Sunday, August 7, 2016

Daisy - she was a GREAT British cook!

Someone recently told me about The Great British Baking Show, and I just started watching. Enough with the politics. This is a delightful show, and it is bringing back many memories of my dear mother-in-law Daisy. She put the lie in "boring British cookery." She could cook!

I treasure a handwritten recipe she gave me for how to make treacle pudding. Although she called it "treacle" pudding, it was made with Tate and Lyles Golden Syrup. In the instructions, she wrote that she had David (my husband at the time) hold the string while she tied down the waxed paper that was part of steaming the pudding. Steaming pudding? Had they not heard of Jell-O? Maybe I will share her recipe with you in a future post. Today, I just want to do a shout out for British Grub, also the name of a cookbook she gave me.

When I became part of Dave's family, I learned to understand English without asking Dave to interpret for me when we were alone. I learned to love a woman who loved her son fiercely and eventually took me in, once I had met her approval. I learned to make a proper cup of tea. Daisy said that the Americans couldn't make tea, and the British couldn't make coffee. Agreed. I learned to do both - coffee from my German mother, and tea from my British mother-in-law.

She made tea every morning for Dave's dad, and he rang a bell to let her know when he was awake. She then carried his cuppa into the bedroom and served him his morning tea. She told me she would get me a bell for David. I told Dave if he tried that routine with me, he would be wearing that bell where the sun don't shine!

Our Christmas dinner went from turkey or ham to roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. It was a nice transition. I miss those dinners. Perhaps I will have a proper British dinner for a few friends this year on Christmas Day. I spend my Christmas days alone, since my family does Christmas Eve, and it is crown roast of pork at my son's house. But I do have fond memories of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, finished with treacle pudding drizzled with Bird's custard for dessert, along with hot tea.

What is it with the British and their puddings? "Two great nations divided by a common language." (Attributed to both George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.) Treacle pudding made by steaming, and Yorkshire pudding made in hot beef drippings.  Oh, that Yorkshire pudding, I remember watching it puff up in the oven, browning here and there on the top. It was then cut up and served on the side of the roast beef slices, with good, dark rich gravy over all. Oh, and oven roasted potatoes. She taught me well. I'm sure my grasp of British cooking helped us get over a rough start. But we did, and I cherish the memories of her. She treated my children as her own grandchildren, and they both have fond memories of her.

Daisy also taught me to make a proper English breakfast - with fried bread (in butter, my friends, not lard or bacon fat), sunny side up eggs, and very thick bacon. The other breakfast I often made was her recipe for English crepes. Nothing fancy, but oh, so good. Very thin crepes, hot from the pan, with fresh lemon squeezed over them, then sprinkled with sugar and rolled up. Three to a plate, and garnished with a lemon wedge. And a cup of hot tea made right.

Okay, one full recipe here.

How to make a good cup of tea. 

First pour boiling water in the pot to heat it, swish it around and dump it out. Bring more water to the boil, then turn off. Then throw black tea leaves into the bottom of the pot (I happen to favor Ceylon), use about a heaping teaspoon of tea per cup, then pour the water (not boiling, but still very hot) into the pot. Pop on the tea cozy. If you don't have one, then covering the pot with a heavy dish towel will work fine. Let it sit until you see that the tea leaves have sunk to the bottom of the pot. Then oh so carefully, so you don't disturb the leaves in the bottom, pour into cups that you have also rinsed with hot water. Add lemon or milk depending on your taste, and sugar if you must. There may be a few tea leaves in the cup. But how are you to read your tea leaves to learn your fate if you don't have a few leaves in the bottom?

Reading tea leaves

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