Recipe: Pan Moteado (Mexican-inspired tea bread)

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I always think of tea loaves as a very traditional sort of cake- the kind of thing your great-great grandma would’ve made on a Sunday and rationed out during the week. There’s something quite Victorian about them, and I recently found out that they’re usually associated with Yorkshire. I love them because they’re super easy to make and I’m quite lazy…

This tea bread is inspired by a traditional bara brith, a Welsh tea bread,, but made with a bit of Mexico in mind. Thanks to Bluebird Tea Co.’s Dark Choc Chilli Chai, this has a bit of spice and a richness that I’ve not experienced in any other tea bread. I’ve also added chocolate chips in place of some of the traditional dried fruit; you can play with ratios as you see fit.

As bara brith translates as ‘mottled bread’, I decided to call this ‘pan mateado’- which translates as the same thing in Spanish. It’s a cake that I think represents a lot about me- my Welsh birth, my Yorkshire background and my love of anything Mexican. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 mug cold tea

300g self-raising flour

150g caster sugar

100g chocolate chips

50g raisins or other dried fruit

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Pour the tea into the bowl and mix with the other ingredients until it forms a batter.
  4. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
  5. After the 45 minutes, turn the oven off and leave the cake inside for another ten minutes.
  6. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Tea loaves are delicious on their own, or toasted with a bit of butter. Enjoy!

 

 

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September, September

I love September. I love the change in the air as we hurtle towards October; I’ve already started wearing handknitted socks and my new uniform is cord/denim skirts over leggings, paired with men’s jumpers that I’ve had for years. What’s different, of course, is that although I have the ‘back to school’ feeling- especially as D has started school now- for the first time in a decade I haven’t actually gone back. Although it’s weird, I’m not missing it so much. It’s lovely to still be in bed at the time I would usually be walking to meet my lift.

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Hibernating is cool.

I am sort of at a loss, though. I have six hours a day with nothing much to do. As a teacher, every part of my day, from 6.50am to at least 5pm was accounted for and busy, so this has been a bit weird. I am a rubbish housewife, although I DID manage to clean the bathroom the other day, so…

So what have I been doing? Well, I started applying for jobs properly this week and got an interview for the first job I applied for- although it turned out that the hours were never going to work around childcare for D. However, I got some excellent feedback about my interview and CV (which, FYI, I’m using a skills-based template for, which is much better when you’ve been in a job for a long time. You tailor it according to the job spec/skills they’re looking for, which is much more useful for showing employers what you can do. It is more time-consuming than a traditional CV though…) I’m hopeful that something will come along soon, but I was very pleased that I managed to score an interview so soon into my search. It’s just a matter of perservering.

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I am not this happy when I am job hunting.

I have also been exercising more, which I might write about in a future post, and working hard to get my skin into a happy place- it turns out that I have inherited my mum’s tendency to get acne as an adult. I’ll also probably be blogging a bit more, if only to make myself LOOK busier than I actually feel.

But until then…. roll on autumn!

Sunday Tea: Tugboat Brews Gingerbread Chai

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‘The Tea’ by Mary Stevenson Cassatt (Museum of Fine Art, Boston)

Hello! Welcome to a new weekly (ish?) feature in which I review a tea in detail. This week, it’s Tugboat Brews’ Gingerbread Chai, a sweet rooibos from deepest, darkest Cornwall that my friend Emma brought when she stayed with us recently.

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Image: Tugboat Brews

My love of a good chai is well documented on the pages of this blog and I’m pleased that we’re finally entering into what feels like it might be a proper autumn (it’d be nice if 2016 did SOMETHING right…) Tugboat Brews does seem to do a good selection of chais-there are three to choose from- and this one is their non-caffeinated offering.

It’s slightly different to other gingerbread chais I’ve tried; the base is a vanilla rooibos, which gives it a delicately sweet flavour that lingers even after the spice has gone. It’s actually pretty lovely, as some variations can be swamped by the rooibos flavour or a too-fiery gingerbread. This chai is mellow and a pretty perk me up for a mid-morning cuppa or a delicious before bed milky chai made the traditional way.

The spices in the tea are simple- ginger and cinnamon (my two favourite autumn flavours in THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, FYI) are just the right ratio to make this a comforting chai. Some chais should be gutsy, some should be warming and some should be… comforting. This is a chai in the latter category. Tugboat have labelled this in their ‘hug in a mug’ section and I agree. It’s lovely- and a perfect tea for those who are thinking of embracing hygge in the upcoming colder months.

Bluebird Tea Co. Autumn 2016*

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One of the best things about being back in the blogging mindset is that I get to write about tea again, which is quite honestly one of my favourite things. Bluebird’s output of autumn teas is usually strong and 2016 is no different (which is a relief in a year when everything else seems to have been a bit… hit and miss!)

There are four new flavours: Choco Pops, Lapsang Chai, Bananas and Custard and a rooibos Earl Grey. Happily-excitingly!- the annual favourite Spiced Pumpkin Pie makes a return too. I was sent all of them except Bananas and Custard.

Choco Pops

I can tell you that this blend of Ceylon and genmaicha (Japanese toasted rice) with chocolate chips/sprinkles/powder does indeed taste like the cereal so beloved of hyperactive kids everywhere; albeit a slightly more grown up version. The genmaicha adds a nuttiness that compliments the chocolate and the light tea lifts the overall flavour so it’s actually a bit sophisticated. Despite the inclusion of sencha green tea, you can add milk- and I urge you to try it. This tea was especially nice one evening when I was writing and needed something sweet, but not so much it made my teeth ache. Lovely stuff. (I’d actually be tempted to make this up like a hot chocolate with just milk and no water. Maybe add a couple of mini marshmallows to really make it fun.)

Lapsang Chai

Darlings, when it comes to lapsang souchong, I am not the droid you’re looking for. I find that it’s a tea that splits people- either they REALLY LOVE IT or, like me, they have no desire ever to drink it again after the first taste. However, I do love a good chai- and I know that this tea is special to Bluebird, as head mixologist Krisi developed the flavour for the T2 Chai Championships  in Sydney- so I gave it a go. And… it’s not converted me, but I can appreciate it. The smokiness of the lapsang works beautifully with spices and it tastes how I imagine Bonfire Night would, if you could make it into a drink (lapsang=bonfire, spices=fireworks). I made it with local honey and lots of milk and you might well be tempted to serve this on November 5th. I do know know my lapsang-loving friends will love it.

Rooibos Earl Grey

Earl Grey is the tea I drink the most. I’ve tried so many varieties over the years that it became the way I learnt about teas and how ingredients in them work together. When I was pregnant, I was desperate for a decent decaff EG, but none were really up to much. And lo, enter the rooibos Earl Grey! Some are more successful than others, but I would say that the ratio here is right: the sweetness of the rooibos compliments a strong (but not overpowering) bergamot flavouring. Lovely stuff.

img_20160903_123913Set your alarms for September 26th for the return of my favourite Bluebird Tea ever: Spiced Pumpkin Pie! I am eking out my current supply til then and then I’ll be ordering a boatload- it’s sweet, but not too sweet and is the perfect bridge to Bluebird’s always excellent Christmas offerings. (NB: you can currently buy the tea in a latte kit if you can’t wait that long.)

Special mention goes to:

Bluebird is branching out! I’ve been lucky to try one of their candles (Earl Grey Creme, obviously) and their Gingersnap Green Tea soap. Both have been developed with Lu Aromatherapy, a local Brighton business committed to creating ethical products. I can confirm that both smell heavenly and the soap is gentle even on my fussy skin.

Finally, Krisi has a book coming out! The World Atlas of Tea looks super interesting and will definitely be on my ‘to-buy’ list once I get paid.

Happy autumn!

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Why I am all about hygge

I’ve been reading quite a bit about the concept of hygge lately- there was obviously a press release recently sent out, as both the BBC and The Pool have had features on their websites. ‘Hygge’ is apparently the Danish word for coziness and I am all. over. it.

If you follow me on any social media (particularly Instagram), you’ll know that my life generally revolves around books, tea, the odd bit of baking and knitting-particularly handknitted socks. So I’m not sure whether I was made for hygge, or it was made for me.

Take this blurry snap of me in the jumper below, for example:

My favourite scruffy jumper is out of its summer hibernation #helloautumn:

I cannot explain to you the EXCITEMENT I felt when the first chill of autumn appeared I could legitimately get this out of my ‘winter clothes’ drawer (we had a spare drawer. Don’t judge.) It isn’t great quality and I keep promising myself that I’m going to knit myself a nicer version out of some good quality wool, but there’s something about this one that makes me happy. In fact, I love it so much, I’m currently wearing it as I type.

See also handknitted socks:

Hand knitted socks!:

Every article I have read about the idea of hygge has been illustrated by the feet of smug people which are smugly adorned in handknitted Scandiweigan socks. These were knitted for me by my friend Jan and I love them. I do knit socks, but no one knits a comfier sock than Jan does. Ergo, these are my favourites and very ‘hygge’, despite me not having an open fire to display them next to.

Obviously, I am well suited to this idea of hunkering down for a long, cold winter. The holly tree out back is already festooned with scarlet berries, which I am told is a sure sign of a long, cold winter. I don’t mind. I grew up in the wilds of the North (er, Leeds) and I have a hardy constitution. I dress my child like a sherpa at the merest whiff of cold weather, so I imagine he’ll be fine too (he is desperate for snow, as there hasn’t been any since he was teeny tiny, so he can’t remember it.)

So if embracing hygge is an actual thing, rather than a clever marketing ploy- and if it’s the latter, congratulations! I’ve generated some content! Please feel free to offer me an all expenses paid trip to Denmark- I am quite happy to participate. As long as I can stay indoors, have the heating on, drink tea and read a good book.

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Some recent recipes

I’ve been baking LOADS recently. I’ve also been taking advantage of fruit from the garden (cherries, bland tasting apples) and the local woods/common- foraging is quite fun, as long as you don’t mind being stung a bit. Seriously, lately I’ve been stung three times and NO DOCK LEAVES were available. I feel nature let me down there. Anyway, if you’re up for a bit of autumn foraging, I can recommend Alys Fowler’s very good book.

Anyway, recently I’ve made the following and, where possible, I’ve linked to recipes. Welcome to autumnal comfort baking!

The closest I’ve got to ‘proper’ Millie’s style cookies is here. I’ve done these with choc chips, Smarties and M&Ms. I would definitely stick to M&Ms, as they seem to cope better with being cooked.

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We visited my family in Cardiff at the start of the summer holidays and I came home wanting to have a go at Welsh cakes, which are sort of like scones but you fry them instead of bake them. They’re a bit temperamental and you have to watch that they don’t burn, but they are lovely. I got my recipe from the Bero book (which, if you don’t already own is well worth the £2.50 it costs!), but Visit Wales have a very similar recipe here.

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I also had a go at making a Bara Brith, which I remembered from GBBO a couple of years ago. I make tea breads quite a lot, especially if D wants to bake, as they’re quick and simple. Bara Brith means ‘mottled bread’ and is a handy recipe to whip up if you have guests coming round. You can find the recipe I used here.

Remember when I was pregnant with D and my nesting phase was basically just me baking parkin, which is lovely and autumnal (as well as being a recipe from my home town of Leeds? Well, it’s the time of year again to get perfecting it in time for Halloween and Bonfire Night. The recipe is here.

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I’ve also been experimenting with chutney (my friend Marine suggested a few weeks back that apple and ginger was nice), as we’ve had a glut of apples. The ones in the garden are a bit strange: small and not very flavoursome. However, they are a really good apple for taking on and enhancing the flavours of other things. So, I made four small jars of apple and ginger chutney, which was MUCH easier than I expected. The recipe is here. The jars are now in a cupboard maturing and won’t be released until December, when I expect them to perform well with the festive cheeseboard.

I’ve also been making an autumn jelly- foraged blackberries, garden apples and spices- but I’m working on tweaking that recipe, so keep your eyes peeled for that soon!

What are you baking at the moment?