BREAKFAST TEAS

Have you ever had one of those nights when you’re laying in bed and your head becomes full of the most bizarre, unrelated thoughts.  As hard as you try to toss them aside, you can’t.  Those thoughts just keep coming back into your consciousness … rolling around and around and around.  Well, that’s exactly what happened to me last night.  And, for some reason, the subject was breakfast teas.  Yes, I know … bizarre!   English Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast to be exact.

What kept occurring to me was, “why do they exist?”  Although I’ve traveled through all the wonderful countries of Great Britain, never have I seen (except in grocery stores), been offered or served a “breakfast tea”.  I’ve been served PG Tips, Yorkshire Gold, Barry’s, Twining’s, A&P, Tetley and a variety of unknown bagged teas.  I’ve also been served, on one occasion, a very nice Ceylon.  But never anything for breakfast called “breakfast tea” whether it’s from England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist or aren’t being sold in grocery stores.  Barry’s now has an English Breakfast and Taylor’s even has a Scottish Breakfast.

Here in the States, however, many tea drinkers think you need to start the day with a breakfast tea … most often, English Breakfast, but, of course, if you are a “real tea drinker” then it’s Irish Breakfast.  Why would all of this be running around in my head at 3am?  I don’t know.  But the more I tried to put it away, the more I tried to understand it.

As a tea retailer, my English Breakfast tea … a bright blend of assertive Ceylon and hearty Assam with a burgundy-like Keemun … was by far my most popular seller until that is, customers started asking for something stronger.  They needed a tea that packed the punch of a cuppa coffee … something that would stand up better to milk and sugar.   Knowing that Barry’s packed a punch, I created a tea much like it … a rich, dark blend of high-quality CTC (cut, torn and curled) malty Assams … Irish Breakfast it was!  And it was a huge hit.  But now other customers said it was too assertive, too rich, too dark.  You cannot please everyone, I guess, so back to the blending table.

I felt like Goldilocks and the Three Bears … if the Daddy Bear Irish Breakfast was too strong, and the Baby Bear English Breakfast was too weak, then we needed a Momma Bear.  How about … Scottish Breakfast!

Scottish Breakfast became an even bigger success than English or Irish.  Every customer loved it.  A blend of orthodox full-bodied Assams with just a hint of Ceylons, it struck the right balance between the two.  It held its own with milk and sugar, or dark right from the pot.  It was such a success that orders for 2, 3 and 5 lbs. were coming in continuously.  Customers didn’t want to run out.  Even today, although I’ve closed up shop, I still get requests for “Scottish Breakfast” tea.

But the question still remains unanswered.  With more than 3500 varieties of teas available including Assams, Keemuns, Ceylons, Yunnans, Darjeelings, white teas, green teas, pu-erhs and oolongs, teas from countries all over the world, China, India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Nepal, Kenya, Japan, then why are breakfast teas still so much in demand here in the States?

And as I sit here this morning enjoying a delicate cup of fragrant, light  Silver Needles with its hint of sweetness, this question remains unanswered and still continues to run through my head.

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Chicken and Leek Pie

This classic Welsh “pie” is served on March 1st which is St. David’s Day.  St. David’s Day celebrates Wales’ patron saint with celebrations all across the U.K.  Born in the 6th century, Fr. David was heavily involved in missionary work and founded a number of monasteries.  As a strong leader and with a strict adherence to Christian beliefs, his loyal followers grew.  Fr. David was made Archbishop while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and was consecrated a saint by Pope Callistus in 1120.  With more than 50 churches named after him, and the largest Cathedral in Wales, there is no doubt as to this man’s popularity.

I’m not sure why this particular dish is associated with St. David’s Day … could be because two of the key ingredients are practically national symbols of Wales (leeks and Caerphilly cheese). What I do know, however, is this is a fantastic family dish … and perfect for to be served on March 1st or any other day!

I have to admit I did not have Caerphilly cheese (and couldn’t find it), so I substituted Cheddar, but I think next time I’m going to use Stilton.  I also added sliced mushrooms for a little earthiness.  It was hearty, rich and delicious!  As they say in Britain, “why not have a go?”.

CHICKEN AND LEEK PIE
Bake at 425° F for 20 minutes … reduce heat to 350° F for 40 minutes.

4 large chicken breasts, or 8 chicken thighs (or any combination), cubed
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups leeks, washed and sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup crumbled Caerphilly cheese (or Feta, or Gouda or Cheddar)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper


Cube the chicken pieces.  In a large plastic bag, add the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Put the chicken cubes into the flour bag and toss til the chicken is completely coated.

Into a large skillet heat the oil and sear the chicken.  Remove the chicken to a plate and add a bit  more olive oil to the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and saute the leeks til soft (about 5-6 minutes).  Add the garlic.

Put the chicken back into the pan and add the mushrooms.

Turn up the heat and slowly add the chicken stock and the white wine.  Stir well to combine and reduce to thicken.

Then turn the heat to low and add the heavy cream, the mustard and the cheese.  Taste to adjust the seasoning.

Remove from the heat and add the fresh herbs.  Pour everything into a large heat-proof casserole dish.

On a floured board, roll th e puff pastry sheet out just a bit to fit over the top of the dish.  Brush the egg around the top of the dish for the pastry to adhere.

Place the pastry on top and cut slits into the top of the pastry for the steam to escape.  Brush the pastry with the beaten egg.

 Place the casserole onto a baking tray just in case you get seepage.

Pop the tray into a very hot oven 425°F for 20 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 30 to 40 minutes.

 

 

 

Serve piping hot with a side salad and glass of wine!  Now sit back and take all the complements!

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References:  Catholics Online, Wikipedia, Encyclopedia.com,

Toad in the Hole … my way!

For  hubby, this is comfort food to end all comfort foods!  Toad in the Hole … really?  Who am I to say what is comfort food.  For me, it’s Mac ‘n Cheese!  At least with Mac ‘n Cheese you have an idea of what it is. Toad in the Hole . Bubble ‘n Squeak . Jam Roly Poly . Spotted Dick . where do the Brits get these names?

The origins of Toad in the Hole, which are sausages baked in a Yorkshire Pudding (aka Popover) batter, generally served with onion gravy, are sketchy.  Some food historians theorize that this dish originated in the late 1600’s when a flour and egg batter (now known as Yorkshire Pudding) was placed under the meat while it was cooking on an open spit, in order to catch the drippings. Others say that “no, it wasn’t until the early 1800’s” that this type of batter was used.

Today this very economical dish is traditionally made with bangers (sausages).  But in The Modern Housewife by Alexis Soyer (1850), she suggests using “any remains of cooked beef, veal, mutton, pork, roasted or boiled, salt or fresh, game and fowl”.  As a result, you can see that this dish was probably not served to the aristocrats or royalty, but rather to the working class and poor. Dishes like this, however, are what we have all come to love.  Comfort food!

Where did the name come from?  No one is really certain.  Does the finished dish look like toads poking up out of a quagmire?  Was the dish originally made using toads or frogs?  Or was it named after a pub game of tossing discs into holes in a pub table?

All I know is, tonight I’m making Toad in the Hole – My Way!  Why am I calling it My Way? Because I think the original recipe is a little bland, so I am kicking it up just a bit with Harissa and adding onions coated in a mixture of Ketchup and Chili Sauce.  Like many family recipes, there are quite a few variations. Give this one a try and let me know what you think.

TOAD IN THE HOLE (my way)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
salt and pepper
1 tsp Harissa seasoning (or more to taste)
8 to 10 good quality pork sausages (sweet or spicy)
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
2 onions, sliced
olive oil
4 tablespoons sausage drippings

Make the batter first  and then set it aside for at least 30 minutes (up to 3 or 4 hours).

Into a bowl sift 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and the Harissa seasoning.

Mix together and make a well in the center.  Add 4 eggs and beat well.

Add the milk while beating the mixture.  Be s ure to beat til smooth and lump free.  Set aside.

 

Preheat the oven to 400°.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and brown the sausages.  I prefer spicy sausages, but you can use sweet, or flavoured.

When nicely browned put the sausages into an ovenproof baking dish (approx. 13″ x 9″).

In the same saute pan add a bit more olive oil and, over medium heat, saute the sliced onions. Season with salt and pepper. When they are soft (about 10 minutes) add the ketchup and sweet chili sauce, coating the onions well.  Pour this over the sausages in the baking dish.

If you do not have 4 tablespoons of drippings after cooking the sausages and onions, make up the difference with olive oil.  Add it to the baking dish and then put the baking dish into the 400° oven for 5 minutes until everything gets very hot.

Remove the dish from the oven and quickly pour the batter over the sausages and onions.  Pop the dish back into the oven and bake for 35 minutes.  Don’t peek!  You want the Yorkshire Pudding to puff up and if you are opening and closing the door, it will deflate.

When the pudding is golden brown, and still a bit soft in the middle, it is ready.  Serve immediately with a crisp green salad.  Hot, crisp and soft with a bit of heat from the Harissa … English comfort food!!

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References:  BBC Food, The Telegraph, Britain Explorer,