Broken Hearts Tea Party

Broken Hearts
Here are some photos from my latest event on Sunday, February 10th - the 4th annual Valentine's tea party, with Broken Hearts theme... I hope you'll find some ideas for celebrating today - regardless if you're single, broken-hearted or in a loving happy relationship. By the way - the broken hearts above were part of a game. Guests had to find their "better halves" and the first two who found it won prizes!

Setup by Ayala Moriel
This is the setup - relaxed, casual but still luxurious, and with splashes of hearts and colours. It was an unusually small crowd because of the multiple holidays happening that weekend: Chinese New Year and Family Day long weekend - a new holiday just recently invented so that Canadian kids will get even less education than before. So, many people were away, and I will have to better plan for next year so it doesn't fall on a long weekend again. The good thing was that I got to spend quality time with my guests instead of boiling 20 liters of tea; and also considering I was sick all week I was able to sit down a relax a bit, and have civil conversations with people instead of standing up and running around for 5 hours straight (which is usually my share on my always overbooked Valentine's events).

I also really enjoyed preparing for and presenting perfumes that were inspired by tragic love stories. This will be a part of a separate post though - so please visit again later today. Below are more photos and the menu as well as some recipes you can easily whip up at home tonight for your sweetie or just with a bunch of single friends that don't want to feel sorry for themselves tonight!

Minted Radish Tea Sandwiches
Minted radishes tea sandwiches - a surprisingly classic combination that never fails.

Cucumber & Watercress Tea Sandwiches
Cucumber & watercress tea sandwiches. Another classic.

Banana & Peanutbutter Tea Sandwiches
Peanut butter & banana tea sandwiches - not just for kids. Did you know that bananas are an aphorodisiac? And can you guess why?
To make this flavour a tad more grown up, spread a thin layer of hot red pepper jelly on one slice, and peanut butter on the other.

Meyer Lemon Scones + Blueberry & Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Meyer lemon scones - hot from the oven, and promptly served with Devon cream and with a blueberry & Meyer lemon marmalade.

Chocolate Madeleines with Orange Flower Water
Madeleines are fantastic, shell-shaped cross between cookie and a cake. They are dense, moist yet light and are flavourful yet neutral enough to dip in a tea. Might even be superior to shortbreads in that regard, if only it wasn't for the extra work they require. These are chocolate flavoured and are scented with orange flower water. Sounds just like the kind of recipe I will invent; but it is actually from Maxine Clark's excellent book, Chocolate: Deliciously Indulgent Recipes for Chocolate Lovers.

Mint Chocolat Wafers Sandwich Cookies
Chocolate mint wafers, enclosed between two layers of sugar cookies with hint of black pepper. This recipe is so easy, yet so elegant. You have to try it! Use your favourite sugar cookie recipe and cut in whichever shape you like (circle or square works best). Place a chocolate mint wafer in between the cookies while they are still hot, and - voila! You have a cookie sandwich that is flavourful and looks very professional, without ever needing to whip up a filling, and with very little mess to clean...

Rosewater Buttercream Cookies
Rose almond sugar cookies with a layer of rosewater buttercream piped in between. Want the recipe? You got it!

Bleeding Hearts Truffles - with Ylang Ylang & Cassis
The cherry on the top, or the jewel in the crown are always the scented truffles I make for my special events and celebrations. Some were so popular that they've became a timeless chocolate bar (created in collaboration with CocoaNymph). But for the new flavours you will have to visit my studio and participate in these events. You're always sure to be surprised by an unusual, new flavour combination, featuring essential oils and tea infused ganache. This time was my first to experiment with organic ylang ylang oil of the best quality. I paired it with creme de cassis liquor, a combination inspired by Chamade. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth tropical floral experience with a round berry backnote. Introducing: the one and only Bleeding Hearts truffle!

My lovely guests, customers & friends!
I love to see everyone having good conversation and playing around with the essences and perfumes. Sometimes they don't even need my help picking a scent - they just dive in and smell them all and share their insights with their friends and other guests; and then I know that they are real fragrance lovers.


Lovers Tea
Lovers Tea: 1 hand-tied jasmine green tea + 1 teaspoon rose petals. Beautiful visual effect and ever so lovely fragrant cup of tea to sooth the soul and seduce the imagination. It's like a garden in a teapot!
You might want to strain the tea before serving; but I find that letting a rose petal or to through the spout creates a more sensual tea-sipping experience.

Bleeding Hearts cocktail

Bleeding Hearts cocktail. I'm willing to share my recipe:
1/2oz Creme de Cassis
1oz Hendricks gin
1/4oz Elderflower cordial 

Club Soda
Angostura Bitters
Blood Orance, sliced- Shake with ice. 
- Top with club soda. 
- Add a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir. 
- Garnish with a slice of blood orange.
- Sip slowly, savouring every drop. 

- And please don't drive!

Butter & Honey

This weekend we stayed at friends' dairy farm in Langley. It simply made sense rather than commuting two extra hours to and from Vancouver for the double day Bloom Market in Fort Langley.

My friend Miriam (whom some of you met at my studio on various occasions - she co-hosted the holiday soiree this year with me and Jolanta) grew up there, and it was wonderful to get a glimpse into the life of a dairy family farm. It involves a lot of milking and very little sleeping. Just so that we can have milk and cheese and dairy. Wow.

It was also encouraging to see that the cows are treated so much better than anything I've ever seen elsewhere. And there are a lot of sustainable practices all around: the water used is from the family's own well; they grow most of the food for the cows; and they also fertilize the fields with the cow's manure (which is collected and processed as to not contaminate the underground water reservoirs).

I have an interesting book called "The Farmer's Wife" - it's a compilation of recipes from magazine of that name, mostly sent from farmer's wives across America, with their tips on how to feed a crowd of working hands on a farm. Anyone who thinks that being "just" a housewife is obviously out of their mind. It's basically like running a catering company, all day long, preparing 3 meals a day (at least) and very likely with no days "off" (not to mention that modern farmer wives also partake in the farm work, not just the kitchen and household). Somehow they just do it, and remain graceful and beautiful while they're at it.

An extra surprise were the 2 index cards I found in my jacket pockets with recipes for some of the treats my daughter got to bake with Miriam and her mom that weekend: Dutch Botterkoek (butter cake) and honey loaf. Surprisingly, the honey loaf contains absolutely no oil whatsoever. Also, a nice surprise (as Miriam almost frightened me with her description of Dutch cooking, as if they use no spices at all) - it is very fragrant, with the natural honey undertones, accented with anise. Simply divine. We also tasted raw milk for the first time - what an amazing experience! It's amazing how full of flavour and sweetness milk is. Next time I'm bringing chocolate chip cookies.

The botterkoek is something I will need to wrap my head around as it's quite different - it's surprisingly similar to Middle Eastern semolina cakes, as it is flavoured with almond extract which really complements the butter. It is also quite dense and has a thin "skin" of the cream glaze that is brushed on it before baking. But first of all I'm going to try the bran muffins recipe - they were extremely moist and fat free, relying entirely on homemade applesauce. It's amazing how much you can do with such simple ingredients.

Asian Pear & Fennel Salad

Fall fruits are flavourful, fragrant and full of interesting textures. Such are Asian pears (Pyrus serotina) - they absorb the summer sun and turn it into a crisp, crunchy texture full of intriguing subtle flavours reminiscent of pineapple and ripe quince rosiness - yet without that very hard core or need of cooking. Its aroma is subtle yet floral and robust. This must be because of the unique esters in it - which if you get a tree-ripened fruit, will really shine through. The supermarket variety just don't cut it (though they still got the crunchy texture).

I particularly enjoy using Asian pears in savoury salads, as their texture is firm and they hold their shape through the tossing, turning or even marinating that I like to put my sturdy vegetables through. They are also not nearly as sweet as other pears, and are just a little more neutral and readily get along with other flavours.

Asian pears are particularly fantastic with crunchy, fresh fennel bulbs. I slice them as thinly as possible, add some shaved carrots (creative use for your vegetable peeler!) and toss them with pine nuts, goji berries and some pomegranate seeds if I happen to have some. And the best part is that this salad will taste amazing the next day, once the fennel seeds have soaked up some moisture and release more of their licorice-like sweetness. For this particular salad I used fresh, still green fennel seeds, so no marinating was necessary. If you are lucky to have some growing in your garden - or out in the wild - this is a marvelous way to use fresh spice.
I also was lucky to have a jar of marinated sweet & spicy butternut squash around and add it the first time around. I will post a recipe for marinated butternut squash another time!

1 bulb fresh fennel laved or quartered and then thinly sliced
1 ripe and firm Asian pear, cored, halved and thinly sliced
1 carrot, shaved with a vegetable peeler
1-2 Tbs raw pine nuts
2 Tbs dried goji berries
2 Tbs fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (I prefer the Lebanese, Israeli or Greek oils; the majority of Italian olive oils that are imported to North America are dull and inferior)
Juice from half a lemon (about 1 Tbs)
1/2 tsp dried fennel seeds

Prepare all fruit and vegetables and toss in a salad bowl with the dressing. Garnish with pine nuts, goji berries and pomegranate seeds (if available). Serve immediately, or the next day (it will taste wonderful each time!).

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

Happy Labour Day!

Summer is not quite over yet, so I'm taking advantage of all the flavourful fruit still available, as well as the bit of free time before we switch gears into the fall/winter madness.

This blueberry upside-down cake is adapted from by Bettina Schorman, from her cookbook co-authored with chef Jeff Crump: Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm.
The recipe there is excellent, except that it’s sweetness of way over the top to my taste (and I have a sweet tooth, believe me!). I felt a deep urge to not only reduce the sugar and substitute it for honey in the glaze for the fruit; but also add lemon zest to balance the fruit’s sweetness. Also serving with crème fraiche makes all the difference!

For the blueberry & glaze:
In a 10” cast iron skillet or cast iron pan, melt 3 TBS each of butter and bluberry honey (or any local honey of your choice). Cover with 2-3 cups of fresh blueberries (you want to create about an inch-deep layer of berries at the bottom of your pan). I personally do not own a skillet but simply a cast iron frying pan; so for this recipe – I need to muster to the task my smaller frying pan (7”) as well and divide the recipe between the two.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
In the meantime, put together the ingredients for the cornmeal batter:
1cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup raw cane sugar
zest from 1 lemon
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour (preferably organic)
¾ cup purple cornmeal (yellow will do just fine too; but will affect the colour)
1TBS baking powder
½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup buttermilk

Sift together the dry ingredients.
Beat butter and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla extract and eggs – one at a time.
Pour over the flour mixture. Continue beating. Add buttermilk. Pour over blueberries and bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-50min, or until a toothpick (or a cake tester) comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven once ready, and wait 10-15 minutes to slightly cool off. Run a knife around the edges of the cake. While cake is still warm, invert it on top of a plate, tray or cake case.

Serve warm or at room temperature, alone or with a spoonful of crème fraiche.

There is something to be said about fruit desserts. They are the best, in my humble opinion – where the pastry is there solely to present the fruit and highlight its elegance and singularity. In this one the cornmeal adds an interesting colour (you will get a beautifully bright yellow, which will contrast nicely with the purple bluebberries as well) - but most importantly, a slightly crunchy and sandy texture; and a delicious, rustic yet delicately sweet flavour of polenta. Admittedly, sometimes I feel that cheesecakes and anything vanilla flavoured are the best. If you serve this with crème fresh or crème chantilly (vanilla flavoured whipped cream) – you get the best of both worlds, which to me is as perfect as dessert can be.

Midnight Violet Cocktail

Midnight Violet Cocktail

At long last, my search for available violet liquor in Vancouver have found their victim: Legacy Liquor Store had the last bottle on their shelf of Giffard Violette. Considering that most of this company's products are flavoured syrups for cocktails, it not only not blow my socks off when I tasted a bit on its own. It actually reminded me of a vitamin syrup I had to take when I was little (I think it was vitamin D, but it could have been something else). Not awful tasting, but definitely not what I'd expected a violet liquor to be like. To be perfectly honest, I think I would have been far better off insfusing vodka with my own concoction of violet-like herbs and essential oils. But I had to feed my curiosity and know what the "real thing" is supposed to be like.

So, with much hesitance, I tried my concocting my first cocktail with it last night with my friend Miriam. We looked up some recipes online, and each looked less promising than the next (i.e.: third of each violet liquor, Marachino liquor and heavy cream - no thanks...). We settled on what seemed the most sensible of all, and the least cloying. And voila - a cocktail of our own was born, which was quite enjoyable and with a beautiful blue hue to boot!

1/2 oz homemade elderflower cordial
1/2 oz violet liquor

1 oz gin (we used Hendricks, which has lovely floral backnotes of rose)
Shake with ice and top with San Pellegrino or another unsweetened carbonated water. Garnish with 3 crystallized violet petals for an extra touch of retro feel, and more of that purplish-blue colour.
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