Monday, 27 June 2011

Who Serves the Best Cream Tea in Devon?

NB - 
Update Summer 2013
Dartmoor Tearooms is now for sale!  I visited Angels in Torquay the other day and stand by what I said a year ago - fabulous cream tea!

Update Summer 2012
Dartmoor Tearooms are not opening this year due to refurbishment.  They will re-open in Spring 2013.  In the meantime try Angels, Babbacombe, Torquay for an amazing cream tea.  You won't be disappointed!

A cream tea with thick clotted cream and deep red jam served atop plump doughy scones is one of the delights of going out in the afternoon in Devon and Cornwall.  In my time, I have had many a cream tea, a surprising number of which have proved disappointing.  All too often, there is insufficient cream, average jam or a tiny two day old scone.  I have been hearing great things about the Dartmoor Tea Rooms in Moretonhampstead, Devon (longest unhyphenated place name in England I believe).  It was lunchtime, but we all decided to have sweet stuff instead.  Daughter had a chocolate brownie with ice cream and raspberry sauce which she said was delicious.  Husband and I shared a Classic Cream Tea (two scones) plus an in-house homemade toasted teacake.  The tea cake was absolutely wonderful – slathered in butter, just the right amount of dried fruit and peel and a lovely sweet sugar crust on the top.  Divine. 

Tea was of high quality.  I love the ‘FORLIFE’ tea pots that they and lots of cafes are using at the moment (e.g Twenty Six in Teignmouth).  They have an inbuilt strainer inside the main body, so the brew is perfect, no fiddly strainer and presumably easier to clean up afterwards.  They are for sale in the cafe at a good price of £20 – I have seen them for sale online for £22-£25.  Looking forward to receiving one for my birthday (hint, hint).

Everything in the cafe was so clean – I loved the way the crockery, the milk jug, the tray and the cutlery were all so gleaming.  It was a very welcoming environment, friendly waiting staff, fresh flowers on the tables and lots of bits and bobs to look at and admire.

But the burning question - was this the Best Cream Tea in Devon?

Well, I give Dartmoor Tea Rooms a resounding ten out of ten for the fabulous teacake and for the fine pot of tea.  The cream and jam were very good and were just about the right quantity.  The scones were large, just warm (felt very 'fresh' warm rather than re-heated warm) homemade, light and tasty and certainly enjoyable.  But......I have such high standards as I have my own resident scone-maker in my home, and hers are perfection, and have a slightly more buttery golden texture (secret ingredient being yoghurt).  So, outside of my own home, this is probably as near as dammit, one of the Best Cream Teas in Devon.  But of course the quest is ceaseless and I must carry on in my search to find the Ultimate Devon Cream Tea.  This one is jolly good and is definitely on the short list.

NB I think Dartmoor Tea Rooms may be shutting at the beginning of July for a week or two, so do check before going there; but DO go there, it's a great place.  Open Weds-Sundays from April - November.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Brewing My Own: Elderflower Cordial....and Elderflower Champagne

There are probably only a couple of days left of elderflower picking.  Certainly here in South Devon, the creamy-white blooms are starting to fade and turn brown and a little musty smelling - upcountry folks might have better luck.

 My basket of blooms - far more than was needed:

I decided to make a batch of cordial, which really is one of the simplest recipes in the world.  I used the River Cottage Preserves cookbook recipe (a similar recipe has been reproduced here on Nipitinthebud's great blog) which just involves lots of sugar, lemon juice and elderflowers.  Leave the cordial to infuse overnight and the next day it was ready to strain and use.  

It’s a joy to drink this with sparkling water and plenty of ice on a summer’s afternoon, and even more fun spiked with vodka, a sprig of mint and a handful of raspberries during the evening.  The cordial was a doddle and here it is - four bottles for immediate drinking and a further one litre in the freezer.

 I’m a little more concerned about the Champagne....I’ve toyed with Pastymuncher’s ideas but decided to use Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for this and there are MANY MANY worrying comments about Champagne explosions, glass being embedded in bookcases and C02 eruptions that have hit the ceiling.  Grazing Kate has been 'very brave' and made six litres of the stuff...Mix it all together, leave for about four days until it starts to ferment (very exciting – that happened today) - those white bloom areas that look like reflections are the signs either that it's working or that it's mouldy and it's all gone horribly wrong (I'm an optimist and bottled the stuff!):

 and then strain it into PLASTIC bottles.  Granted, the lovely swing top Grolsch style bottles look far more attractive than this (hmm, nice presentation in the Asda bottle)

But shards of exploded glass embedded in my furniture and skin? – Er, no way!  I’ve done a bit of research and plan to ‘burp’ the bottles every couple of days for a week or so (by gently loosening the screw cap and relieving the pressure) and then it should be ready to drink after a mere seven days.  Homemade brew – feels just a little bit naughty, but damn clever if it works.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Contemporary Craft Fair, Bovey Tracey, June 2011

Today I spent the morning at Bovey Tracey Contemporary Craft Fair thanks to a generously donated free ticket from jeweller extraordinaire, Christine Kaltoft.  (Sorry, Christine, I didn't find you there today; I shall look for you on Saturday.)

General view of fair:

Here are some of the craft stands that particularly piqued my interest.  This was my first love-at-first-sight - wonderfully quirky jewellery by Helen Noakes - (great website too, Helen!)  mini plastic figures inside perspex with silver fixings.  Very tempted to get some mini swimmer cufflinks made for N, but probably won't be able to find £100 to do so!

I was struck by the beautiful and subtly different blue glazes created by Taja (based in Moretonhampstead).  What a nice man!  I would really like some of these tea mugs:

Anya Keeley won the 'Best Stall' prize for 2011 - beautiful trinkets and animals made from recycled materials, books, maps.

And I admire the pzazz of Alison from Dr Beans Bags (Isle of Wight) who bring along customised handmade bags just for the denizens of Bovey Tracey!  (Does she do this for every village?  Clever lady!)

I attended a printmaking workshop for two hours and discovered the instant and random joys of monotype printing with Brian Norman:

My 'Sunset over Manhattan' looked better on the perspex block than on the paper afterwards!

At lunchtime, the rain arrived (therefore no photo of my shared al fresco lunch with L and two charming men who held up an umbrella to shelter the poor shivering ladies-who-lunched!) but I feasted on a homemade crab quiche alongside a scrummy chocolate and vanilla cupcake from the Devon Guild Cafe stand.

The overall quality of the wares on offer is top notch.  A totally brilliant place to buy all the presents you need for all your female friends and rellies.  The workshop was great fun (and very cheap) and the food was excellent.  The fair is on this weekend, Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June 2011.  Get yourself over to Bovey for an inspiring day out!

Click here to see more of my experiences from the fair in 2010.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Bagel and Beans - Great Budget Food in Central Amsterdam

I'm just back from a gloriously sunny and wine-sodden five days in Holland staying with our dear friends A, D and A.

We needed a bite to eat away from the touristy centre of Amsterdam where we'd enjoyed a visual feast of Vermeers and Franz Hals at the rijksmuseum, where incidentally, The Milkmaid was my favourite picture:

..... and we happened upon Bagels and Beans.  This is a small chain of Dutch cafes specialising in breakfasts and lunches.  We heartily enjoyed the 'Everything' juice that included pineapple, orange, strawberry and apple:

The bagels were fresh, packed full of fairly healthy ingredients with some good combos, and not just the average 'cheese and ham' that features heavily on Dutch menus.  I chose the smoked chicken, avocado, pesto and pinenut, with plenty of greenery too (particularly enjoyed the large helping of killer cucumbers):

The free pot of coffee bean shaped and flavoured chocolate beans were a great added bonus - they were on every table.

The juice was 3 Euros -  a tad high, but considering that's the same price as a Coke in a European pavement cafe, not too bad.  The bagel was 6 Euros which I thought was fair enough.  The waiter was so friendly and disarmingly asked me if I was 'well-known in Holland.'  I think he was asking whether I knew Holland well.  Free chocolate, smiley waiters, good food and free postcards from a stand for the children to take as souvenirs - a great respite from a frenetic European city centre and great for people on a budget.

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