Tuesday, 12 April 2011

One very tearful Hen.. !

This afternoon tea was for the lovely Katy organised as a suprise by all her friends for her forthcoming wedding - the day before the Royal wedding - but no less important of course!

With the usual consultations under way we arranged to meet to confirm everything. It is a moment I always enjoy as you get an immediate idea of who you are working with and you can put a face to the voice or more common these days the voiceless/faceless email.

I instinctively knew I would like this group, emails were easy, prompt and reliable, always a good sign. Two very pretty girls indeed arrived to meet me and after a chat I took them across to view the beautiful private gardens attached to my flat. I often use these as they are a perfect backdrop to any occasion and had suggested they could use them a possible option, weather permitting.

The menu was decided - a combination of sweet and savoury treats: -

Prosecco & strawberries..

minature pastry canapes - sour cream/salmon/chives..

cucumber/ham & mustard sandwiches...

fresh fruit cup...

blueberry and lavender cake... chocolate and guinness cake...

orange and almond cake...


old fashioned english sweets...

Tea/ flowering & english breakfast/coffee...

The girls had rented a house for their weekend in Brighton, one of the busiest of the year and as it turned out the day dawned with a flawless blue sky and glorious sunshine. The gardens were to be used as a champagne corner before coming on to me.

They collected borrowed rugs, sugar dusted strawberries, a cutsey umbrella and a 1960s Good Housekeeping magazine that I use sometimes as a bit of light literary entertainment ! With all preparations finally done through the haze of jet lag (from arriving back from Australia just 48 hours previously) , the table looking twinkly, elegant and decidedly girly, summoning my girls was due.

With their garden fun at an end the ' hen' was told to ring my bell stating her name only. Through the entry phone I could hear an excited but very uncertain little voice making her claim admist the giggles of anticipation of her friends.

I very naughtily kept silent while a very apprenhensive little face appeared in the door way, then after a quick glance at what lay before her she promptly burst into tears, closely followed by several others! Not my usual reaction it has to be said but very cute indeed. With a cuddle in

place and an explanation, the tears continued, a clear demonstration of simply being overwhelmed at the kindness and suprise of it all.

Food and drink were all happily consumed and I tried to be attentive yet discreet, within the limitations an open kitchen will allow. They wrote cheery messages to their friend and thanks to me on the bathroom mirrror, collected up their roses from each place setting and armed with doggy bags for later, trotted off happy and chatty into the April sunshine...

Lovely to meet you all... Congratulations Katy, I hope it was all you wished for !

I am promised photos and reviews....oooo scary !

More Sex and the City than Vintage tea..!

After a long cold winter, the long awaited spring was just waking up when I was unexpectedly summoned to my family in Australia this March. My usual stint has always been in the shimmering white heat of Summer, a blessed relief from the dreary gloom of the extended British winter.

Arriving in what is Autumn, it made me smile to see the optimistic Australians still able to don summer wear with the obligatory surfboard under arm, iconic Bondi beckoning as Sydney siders and tourists alike enjoy life in this most beautiful of cities.

As a way to show gratitude to my sisters friends she requested I do an afternoon tea before my return. Invitations went out -' you are invited to an eccentric English tea party '

Searching for the same ingrediants with which to bake proved not too difficult but what appears to be the same turns out quite different. The standard of food in Australia is high and the weather means everything ripens properly so fruit and vegetables are all bigger, brighter and without doubt superior in flavour that our dulled English palates have simply forgotton. The simple joy of eating a ripe mango or perfect peach is worth 24 hours in 'cattle' alone!

With the necessary adjustments made and a few failures in working with a different oven it was actually a delight. My sisters kitchen is designed as 2 in one so 2 sinks plus bench space on both sides. Space in abundance, a joy to work in, huge windows looking out over tropical gardens, pool, magnolia trees and as night falls the iconic music of the crickets. .. no, not a rock band.. insects!
The plan was for me to do everything but my sister is not only a talented cook, but a doer by nature and as about as anal as I am with regard to presentation and perfection!
With the table laid and looking suitably glamorous my sister dressed to match, with her friends arriving, champagne flowing and the compliments and cameras at the ready, I stood back and watched, feeling a flood of tenderness as she relaxed and laughed loudly, buoyed by the warmth and restorative power that good friends and family can offer...