Oh I do love a tea party and Wild Olive is hosting a week of tea party fun – full of guest posts, patterns and recipes – Plus if you head on over Whipup is hosting a giveaway of Action Pack! Along with a recipe for a trio of butter cookies.

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As you may – or may not – know, I am a voracious reader. And lately I have been reading some novels that have a creative edge – you know – with a cooking or craft thread running through. Here are four books which I took away on holiday with me recently and read eagerly while looking out to sea and drinking tea.

The Book of Lost Threads by Tess Evans (Allen & Unwin June 2010).

I love reading books that are set locally and written by local authors – so Melbourne folk you might like this book too. Set in Rural Victoria in a small country town, this book is not what it seems. Full of interesting characters and sidestepping snippets, it is a bit sad sometimes but mostly lovely and surprising. About a girl looking for her father and a father who is hiding from himself. Not a love story in the usual sense – instead it is a love story between a father and daughter discovering each other and trying to help each other. And there is knitting too – yes an eccentric and sweet old lady knits tea cosies – it all fits perfectly beautifully. I sort of imagine this sort of thing when I think of old ladies knitting tea cosies – but I suspect the ones in this book are rather more practical – maybe like this one. I simply love this tea cosy – and this one too.

The Beauty of Humanity Movement: A Novelby Camilla Gibb (Penguin Press HC March 2011). Available in Australia through Allen & Unwin.

The beauty of humanity movement is named after a group of 1950’s Vietnamese artists and writers who paid the ultimate price for expressing their views. This book is stunning, set in the present time but going back and forth to the group of artists in the 1950’s who are at the heart of the story, a young woman in search of her past finds an old man trying to forget his – and their stories intertwine through the classic dish of Phở – a beef broth. Its an interesting premise and I was fascinated by the history of Vietnam, the art, the culture and ultimately the food. Phở is what brings everyone together in this story and has a story of its own – bringing together the history of Vietnam in this one dish. It is a classic street food in Vietnam as the broth needs to be lovingly tended for several hours and is therefore not so easy to make at home. If you do want to try to make it at home – I cobbled together a few recipes – as I am planning on tackling it this weekend. Making Phở at home : Phở Secrets : Phở recipe.

Cooking for Claudine: How I Cooked My Way into the Heart of a Formidable French Family by John Baxter. (Faber short books May 2011) Available in Australia through Allen & Unwin.

This latest book from Australian Expat Film Critic John Baxter is a captivating and romantic memoir. At its core it is about family and food and love, but it also explores themes of living in France and French customs as well as being welcomed into a French family (this interview is interesting). John Baxter describes how in his later years he falls in love and marries a French woman from a traditional old family and throughout the years somehow John has been given the task of preparing Christmas Dinner for the large and extended French family. Each year he goes to great lengths to impress and prepares wonderful and exotic dishes. His most recent Christmas sees him searching out ingredients from local markets and artisan food makers, while at the same time exploring his adopted country and local food customs. Wonderfully written with humour, intelligence and love. (And yes there are recipes – the final dinner included a whole suckling pig!)

Friendship Bread: A NovelContemporary Literature) by Darien Gee. Published by Ballantine Books (April 5, 2011). Available in Australia through Allen & Unwin.

Friendship bread is a bread starter that needs to be nurtured and fed for 10 days before using, then it can be divided to make four loaves. One quarter of the starter is kept and the other three quarters are packaged up and given out to friends to make their own breads. Lovely concept but can get out of hand as you might imagine – which it does in this book too. Sadness and friendship, love and loss are explored in this book – with the friendship bread bringing healing to unhappy souls and bringing together a town to help those in need. A quick read, with lots of cooking and food to feed the soul. As I didn’t have any starter passed on to me I had to find out for myself how to make it and found lots of resources on the net – the best place to start is with the book’s own website – where there is a recipe to make the starter Friendshipbreadkitchen, to make the basic bread as well as plenty of variations.



I have only recently discovered the culinary art of cooking with tea and want to explore more. Today I did some experimenting and researching making tea ice cream. I have often had Matcha tea ice cream – and love it – but wanted to try out a few other tea flavoured ice creams. After a some experimenting I came up with a delicious simple icecream recipe that allowed the subtle tea flavour to be the main attraction and made a trio of tea ice cream: Chai, Oolong and Earl Grey.

You will need:

  • 1 teaspoon of your tea (per 100mls of liquid)
  • 1/4 cup of boiling water
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of cream
  • 1 teaspoon of sweetener (sugar, honey or palm sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered gelatin

What to do:

  1. Steep your tea in a bowl with the boiling water for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cream, milk, gelatin and sweetener and bring to the boil for a minute in a saucepan on the stovetop.
  3. Let the tea leaves sit in the mixture while it cools in the fridge – 1 hour
  4. Strain out the tea leaves and let the mixture stand in the fridge for -2-4 hours (or overnight) – it should go a bit gelatinous because of the gelatin you added. This will help the final texture of the ice cream.
  5. Place in your mixture in your ice cream maker and mix for 10-20 minutes until it is like a thick milkshake – then chill in the freezer until ready to use.


  • If you don’t have an ice cream maker then follow David Lebovitz’s directions to make it without. And here are some tips from David for making your homemade ice cream softer.
  • Serve with some shortbread cookies for a refreshing different sort of afternoon tea.

Why don’t you try Jasmine tea, Matcha or Sencha green tea or Tai tea… wait there’s more – I have compiled a list of delicious and different tea ice cream recipes for you to try out.

If you are a tea fan like me – try out our e-magazine: Action Pack for kids – only $5 and jam packed with recipes, crafts and activities for kids and adults.



Afternoon Tea

by kath_red on 12/05/2011

in Food

After dropping the kids off to school, putting on a load of washing, and doing a quick whip around the house to tidy up, I get down to work. Working from home means quite a few distractions during the day – housework, dinner plans, etc, but it also has the benefit of being able to stop when you like and sit and do a few rows of crochet or make some cookies or take advantage of a sunny day for 30 minutes of gardening.

But the best time of day for me is afternoon tea. I do have multiple cups of tea during the day, but at about 2pm I stop what I am doing and bake something – sometimes its some quick muffins or cookies, occasionally I might make a cake or brownies, or if I am running out of time I prepare for French toast. Then I pick the kids up from school and when we all get home we sit and have some warm sweet baked somethings and a pot of tea. We are all tea mad and love to try out different sorts of tea. Chai is a regular favourite, we also love an Earl Grey blend, sometimes we have Genmaicha (Japanese rice green tea) but most of the time we stick to a Traditional Afternoon blend. We love this time as we sit and chat about our day, the kids talk excitedly non-stop for the duration, while I sip my tea and occasionally ask questions. Then we clear up and get on with our afternoon tasks. It is a special time of day.

The recent Action Pack is dedicated to tea and has lots of different tea tastings as well as sewing projects all related to tea. So in honour of ‘Sew & Tea’ Action Pack and our love of tea, I will be posting lots of tea and tea craft related posts over the next couple of weeks. Including a pattern to sew a teapot to go with the teacup pattern you will find in this months Action Pack, tea-towel crafts, tea cozies, recipes for Afternoon Tea and lots more – so stay tuned!

Today I am making a Cinnamon Tea Cake – it’s a classic country cake and perfect to have with Afternoon Tea. This recipe must have been the first cake I ever made – back when I was 8 or 9 years old, with my grandmothers help. So simple to make, yet so delicious to eat.

What you need:

Cake batter:

  • 60g (2oz or 1/2 stick of) butter
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Self raising flour (or plain flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
  • 1/3 cup milk


  • 15g (1/2oz) extra butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon (castor or finely ground) sugar, extra mixed with 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

How to make:

  1. Line your round sandwich cake tin with baking paper (I used the butter wrapping paper)
  2. Beat the butter and vanilla and sugar together until creamy.
  3. Add the egg continue to beat for another minute.
  4. Add half the flour and half the milk, mix in for half a minute, then add the rest of the milk and flour and beat until just combined – don’t over beat.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake in a moderate oven for 25 minutes or until just golden. The cake should shrink away from the sides of the cake tin.
  6. Turn the cake out onto an airing tray. Brush the top with the extra melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
  7. Serving with a nice cup of Earl Grey tea and eat warm for your afternoon tea.

Here are 4 more things you can make for afternoon tea today (if you have some time):

Scones, Plum cake, Chocolate Mousse Cake, Green Goddess Tea Sandwhiches

Be sure to check out the rest of the Action Pack if you are a tea fan like us!


Happy Anzac Day to my fellow Australians.

You might want to bake some Anzac biscuits today! (click image to make it bigger)