Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Welcome Shelley Munro!

I can't remember how Shelley and I "met"-but it was mostly likely me jumping around from blog to blog until I happened upon hers one day a while ago. I was immediately hooked. Shelley writes amazing, sexy books with shifters you can't wait to get your claws into. She's also travelled A LOT, and often shares her amazing stories and pictures.

She's agreed to come and talk about the inspiration for her newest release Tea For Two, so without further ado, here she is:

When JK asked me to blog I thought of several subjects to discuss. I thought about the places I’ve traveled to recently in the United States. I thought about Egypt, since that’s the setting for my current work-in-progress. No, I thought, discarding all of these options. I should tie my post to something relating to my new release. It’s called Tea For Two and is a contemporary romance about secrets, fortune telling and tea. And then inspiration hit me because next to breakfast, afternoon tea is my favorite meal.

Afternoon Tea

According to the history books, the Duchess of Bedford started the tradition of afternoon tea. There was a long gap between meals and the Duchess became hungry around four in the afternoon. She asked her servants to bring her a small meal of bread and butter plus cakes and tea to her boudoir. When others discovered her habit, they adopted it and the meal became known as afternoon tea.

I love afternoon tea—the associated rituals and traditions. When my husband and I lived in London we were lucky enough to have afternoon tea at the Ritz Hotel. We booked several weeks in advance and dressed in our best clothes since they’re very particular about the dress code (men have to wear a jacket and tie and jeans won’t do!). A pianist plays while the waiter comes around to take the tea orders.

With the arrival of our pots of tea came a plate of club sandwiches, followed by scones with jam and clotted cream and finally we were offered a selection of pastries to choose from. Very yummy, let me tell you!

Afternoon tea is also a lovely way to get together with friends and family. Most of the preparation can be done in advance and it’s a great way to actually use the china tea set that sits in the far corner of the pantry.

To make the perfect cup of tea:

1. Fill the kettle with fresh water and bring almost to the boil. Pour 5 – 10 cm water into the teapot and bring the remaining water to the boil.

2. Swirl the water around the pot to warm it, then drain and add the tea leaves. Use 1 teaspoon per person plus one for the pot.

3. Pour the freshly boiled water into the pot. Stir once or twice with a spoon, then place the lid on and brew for 3 – 5 minutes.

4. Pour the tea into cups using a tea strainer to catch the leaves (unless you’re reading the tea leaves of course!) Add milk or a thin slice of lemon and sugar to taste if desired.

I like smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber, or egg and cress sandwiches. My husband likes ham and English mustard. We both like scones with strawberry jam and thick clotted cream. Yum!

I thought I’d finish with the recipe for Neenish Tarts. It’s a small sweet tart, which is perfect for afternoon tea. It’s very much a downunder recipe since it was developed in Australia.

125 g (4 oz) butter
125 g (4 oz) sugar
1 egg
225 g (8 oz) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg to the creamed mix and beat well. Sift the dry ingredients and mix into the creamed mixture until it forms a pastry. Knead well. Roll out and line patty tins. Prick and back for about 10 – 15 minutes at 180 C (350 F) When cold fill with the following filling.

4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons icing sugar
4 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
2 dessertspoons lemon juice

Soften the butter and add the icing sugar, lemon juice and condensed milk. Mix until smooth and fill pastry cases. Once this mix is set cover with icing. It’s usual to cover half the tart with chocolate icing and half with a white icing.

My husband knows I enjoy afternoon tea so we’ve visited several Auckland hotels that keep up the tradition. We’ll often take his mother as a birthday or mother’s day treat. Definitely keep this in mind around mother’s day, and if you can’t find a hotel near you that does afternoon tea think about doing one yourself. It will make her day very special.

Do you like afternoon tea? Do you have special memories of afternoon tea with friends and family? What would be your favorite cake/sandwich to have for afternoon tea?


Shelley Munro said...

Hi JK,

Thanks for having me at your blog. :)

J.K. Coi said...

Hi Shelley! So glad you're here!

Vampress Shiela said...

I'm a tea lover as well, Shelley. And I so envy you having been to London. Can I live vicariously through you? :)

Brianna Martini said...

As a tea lover myself, I usually serve one of grandma's old scones recipe which is baked with fresh rose petals. I've created my own rose petals cake which is just as delicious. I'll send you a copy of the recipe via email.

J.K. Coi said...

Hi Shiela! I've been to London--Ontario that is--do you want to live vicariously through me? I thought not. LOL

J.K. Coi said...

Brianna, a rose petal cake sounds divine, I'll bet it's fabulous.

Amy Ruttan said...

I honestly wish it was a tradition here in Canada.

I would love afternoon tea, but for the tea, I'm a bit of a tea snob and like the loose leaf stuff.

My favorite is Jasmine Pearls. Mmmm.

If I do the bagged version (such a snob since China Town in SF), I love Earl Grey.

Shelley Munro said...

Hi Vampress shiela - sure can! We drank a full pot of Darjeeling tea, ate a little of everything. The cream cakes were particularly nice. Um....you're not on a diet, are you? *grin*

brianna martini - the rose petal scones sound delicious. I've never heard of rose petals and scones together. I'd love the recipe. :)

Shelley Munro said...

Amy - do you have some nice tea shops near you? I like loose leaf tea, too, but will use a teabag in a pinch. :)

We have several where you can buy all sorts of tea. The smell is incredible.

Leah Braemel said...

Ooh, I love the look of those Neener tarts (I take it the flour you use isn't self-rising flour?) That was a high point of my visit to England - a high tea. I didn't get to do it in a fancy hotel but in a lovely tea shop in old York. *mouth waters just thinking about it*

And we won't get into a discussion of whether the milk goes into the cup first or second, LOL. That could start a flame war ;)

Maggie Robinson said...

I'm kind of addicted to King Cole tea, which is a New Brunswick (CA) brand...but I've run out and am making do with Tetley's British Blend in sachets. I'm too thirsty and lazy to do tea properly in the morning, which is when I drink it. When my kids were little we'd do tea parties in their doll cups in the afternoons, usually with Oreos, LOL. I've got great memories of cream teas in England, with scones, raspberry jam and clotted cream. Yum. I can only do tea in the afternoon if it's decaffeinated, otherwise I'll be up all night.

Shelley Munro said...

Leah - if you use self-raising flour leave out the teaspoon of baking powder, otherwise use plain flour plus baking powder. Both ways will work. LOL about the order of milk and tea. I'm a milk first kinda girl but I know some people like it the other way. ;)

Maggie - the English do afternoon tea so well. It's not quite the same without clotted cream. I love the stuff.

Jeana said...

the tarts look yummy. but what is the icing sugar. is that just powdered sugar?
I love tea. I got spoiled while i was in London and here in Ohio I don't have much of a selection I've got to buy it in the grocery. so I make do with Twinings English Breakfast in a tea bag, and another kind of tea called Tension Tamers, it's an herbal that is excellent. (imo) And the twinings is only if i have milk for it. But instead of sugar I can only drink tea sweetened with Honey now.
Our closest Tea shoppe is an hour away(that i know of) and the local coffee shops don't carry specialty tea so I can't even get loose leaf tea anymore.

Jeana said...

And as to comments on afternoon Tea. My friend had her baby shower at a tea house. It was a wonderful baby shower. We had tea and sandwiches and sweets. It was a truly unusual Baby Shower, but enjoyable. We got to sit around at tables for 4 and chat with friends and make new friends. The only bad thing was that we were split up into two rooms, so when she opened the gifts we had to all squeeze into a small room.

J.K. Coi said...

Jeana, thanks for stopping by. That sounds like a wonderful way to do a baby shower! Take care,

Shelley Munro said...

Jeana - icing sugar is the very fine sugar we use over here to make glace icing. I'm not sure what powdered sugar is?

Your baby shower does sound nice. I think afternoon tea is a wonderful way to celebrate a get together with friends or family.

JK - thanks again for having me at your blog! It's been fun. :)