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During the summer, the temperatures go up and the humidity does not help, making cooking in your kitchen a painstaking chore. You can only order out so many times before it becomes expensive and unhealthy. Hearty dinners are important for you and your family, so you want something quick, easy, and delicious. Bisto is here to help!

 

Located in our gravy section are a few little gems called Ahh! Bisto!, or affectionately called Bisto, the gravy mix loved by millions of people in the UK. These tins contain tiny little granules that easily turn into flavorful gravy for your Sunday roast, mashed potatoes, or other meats. Bisto was first made in 1908 when two men named Mr. Roberts and Mr. Patterson were asked by their wives to come up with a way to make smooth gravy in less time. The name Bisto came from the gravy’s unique ability to “brown, season, and thicken” in one.

 

When making a delicious Sunday roast, Bisto has been the staple for generations. Enjoy with classic roast beef or intensify your Shepherd’s Pie! When chicken is made, Chicken Bisto can be used with some potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Chicken is sometimes cooked for a Sunday dinner or at any time during the week.

 

Not only does Bisto make gravy, but they also make some delectable sauces, too! Try their cheese sauce mix! The container calls for 4 heaped dessert spoons (or about 8 dry teaspoons) of the mix and 250ml of water. Mix together and you’ve got some of the best cheese sauce around! Enjoy with brussel sprouts, in macaroni and cheese, or classic cauliflower cheese!

 

Either as a side dish or a main course, Bisto cheese sauce is always a good idea! You don’t need to spend too much time making from scratch with Bisto. The taste and convenience is enough to make you go “Ahh!”

 

-CD

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mince-pies

Nearly everyone loves pie, so when you hear about having pie during the holidays, it turns some heads. While beloved pies like apple and pumpkin are served during the holidays, mince pies are the true holiday crowd pleaser. Mince pies have been around since the 1600s and believe it or not, they were originally filled with actual meat! Love them or hate them, it’s not Christmas to many without a mince pie! In the US, not too many people have heard of mince pies or even know that they are a major part of the holidays but in the UK, it’s not Christmas without them. The mince (or mincemeat) is made of dried fruits, peels, bits of apple, along with distilled spirits like brandy, and spices.

In the UK, mince pies come in bite size and usually in packs of 6, 9 or 12. Sometimes the pies are decorated beautifully in pastry, with shapes like stars or holly cut into them. In the US, some markets sell what are dubbed as “mini” pies, because mincemeat pies are sold as a whole entire pie to cut and share. Suet, which is a type of animal fat, is also commonly used in many made-from-scratch mincemeat recipes.

When it comes to getting a mince pie fix, some simply go to the grocery store to pick up their mince pies. Others like to make their own by using either homemade or jarred mincemeat, and using either store bought pastry or pastry made from scratch. To make mini pies, some use muffin tins and for a large pie, others use a whole pie plate. Add just a dusting of powdered sugar and you’ve got yourself a nice holiday treat!

However, when it comes to popularity, mince pies are not too common in the United States. You won’t find them as easily as you would in the UK. It’s not a common part of the holiday tradition here as it is on the other side of the pond but you can always keep it going or even start it if you have not had them before!

-CD

At my house on Thanksgiving, there is always dessert: the standard pumpkin pie and an apple pie. Apple pies are at our Thanksgiving dessert menu because some of my family members are not too keen on pumpkin pie, and that is understandable. The idea of pumpkins in a pie do not sound too appealing for some

74627-0-1459502036You may have heard the old saying, “As American as apple pie”. It turns out that apple pies were actually in the UK before they were in the US. They were only brought to America from Britain where they became very popular and associated with American culture. Many Americans enjoy apple pie a la mode, which is vanilla ice cream on the side while the pie is still warm but it’s an entirely different thing in the UK. Go there and they enjoy their apple pie with a bit of custard, cream, or some cheddar cheese!

The types of apples are also very different. In the US, the most popular type of apple used is Granny Smith, a bright green, very tart apple that is used in nearly anything culinary that requires apples. The same goes for the British Bramley apple, the American counterpart to the Granny Smith. As a born and raised American who has never been to the other side of the Atlantic, I have never tasted a Bramley, but it is on my bucket list. I wish I could describe the taste of a 36452ba2-648c-4c67-90f7-3a1fc36cf6f4Bramley (but someday!). I do know that they are green with just a blush of red and very stout in their appearance. It’s the most popular cooking apple in the UK.

Both kinds of pies are prepared using a flaky pastry crust (or shortcrust) along with the apples and some sugar. The spices make all the difference. In the American apple pie, cinnamon is most commonly used, sometimes a bit of nutmeg or other choice spices. The British apple pie will sometimes use little to no spices. Sometimes mixed spice (more on that later) or a little cinnamon. It depends on the palate of the consumer.

American apple pies are usually plain apple but are sometimes made with cherries or made half and half (apple-cherry) to please the apple pie vs. cherry pie lovers. British apple pies take a walk on the wild side by adding dried fruits like sultanas (a type of raisin), figs, or even cheese!

Thanksgiving is definitely one of my favorite holidays but apple pies are enjoyed year round. They can be enjoyed with a nice cup of tea in the afternoon or in the evening with a cool glass of milk!

-CD

 

 

 

 

There aren’t that many opportunities in the year to have a large meal and just go all out. For Americans, there is Thanksgiving, which is held on the last Thursday of November each year. Relatives from far and wide typically come to visit so they can enjoy the annual dinner with the ones they love. There is also a parade filled with giant balloons of cartoon characters many of us know and love, followed by a football game. Once the dinner concludes, dessert of pumpkin or apple pie is served.

The UK is an entirely different story, however. Each Sunday (yes, every Sunday), many Britons make a dinner consisting of meat (usually  beef, pork, chicken, or lamb) that is roasted, potatoes, which are also usually roasted, vegetables, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, and who can forget, the gravy?

The history of a Sunday Roast (or Sunday Dinner) started very simply: many people did not eat meat on Fridays since they were following their religion so it was usually eaten after church when families would whip up a nice Sunday dinner. This has been a tradition since around the 1700s and is a very hearty one, still going strong today. People always make sure they’re home for Sunday dinner!

If you have never made a Sunday Roast, what goes in one? Of course, the standard roast but it’s your choice of what kind of roast. Fancy beef or chicken? Roast it! And the most popular vegetables used to help make up the Sunday Roast range from carrots, to broccoli, to even parsnips. Potatoes are sometimes boiled but are most commonly roasted to be perfectly crispy. Then there’s the stuffing. Now, this isn’t the Thanksgiving stuffing you’re used to. This is stuffing rolled into balls but sometimes it is also made into a dish like traditional American stuffing. There’s also the Yorkshire puddings, which are baked in a special pan (or in a muffin pan) with hot oil until they just pop up! Don’t forget the gravy!

Just describing this makes me hungry! Now I can see why everyone goes home for Sunday Dinner! Do you have your own Sunday Dinner traditions or ones from Home? Do you plan to start new ones?

Enjoy with a nice hot brew. Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

-CD

 

img_20160927_0857432_rewind

(c) English Tea Store – Crystal Derma

There is a huge difference when it comes to baking in the United States versus the rest of the world and that is weight versus volume. Americans measure using the US Standard while everyone else measures using weight. If you have tried to make a recipe straight from a British or European cookbook or baking mixes, you will notice that their recipes are laid out in grams (g) and fluid ounces (oz). In American recipes and baking mixes, it’s completely different. Everything is measured out in cups, both wet and dry. Teaspoons and tablespoons are used in both measuring systems but they are actually completely different when it comes to the actual measurement of the teaspoon or tablespoon.

The British measure their baking ingredients by using a kitchen scale. Many years ago, kitchen scales were standard and had to be manually calibrated. In recent years, people have been converting to digital kitchen scales because they are much easier to work with than standard. The only downside to owning a digital kitchen scale is that the batteries will occasionally run low or die and so you will have to replace the batteries every now and then. The perks of owning a kitchen scale are much better, as you can use one bowl to measure everything instead of having to use cup after cup like we do here in America. It saves a lot of mess.

It also very important to weigh EACH ingredient as you work with a kitchen scale since every ingredient is different. If you were to weigh about 200 grams of all purpose (also known as plain) flour and then need caster sugar afterwards, do not assume that they are the same amount. Every ingredient weighs differently. Get the scale and weigh the caster sugar. It may take a little more or a little less. For the US measures, weight is no difference. Amounts are exactly how they are measured. For one US cup (dry) to be measured, it is best to level off the excess with a butter knife for exact measurements.

Along with measuring ingredients, there is also a different way to measuring temperatures. If you are reading a British recipe and it says to heat the oven to, let’s say, Gas Mark 4, it may baffle you if you are unfamiliar with using a certain type of British oven. Gas marks are how to heat up gas ovens in the UK. Other stoves are marked with temperatures in Celsius, which are also known as Centigrade. Ovens in the US use Fahrenheit, so always look for the C or the F when looking at temperatures. American gas ovens do not have gas marks and can be preheated to Fahrenheit (some ovens may even have Celsius on the knobs), even if the stove is electric.

While it is good to use the American measurements, it’s even better to know how to measure the British way. It may seem hard at first but it really is easy to master once you get it working! Plus, you won’t need to convert any recipes!

-CD

 

Tearoom near Matlock Bath

Tearoom near Matlock Bath

As I returned to the UK for a blend of business and pleasure, I swelled with pride as I went to cafés and eateries and found the bar had been raised on the quality and range of teas available.  A visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in the centre of England was accompanied by a lovely lunch at their restaurant, and amongst the usual offerings of tea was a tealightful Yerba Maté fruit blend. My sightseeing trip also took me to Matlock Bath where I enjoyed a loose leaf Russian Caravan.  I loved the décor of this tearoom which was steeped in history with displays of teaware and tins of rationed foods.

I went to see a wonderful exhibition at Chatsworth House and naturally at the end of the visit, I took a trip through the gift shop.  There were lots of tea paraphernalia, of course, and this tea mug was my personal favourite.

Chatsworth House Tea Mug

Chatsworth House Tea Mug

Having spent some time in central England, I headed down to London ,which is always a joy to be in when it comes to tea.  I revisited one of my favourite tearooms, opting for a loose leaf Darjeeling 2nd Flush whilst my husband tried a Yunnan Gold, but we sought out new tearooms too.  After taking a trip down memory lane, we came across a former pub that had reinvented itself.  Empire Café sought to return to traditional British foods, locally sourced from the British Isles where possible and, looking at their sample menu, I was particularly excited about their teas.  The selection of teas is familiar to the everyday drinker, but they are loose leaf nonetheless. 

V&A Tea and Coffee Menu

V&A Tea and Coffee Menu

One of my memorable visits upon my return to London was a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum and, having taken in several exhibitions (Post modernism, Private Eye, and the House of Annie Lennox), my husband and I treated ourselves to lunch at The V&A Café. I chose Darjeeling First Flush whilst my husband opted for an Earl Grey — loose leaf of course! 

So there we have it.  The UK, whilst steeped in tea history is no longer just about a teabag with milk and two sugars, the quality and varie-tea have certainly changed.

Tea-lightful!!

Read more of May King’s articles about tea here on The English Tea Store Blog.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-erh Tea

Scottish Caramel Toffee Pu-erh Tea

I was having a twitter conversation with a dear tea friend recently,and I was mortified to hear they didn’t have a positive experience in a UK tearoom. As I had written, “what to look for in a good tearoom” in a previous post, I felt a strong urge to put the kettle on and reminisce about some of the great experiences I’ve had growing up in the UK.

(Kettle on: let’s begin).  Tearoom conjures up so many different images to different people so let me start with an explanation by Wikipedia, which states that “A tea house or tearoom is a venue centered on drinking tea.” For some, this could be a Victorian style offering Afternoon Tea or High Tea; for others, this could be a place that sells purely tea and teawares; and for still others, it’s a place offering teas and light snacks.

In this post, I thought I would talk about two tearooms I’ve visited often in London, starting with Postcard Teas. If you log on to Twitter you’ll see some of their wonderful collection of teas on display. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Tim d’Offay, and it’s always a delight to speak with him, as I often leave his tearoom having learned something new. When you enter his tearoom, the way the teas and teawares are beautifully displayed makes you feel you’re in a modern art gallery. It really is serene!! Many people go to London for the shopping, and Postcard Teas is conveniently located very near to Bond Street — home to some of the most expensive designer shops in London. In keeping with the upmarket area, Tim sources a range of great teas himself.  You’ll know exactly the name of the estate and place of production of each and every tea, which is not a statement that many tea companies can proudly proclaim.   The range and quality of the teas are just exquisite, and I can’t wait to go back to London to try more of his teas.

Old Bond Street Mall in London, UK

Old Bond Street Mall in London, UK

(Kettle brewed to the correct temperature for Pu’erh, and now onto the tea making).

The next tearoom is located by another great tourist spot: St. Paul’s Cathedral and as well as having a large range of teas, they also have a selection of breakfast and light lunches on offer, too.  When I lived in London, I would often arrange my lunch meetings there — a cup of tea, a freshly made sandwich or salad and maybe scone with jam and cream if I’m feeling particularly naughty.  What I love about this place is the fun-aspect to their tea categories: serenitea; tranquilitea, activitea — I think you get the picture. 🙂  We Are Tea is a great place to start your tea journey, as their tea selection is easily accessible to novice drinkers and can also keep the seasoned drinker interested.  You can also follow their developments on Twitter.

The article was written with a lovely brewed cup of Pu’erh tea for inspiration.

Editor’s note: You don’t have to travel to London to get great teas that suit both a British and American palate!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Poster from the United Kingdom reading "K...

Image via Wikipedia

What is it about a cup of tea? Oh, I know there’s been all sorts of scientific findings about the properties of tea that point to it’s ability to calm, but just now, I find myself calmed as I brew it and carry it upstairs to my office, and I have not yet had one sip.

I pass the red plaque on my wall: Keep Calm and Carry On, and I lift my cup in recognition.

Surely you have seen the slogan. It is everywhere, on plaques, mugs, bookmarks, and t-shirts. The writer of Bagehot’s Notebook, a blog for The Economist calls the slogan a “bracing injunction”– it sure is. I’m fairly certain my back got straighter as I read it. He further says that “It taps directly into the country’s mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fell.”

During World War II, the British government knew that above all they had to keep calm and carry on (I can’t help it; it is the perfect description.) Courage, like panic, is contagious. They were facing the fear of the Nazi army hitting their shores and flowing over the country. In 1939, anonymous clerks in The Ministry of Information office came up with three slogans, advertisements as it were, to boost morale. The first was “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, and Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory” and the second, which I find generates more panic than courage:  “Freedom is in Peril.” It is possible it read: “Freedom is in Peril. Defend It with All Your Might,” which I find little better, but quite apt for the world in general today. The posters were quickly printed and place up around the country.

The third, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was hardly seen by the British public. It lay forgotten until an enterprising bookstore owner happened upon it, framed it, and got requests from customers for copies. The rest is history, as is said.

The slogans have now outrun their copyrights and anyone can have them printed. You might enjoy visiting the Keep Calm-o-matic site, where you can make up and print your own slogan. I’m thinking “Keep Calm and Drink Tea.”

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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