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Oxtail Stout Pot Pies

Oxtail Stout Pot Pies

Many of the books I read as a child were by the British author Enid Blyton - Famous Five and Secret Seven series. I loved them! These kids were having so much fun and solving mysteries to boot! I lived vicariously through their fictitious adventures. But, sprinkled liberally in these books were mentions of British foods! Pies, jams, puddings, teas .. so much more. I fell in love with these delights, without an inkling of what they were or ever having sighted most of them!

Since then, I have developed a lifelong reverence of pies - sweet at first. But, as I grew older and got into more classics and Victorian/Edwardian fiction, the savory kinds. Bakewell tarts, Spotted dicks, cherry pies, steak and kidney pies, stout pies …

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Cocktail: Naughty Royaltea with DIY Earl Grey Gin

Cocktail: Naughty Royaltea with DIY Earl Grey Gin

Recently, when I was pondering about this topic of making time, it struck me that alcohol has been a time tested resource for unwinding and collaboration offering that un-prejudiced social lubricant. Looking back, I realised that tea for the privileged, whether be it the czars of Russia, Lords of Britain or the billionaires of UES, seems to have been less about the leaf tea and more (always) about spirits, from champagne to vodka to everything in between. 

It seemed rather a no-brainer that my next tea concept had to have alcohol. But, I didn't want it to be just another cocktail hour. I had to have a connection with the tea itself. When a friend suggested tea flavored gin, the concept stuck with force!

So, I started with home infused Earl Grey Gin and finished with my favorite 5 pm cocktail with soda and lots of lime!

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A British Easter.... Adopted

Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be

Hot Cross Orange Buns

I am not going to write another post waxing eloquent (yes, I do think so) about


, so on and so forth. Truth be told, I choose to hold on to only those bits of traditions that relate to food...conveniently, as one may point out. However, especially off-late, I have peeling the layers of the self-ordained distance that I had, previously, maintained with any form of ritualistic habit and realised, that.. well, there is some

beauty in following what has been for centuries

even if, just for the fun of it.

For better or worse, I am not very familiar with too many traditions of my own culture. The one thing that stayed with me is common theme that runs across the various festivals, irrespective of the deity that each was devoted to, viz. mom makes a lot of yummy food which is then offered up for prayer, delightfully consumed and more importantly,

generously exchanged with neighbors

along with a ton of good wishes.

Snack time - Orange buns with homemade mandarin jam

Funny that it is essentially the same logic in all religions and all cultures. We never celebrated Easter at home but I did indeed, through my very British escapes via Enid Blyton's happy leisure reads. I would be lost in the latest adventure of the Famous Five and dreaming about biting into a freshly baked bun just like did on their picnics which, inevitably, turned into something more :)

Or perhaps, it the curiosity of history and the desire to seek your avenger that fuels my constant pull across the ocean to the imperial and her customs. Today, I am choosing to celebrate Good Friday and Easter. The best way I know to celebrate is by creating in the kitchen and sharing it with near and dear. With all that English prologue, it isn't surprising that I decided to go with the

quintessentially British, Hot Cross Buns


Given the English influence in the country, I did grow up learning the famous nursery rhyme on the said buns, although it held absolutely no meaning to any of us, not being able to relate to either the buns or the currency!


My version here is a confluence of two recipes that I have wanted to try for a while and takes advantage of the last of the citrus season. I adapted Jamie Oliver's (well.. I stay true to Brit!) recipe for the banana-honey bread for the orange twist and increased the liquid content to make the fluffier version that is typical of these Good Friday buns.

Photo Composition Note:

Today was a busy day and I finally got to working on the art piece for my home. The buns were baked in the midst of the chaos and I chose to take advantage of the contrast between the

artistic disarray of my paints and the tidy arrangement of the buns

.. :)

Hot Cross Orange Buns

For the buns:

400 g strong organic flour

150 ml fresh squeezed orange juice

150 ml water, at 110F

12 g dry active yeast

2 T butter, room temperature

2 T honey

2 T sugar

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup chopped almonds

1/3 cup chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup raisins

zest of 1 orange

1 egg for egg wash

For the crosses:

2 T white flour

2 T cold water

For the glaze:

1 tsp orange jam or apricot jam

1 tsp water

Dissolve the yeast, sugar and salt into the warm water. Set aside the mixture for five minutes and then mix the orange juice with the yeast mixture. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the liquid mixture into it. Gently bring in the flour from the walls in circles and incorporate into the liquid to form a soft dough. Knead the dough until it forms a tacky and not sticky ball. Fold in the butter to form a well greased dough.

Place the dough ball in a well oiled bowl that allows of 2.5 times volume. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour or until doubled in volume. This is the first proof. Gently degas the dough and knead again. Add the nuts and fruits and knead again. Let the dough proof a second time, for about 30 or minutes. Degas the dough again. Pinch a handful of dough and roll into a ball. You should be able to make 12 balls out of the dough.

Place the balls about half inch apart in a pan or tray, cover with towel and proof for the third and last time for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the flour and water and fill a piping bag to make the crosses. Whisk an egg with a bit of milk to make the egg wash and brush the tops of the buns. Carefully, pipe crosses on the buns and bake for 15 minutes until golden on top.

Warm the jam and water to make the glaze. Brush the buns with the glaze and bake for another 5 minutes. Cool on the rack for a few minutes but eat it warm.

Spotted Dick with Orange Brandy Sauce - Daring Bakers April 2010

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

When I saw the challenge, I was actually looking forward to it! You see, I have a humongous crush on all things British; from their oh-to-die-for accent to Hugh Laurie to their authors to well.. whatever else.. When I confess that I ordered my Harry Potter collection from Amazon UK because I liked the British book jackets better, you get my obsession, don't you?!

Recently, I read Wolf Hall (2009 Booker Prize winner) which given my infatuation with medieval England was the perfect book for me! The book mentions a couple of recipes that sounded soo good and I immediately went on a search of medieval English cookbooks.

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I found a few online and bought one titled "Medieval Home Companion - Housekeeping in the Fourteenth century" - interesting book with eye-catching chapter titles like "Take Your Chickens and Cut Their Throats"; that's how it introduces the recipe for stuffed chicken... And, some really weird advice for household stuff, like "How to make cages birds lay eggs, sit on them and raise their young"!!!!!

Anyway, good fun read on what people of those times did and stuff and a couple of interesting recipes..

So, back to the pudding. The challenge was to a. use suet and b. cook by steaming. I could not find beef suet but then, I realised I had vegetable suet (hydrogenated palm oil) on hand! So, I made batch 1 with that and an authentic old medieval recipe I dug up somewhere. Err.. well, that did not happen at all! Take 2 - I used the suet in the modern recipe only to realise that the suet had gone bad!

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Finally, I did the final take with butter and the modern recipe. So, it was raisins and orange steamed pudding served with an orange brandy sauce.

Verdict: I must confess, I was disappointed. The "pudding" was sponge like and perfectly cooked but a bit too crumbly for my liking. Given the long cooking time, I was not too taken by the end result. Perhaps, I should make a steak and kidney pudding and taste test that one!

Spotted Dick Pudding

(adapted from

1/4 cup dried raisins, soaked in 1 T of brandy
1 tsp grated orange zest
3/4 cup flour
1 stick cold butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/5 cup sugar
1/2 T baking powder
3-4 T milk

Sift together the dry ingredients. Cut butter into the flour mixture until you get a crumbly mixture. Add the zest and raisins. Stir in the milk and knead into a dough ball. It will be slightly sticky.

Butter the pudding mould generously and transfer the dough into it. Smooth the top and cover with a round of wax paper. Cover tightly with foil pleated in the center to allow for expansion. Steam for about an hour or until golden and puffed.

Cool for a few minutes. Remove from mould and serve with orange-brandy sauce.

Orange Brandy Sauce

1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 T sugar
1/2 T corn starch
1 T brandy
1 T butter

In a small sauce pan, heat the orange juice, sugar and corn starch until the mixture starts to thicken. Melt the butter into it. Once it is thick enough, remove from heat and stir in the brandy.

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