Monday, 1 February 2010

Me old china

A common dilemma: you’re hungry, it’s miserable weather, you want to come home and do yourself a lovely cottage pie, but there’s only one or two of you, and a dish so big it’d do for sixteen…Oh well, do it the next time you have friends round for supper…

Not any more.

An innovative solution, boys and girls, has presented itself, courtesy of the brilliant Mr JC: I give you the Cottage Jacket, or Cottato if you’re into haute cuisine. We stumbled upon this whilst thumbing through a copy of an excellent charity cookbook compiled by a friend, and of course, the BSG had to go straight out and stock up with the ingredients.

Yes, it’s what you’d expect it to be - a cottage pie (or any other pie for that matter) inside a scooped-out baked potato, with the fluffy innards mashed and laid on top, then baked for a little longer. It’ll run and run, this one - just think of all those combinations, and afterwards none of that really crusty, hard-to-shift washing up that the smiley Ainsley Harriott is so fond of. Amazing.


Do you remember that very important time of day when you were a child, somewhere between grazing a knee, plasters, applications of Germolene, and bathtime? Tea (often high tea in our house, which usually meant something involving baked beans) was part of the daily ritual when we were young, and it’s back. In fact, it’s the new black, and altogether a bit of a vamp.

They say it is the cocktail of choice in 2010, imbibed by the most fashionable and forward-thinking Londoners (By ‘they,’ I mean I and by ‘most fashionable Londoners,’ I mean our friends). Tired of hosting pub drinks for a birthday? Well then, Happy Hour has just got a bit earlier. Why not try the Vintage Patisserie and hold a tea party? That’s what our friend Mr C did, for Mrs C’s 30th.

On a very wet Saturday afternoon, having hopped over possibly the biggest puddle London could conjure, we were led into a cosy parlour at 93 Feet East on Brick Lane, straight into the 1920s where we were met by Angel and her team and there, laid over three tables, was a teascape that’d make Bertie Wooster wince with envy and fire Jeeves for not cutting the mustard. Cakes, rockscones, a tiny white chocolate cube on each beflowered saucer bearing the birthday girl’s name; delicate mismatched china teacups, filled with a beguiling cocktail of jasmine green tea and sparkling wine, sprinkled with mixed berries. I’ll admit I lost track after the fourth cup, but it must’ve been packed with antioxidants….Of course, there was the real thing too.


If it didn’t already feel like a game of Let’s Pretend, the presence of a dressing-up box definitely brought out our roaring twenties personas. For some reason, the BSG was rather taken with a string of pearls, which he wore as well as braces and a top hat for the duration.

Crustless white sandwiches made with the softest of breads came round on dainty silver stands – I’m not sure I’ve ever had an egg sandwich that good. Others were filled with delicate slivers of smoked salmon and crisp cucumber. There were plates of chocolate-dipped strawberries and bowls of dark, decadent cherries to remind us that summer had even existed and to promise it would return. In the lucky dip of shot-sized puddings, I got the tiramisu: the BSG’s favourite. This was definitely grown-up tea, with a twist of naughtiness in it.

The sodden afternoon was forgotten in the convivial glow, the elusive January light fading into the blue evening. I half expected Gatsby to saunter in. What a lovely way to while away the hours!

If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you. 

If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you.

(William Gladstone)

Tea existed properly once – and was not confined to consumption with children or grandparents. We should be making more tea dates, and I don’t mean tourist-style in hotels where you pay the earth. I say, in the spirit of Gladstone, we bring back tea in all its glory, what what? Moreover, I know just the people to spearhead the campaign….

Birthday Girl


  1. Another name could be a shepherd's jacket.

  2. Thank you! What a sweet blog! My mum always tells me I make a great Egg! Angel X

  3. Angel, you're most welcome, it was an amazing tea.
    Ferg - I can think of nothing more warming on a sleety February evening than a shepherd's jacket, with lots of Lea & Perrins!