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...