A Monthly Dose of G&T – Almond & Cherry (Blossom)

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The cherry blossoms came and went. I was sick. But here’s a recipe for a slightly perfume flavoured nevertheless taste bud pleasing gin and tonic I managed to stir up in between the coughing fits of May. Admittedly on the feminine side of drinks.

Ingredients per one glass:

4 cl gin of your choice
2 cl Disaronno
Thomas Henry cherry blossom tonic water
1 tsp cherry oil infused black (Ceylon) tea
40 ml hot water
cherries to garnish
ice cubes

The how to:

  • Put the black tea in a disposable filter bag and leave it in 40 ml of just boiled water for about 30 minutes (or more if you desire more depth in flavour).
  • Once the infusion is ready and cooled down, fill a high ball glass half way with ice cubes and pour in the tea squeezing out the liquid from the filter bag also.
  • Measure out 4 cl of gin and 2 cl of Disaronno and add them to the glass. Give it a good stir.
  • Top up the glass with cherry blossom tonic water, dip in a pair of cherries for garnish and expand the horizons of your palate!

A Silence and a Half

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To explain the two weeks of silence, I luckily have many excuses (haha!). I came down with a nasty cold about three weeks ago and the stubborn lingering cough that developed seems to be here to stay. That combined with one too many shifts at work, absolutely ridiculously gorgeous weather (for May in Helsinki) and admittedly my general poor time management during the days off (as well as workday mornings/evenings) have resulted in heaps of ideas and numerous plans, but not much to show for them. BUT more than anything else over the past months, I have learned to forgive and be kind to myself. Choosing to feel NO GUILT whatsoever!

Three months into project Fleur Rustique, I feel in many ways it has taken on a life of its own. Sure I’m still the one writing this and mapping out the content, however, as I was contemplating back in April, more often than not, things don’t go as planned, and turns out allowing a degree of flexibility in life is of vital nature. For instance, I had a firm plan to write about books a lot before this site went up. That hasn’t really happened. In fact, I’ve been completely and utterly stuck with the first actual post on books and reading and literature I wanted to publish this week. I certainly didn’t plan to do a monthly series on gin and tonics nor spend a stupendous number of hours developing and testing recipes. Ergo, getting sidetracked and giving myself permission to pursue spontaneous creative freedom has produced a very different outcome to that expected. But you know what?!? It’s way better than I ever thought it could be!

To begin with, Fleur Rustique was born as a hobby, something for me to focus on outside the day job with the purpose of establishing a better life balance and helping manage stress. That being said, from the start I’ve put a lot of thought and effort into structure – jotting down miles and miles of ideas on Google Docs, drawing up an annual (!) content plan, setting deadlines and possibly paying a little too close attention to the details. To the point where I now realise I’ve approached the process of creating content more as an assignment, albeit the kind I enjoy, than a free-flowing stream of creativity. The need for structure may have arisen from fear or disbelief that I could actually stay committed to the project, so I needed to hold myself accountable.

Anyhow, having received incredibly heartwarming and truly encouraging feedback from friends and strangers alike, I now predict in the long run Fleur Rustique will be growing into a portfolio. I have no way of knowing yet what it’s for, but I guess all will be revealed sooner or later.

So where I’m going with all this is that I have just received a rather unexpected (yet warmly welcomed) promotion at work which will take up a lot more of my time and mental capacity, and whilst I have every intention of keeping Fleur Rustique going, realistically two posts a week most probably won’t be happening. At least not in the summer. Or maybe it will? Honestly, I have NO clue. And here it comes (the book talk finally!) – I recently picked up a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear from the library. It wasn’t accidental, but I cannot remember what prompted me to seek it out. I haven’t even finished it, yet already feel liberated. The best advice I’ve taken on board so far is that a creative life should not be bound by restrictions or conditions, and so my two posts a week plan was sound at the beginning, but creativity doesn’t quite work like this. I can’t actually plan to be creative, say, next Friday because I have time to spare. It happens when it happens, and so because for me quality always comes before quantity, I am freeing myself from this restriction. And as someone who believes that anything is possible, it might be that this is all I need to tear down the dam on the river of creativity and let it flow wild and free.

Let’s see what happens!

Cornflower Teatime Shortbread

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No one will argue that every proper teatime requires the presence of shortbread. I’ve added a little twist to mine – blue cornflower petals. Cornflower is the national flower of Estonia and therefore this recipe is doubly special with Mother’s Day just around the corner. These lovely biscuits make a wonderful present, and are of course muchly appreciated as cookie jar fillers on every kitchen counter!

Ingredients:

170 g plain wheat flour
55 g cane sugar
80 g unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla extract or spiced rum
1/4 tsp salt
4 heaped tsp dried cornflower petals (edible purpose!)

The how to:

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt.
  • Cut the butter into smallish chunks and add to the flour mixture. After washing your hands, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have an even crumb, and stir in the cornflower petals.
  • In a separate smaller bowl, beat the egg with the vanilla extract or spiced rum. Combine the beaten egg thoroughly with the crumbs until you have a smooth loaf of dough. Wrap it in cling film and rest in the fridge for an hour.
  • Once the hour has passed, preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a large baking tray with greaseproof parchment paper.
  • Unwrap the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll a 0,5 cm thick sheet, working fast so it stays cool. Using a knife (or a ravioli cutter, as I did*), cut the dough into your preferred shapes and place on the lined tray.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until the tops and edges start to turn golden. Transfer onto a cooling rack before nibbling.

* The 4×4 cm ravioli cutter makes 25 biscuits.

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Setting the Mood for Creativity

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Creativity is for the brave. Or so I hear. Being able to overcome/suppress/accept the fear of being judged, hanging your creations out there for the world to see takes guts. Who of us is immune to rejection, criticism or judgement?!? But – how can one really evaluate someone else’s fruits of creativity? It’s a rather private matter, an interpretation or expression of a vision formed inside us.

Maya Angelou said that one cannot use up creativity; the more one uses, the more one has. I can certainly relate to that. The more I create, the more inspired I feel, the more I feel the need to create. I am not satisfied with all the results, but for the purpose of capturing growth and progress, I deem it of utmost importance to find the courage to also publish the post that could have been so much better. So there’s that. On the role creativity plays in life balance later this month.

Simple Wild Garlic & Linseed Scones

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Occasionally I find myself longing for life in England, and when I do, there is no scenario of these daydreams where baked goodies are not present. Be it oatcakes, hot cross buns, shortbread biscuits, Bakewell tart, mince pies, crumpets, English muffins or indeed scones. Savoury scones in particular. There is something simply sumptuous about scones. The texture is a little weird and not exactly exciting, nothing luxurious nor indulgent about them – yet a decent scone provides such comfort, AND doubles for a nutritious snack on a lazy afternoon. Also awesome for breakfast!

Ingredients:

150 g wholemeal spelt flour
100 g plain wheat flour
100 ml kefir or buttermilk
50 g unsalted butter
1 egg
4 tbsp crushed dried wild garlic leaves
3 tbsp whole linseed
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cane sugar
1 tsp salt

50 ml rapeseed oil (for brushing)

The how to:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a large baking tray with greaseproof baking paper.
  • In a large bowl, combine both the spelt and wheat flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.
  • Chop up the chunk of butter and add it to the bowl. Wash your hands and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have an even crumb. Mix in the linseed and dried wild garlic leaves.
  • Lightly beat the egg in a separate smaller bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour in the kefir (or buttermilk) as well as the beaten egg. Combine thoroughly by kneading. You should have a moist non-sticky dough. If it sticks to your fingers, add a little more flour.
  • Place the dough ball on a lightly floured surface and using a rolling-pin, roll it into about 2-2,5 cm thick sheet. Cut into your preferred shape* (triangles, squares or rounds) and scatter the scones onto the lined baking tray leaving plenty of space between each one.
  • Brush the sides and tops with rapeseed oil and stick the tray in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Serve warm or cooled with fresh goats’ cheese and a milky cup of Earl Grey, of course!

* This dough quantity should make around 8 round scones (7 cm in ∅). Depending on the shape you’ve gone for, you may need to collect the “scraps” of dough and repeat the rolling action once or twice to use up all of it.

That Time Earl Came to Tea

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May’s teatime has rolled around much quicker than anticipated, but in the light of recent events, I have fully grasped the importance of making sh*t happen and come prepared.

No other tea (apart from maybe English Breakfast) associates quite as strongly with Great Britain for me as Earl Grey. The legends surrounding how this particular blend came into being are quite a few. I won’t be reciting these tales here today, but if your interest’s been captured, there are numerous books on the history of tea available. The truth remains, Earl Grey originates from England.

As tradition would have it, Earl Grey is a black tea infused with bergamot oil and/or blended with the dried peel of this bitter fragrant fruit. Bergamot is a member of the citrus family and is far less common than your ordinary lemon, lime or orange. In fact, the countries where this smallish tree is found growing is limited to Italy and France only in Europe, as well as some areas of North Africa and South America. Some say the use of bergamot oil was means to make the lesser quality black teas more equal in flavour to those of high quality Chinese teas.

Times move fast, however, and nowadays there are ALL KINDS of Earl Greys out there. The more common varieties include Lady Grey (with cornflower petals), French Earl Grey (with rose petals) and Russian Earl Grey (with lemongrass and various citrus peels). I’ve gone all fancy this time round with my choice of tea and sourced a very special Earl Grey blend including cornflower, calendula, safflower, lemon peel, lemongrass and cactus flower. But an Earl Grey is an Earl Grey at the end of the day. Use 3 teaspoonfuls of tea leaves per 1 liter of water at 95ºC and brew for 1-5 minutes as per your taste preference. Drink with or without milk.

As for the teatime itself, it’s more down to earth this month. Less fine bone China, elegant tea cakes and crustless cucumber sandwiches, and more real flavours. One rainy afternoon last week, I put on my baking hat and went a little nuts producing a rather large batch of cornflower shortbread biscuits and savoury wild garlic scones (recipes for both to follow in the coming weeks). The scones were spread with creamy fresh goats’ cheese before gobbled down in less bites than one would be prepared to admit. Needless to say, the biscuits disappeared just as quickly.

However, if you are more of a high tea type of gal, by all means take out that beautifully decorated delicate tea set of yours and serve a more traditional spread of teatime snacks. Surely everyone has their own vision of the ideal afternoon gathering around a pot of tea, and I am merely here to share mine. Put that kettle on, lovely!

* Oh, and if you do throw that high tea, don’t forget the Kir Royale!