that's the way I (maturely and logically) entered the costs into Quicken.

A Really Inspired Kitchen - The Sequel
Considering how much I learned in this class, I could also have entered this item under "educational expenses."   For instance, I learned that this very British tradition came about because of the hunger pangs experienced by Queen Victoria's royal tummy in the olden days.  And a fine tradition it is.  Per our lesson plan:

"A proper English Afternoon Tea is so inviting to both men and women.  A little relaxation in the afternoon, a time to socialize a bit, and a lovely snack with the pick-me-up of caffeine. " 


"For a lovely starter...quarter some strawberries, sprinkle lightly with sugar, add a little lemon juice and a little grated lemon rind, and allow the berries to macerate in the refrigerator.  Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream, and a little champagne!"

Lovely starter!

"The items in our menu are developed exclusively for teas.  They would not make good hors d'oevres for a cocktail party because a "tea" savory item is milder, and not meant to be served with liquor.****  Tea sandwiches differ from other sandwiches in that they must be extremely thin, almost transparent."

Cucumber with Herb Cheese & Butter

Curried Shrimp Salad

Pate a Choux with Gravlax and Dill Sauce

Delicate sandwiches that are not appropriate for cocktail parties? Check! I have to say, we are doing very well in this class so far.

"As for the sweets, they too are best suited for teas than for dinner desserts.  Our sweets are lighter, less goopy, and easy to handle."

Swiss Roll

Treacle Tart

Un-gloopy desserts. Yes, ma'am! We are good with these.

And of course, current scones.

"The perfect accompaniments to tea."

Perfect accompaniments.  In fact, A+ accompaniments, if you ask me.  I ate two, for extra credit.

The tea was hot and strong, the table was set with china and silver, and we were, like her royal highness, experiencing great pangs of hunger.   In a most civilized manner, we lifted our little pinkies, and ate like queens!

Practical, level-headed queens, of course.

How to Brew Tea
We especially loved Lela's Black tea with Jasmine blend.

Boil a full kettle of water.  When it comes to a full boil, pour the boiling water into your china or porcelain teapot, about half full.  Allow the teapot to become very warm.  In the meantime, add more water to the kettle and bring it back to a boil.

Dispose of the water in the teapot.  Place 5 Tbs. loose leaf tea, or 8 teabags, into the teapot.  Fill the teapot with boiling water, and put the lid on the teapot.

Allow the tea to steep, either on top of your kettle (remove the kettle lid) or alongside the kettle in a warm place, for 8-10 minutes.

The tea in the teapot will be very strong, and will need to be cut with boiling water, so keep the kettle full.   If using loose leaf tea, strain the tea through a tea sieve into teacups, filling only part way.  Add boiling water to adjust the strength of the tea to each person's taste.

Pass sugar, warm milk, and lemon slices to your guests.

Lemon Curd
from Lela, who gives full credit to Martha Stewart.  Amazing with scones.

9 egg yolks, beaten
3/4 c. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 Tbs. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Strain the egg yolks through a sieve into a heavy saucepan.  Add the sugar and the lemon juice, then stir to combine.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 15 minutes, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and stir until the mixture cools slightly.  Now, whisk in the butter, piece by piece, until fully incorporated.   The butter will melt slowly, cooling the curd as it is whisked in.

Add the lemon rind.   Transfer to a glass bowl, cover, and refrigerate.   Eat with a spoon, spread on scones, or use as a tart filling.   It's heavenly!

Click to print this recipe!

To have an NBS day like this for yourself, join the mailing list for Lela's cooking classes.

* Degree of difficulty here is very low, people, so no need for the snappy remarks.  I did just get back from my 25th college reunion, so I am fully aware of how old I am.
** Which we didn't even get to go to, because my husband, in a fit of NBS of his own, bought concert tickets for that same night.  Fortunately, I was able to have a cocktail and a nice dinner before the concert, so my basic needs were met.  Now I'll just have to find another way to get a poker game in.
*** Not only is an English Tea the most civilized meal on earth, I knew from past experience with Lela how fabulous this event was going to be.  And unlike many Hollywood sequels, it did not disappoint.
**** Should I not have swigged that raspberry fizzy stuff?


  1. Well, this was obviously a necessity. And you've educated all of your readers at the same time. Love the photos, and can't wait to see your next NBS finds...

  2. And how timely! Changes to the monarchy issued by the commonwealth right on the heels of this class. I felt so very well prepared for the news, somehow...