Afternoon tea for ten

So, on Friday, we finally held a wake for Nottingham’s former Lib Dem councillors and a few extra people who had worked for us at the council. We struggled to find a date we could all do, as well as an activity that suited everyone – eg pub would be no good for our various teetotal, recovering alcholic or Muslim colleagues. Eventually I offered to cook afternoon tea for everyone.

Which I duly did.

Of course that meant that hosting it here would need a flurry of cleaning to get the house acceptable, but it also gave me an opportunity to use the entire wedding list tea set for the first time (we’ve used bits of it from time to time but never all 8 settings)

Here’s the food I did:


Muffaletta Tigers

A Muffaletta sandwich is a huge American thing based on muffaletta bread, which is round and seeded, stacked high with ham and provolone cheese and also includes a sort of pickled olive salad, apparently. I first encountered this from Olive magazine, and their version appears nothing like the American version. And then my version is different again because the only bread that seemed vaguely available in the supermarket was tiger bread, the whole white loafs with crunch toppings. You blend a jar of artichoke hearts (Sainsbugs has them in tins) into some mayonnaise, slice the loaf horizontally and spread the artichoke/mayo mix on the top and bottom. Layer the loaf with lots of ham, a bag of mixed leaf salad and lots of sliced Emmental cheese and put the loaf back together. Press firmly – indeed leave it under a weight if you can, although I couldn’t quite figure out how to do this without the weight sliding off. Slice into individual sandwiches. Secure sandwiches with a toothpick with an optional green olive in the top.

Tea party

Verdict: this was delicious, and all of it got eaten. But it was a slimy, horribly mess to make, and the top and bottom of the load, despite being secured with toothpicks, got sheared away from each other when sliced. Have to work on the methodology, but will deffo do again. One tin of artichoke hearts and two huge spoons of mayo was far too much for one small tiger loaf.

Tuna rolls

No real mystery here: two tins of tuna, big dollop of mayo, half a red pepper deseeded and chopped very finely spooned into wholemeal rolls and served with thinly sliced cucumbers.

Lorraine Pascale’s Sun-dried tomato and rosemary palmiers

Recipe here. Nice and simple, kept for a couple of days, tasted very nice. Fooled a lot of people who thought from the look of them that they were going to be cake not savoury…

Tea party


Dan Lepard’s cinnamon buns

I have made these once before (recipe here) – and once again they were gorgeous: soft, spicy dough, sweet cinnamon filling. Highly recommended! This time I used the same amount of dough in a much bigger tin and got a much higher yield.

Tea party


Quite fortunately on the same day, Woman’s Hour had a feature on how to make the perfect scones, and I used their tips and recipe… except…

I had leftover buttermilk, so substituted some of the milk for that. I must have misidentified the size of my cutter, using my smallest, because I got 16 tiny scones out of half of the dough before giving up and freezing the other half. I didn’t use cherries, just sultanas. (Cherries are for cherry scones! Fruit scones are sultanas only!) Served with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Chocolate cake

I had been hemming and hawing about which cake to make and finally settled on this one. It got rave reviews, but I found it ever so slightly meh. More a gateau than a cake. I tried to ice it but the ganache topping wasn’t sturdy enough to ice letters onto.

Fruit bowl

A nod to healthiness

Served with

Tea and coffee. Of course.


I quite enjoyed the cooking and people seemed to enjoy eating it, but the cleaning was knackering and it’s hard to divorce the effort of the two in my mind. Perhaps if the house were routinely more clean, this sort of thing would be less of a trial? I thought a few weeks ago that I would try afternoon tea as a way of easing into supperclubs but as I was hoovering and plating and laying the table, I found myself thinking that it was ridiculous that people would pay money to come and eat brown food in a filthy house. I lack the perspective to think whether I am doing myself down or being sensibly realistic.


Tweets on 2011-07-31

  • Three course Sunday tea entirely out of leftovers 🙂 Thai pork patties, chicken pie, cupcakes and tart. #
  • RT @alixmortimer: '"Find someone just like me, only with tits" is not actually a diversity strategy.' *snork* Good post. #
  • @tom_geraghty could they be some sort of variable opening vent? My first thought was home vid ciné reel, but they're too small for that, no? in reply to tom_geraghty #
  • The weather in the US right now is apparently too hot for ice-cream vans. #
  • Somehow managed to get sidetracked from reading Flylady's book, Sidetracked Home Executives, #
  • RT @dan_lepard: Cheese torpedoes, from start to finish: RT @lucmartin: << ooh. I wanna make these now. #
  • RT @tom_geraghty: This is a barbecue cake, made by @Pe27ach . #
  • Got halfway through making a cup of tea before remembering we're out of milk. Beer it is, then. #
  • @mithomas20 ooh, where are you looking? have you found this one? in reply to mithomas20 #
  • Reading self-improvement / better organisation books at gone 2am again. #fail #
  • @dr_nick at one point we were watching Alias and 24 from middle-of-ep to middle so as to avoid cliffhangres in reply to dr_nick #
  • Time for Steve jabs. (@ Arnwood Vets) #

  • The full horror of my untidy desk #

  • Battlescars. #
  • Found on desk – Eng Lib Dems Resource CDs from 2006, '07, '08 and '09. #
  • They were discontinued after that when they realised the people not on the internet were the people trying to play the CDs in stereos. #
  • Energiser packet full of Duracell batteries. Safe to assume they can be recyled, I think. #
  • Two copies of Civilisation IV… #
  • Aha – the oldest thing so far! a 2005 business card from the Balti House (don't think we've been since then) #

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REVIEW: Kindle reading lamp

The other day, out of the blue, I got an email asking me if I would like to review a Kindle case, lamp or cover, along with a handy link to a site called

I’ve been blogging on and off for seven years, now, and I don’t recall this ever happening before, so actually, I jumped at the chance.

Very quickly, they put my chosen Kindle light into the post and I got it the following day.

I needed one because when I first got the Kindle, I eschewed the basic Amazon cover with light in favour of a funkier sort of thing, like this one. When the Kindle arrived, I understood what the light was for. Like traditional books, you can’t read a Kindle in the dark. (The sleeve is indeed funky, has a very soft protective lining, is much more interesting than a boring leather one, and I like it a lot.)

Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but when I took the Kindle camping, it was much more so. I turned at first to a book light I had once won in a Christmas cracker years ago, but this suffered four problems: its rough metal clip scratched my precious kindle; the cheap reflector cast irritating shadows all over the page; it was powered by weird unusual batteries; and worst, despite being originally designed for books it was useless for them as you had to keep repositioning it when you switched from recto to verso.

GearZap sent me an XtraFlex2 Kindle Reading Light – and it’s really good. It instantly fixes all the problems I had before. It has a padded clip that will not harm the finish on the gadget. The high-quality lights and reflectors cast a very strong light in exactly the right place, and the gooseneck allows fine tuning to position it properly. The light is almost as bright as my mains powered bedside light, and it will be very good indeed in a tent. Used with actual books, the twin LEDs in the light head are angled to cover both pages of a book without having to move it. And it takes normal AAA batteries that won’t be at all difficult to secure next time I find myself in a tent, getting carried away, and reading all night.

I’ve never yet seen a review of this type of light with an actual picture of the light attached to the Kindle, so to put that right, here we go:

Kindle light

And this highlights the one slight problem using this light with a Kindle – the deep clip isn’t quite designed to fit the device (unlike, say, this one, which is clearly intended for exactly this product). It is not an insurmountable problem: you can clip the light enough to work at the top, or you can use the full extent of the clip halfway down as pictured.

Kindle light

So, fast delivery, quality product – what more could you want from a supplier of Kindle covers with lights?

One final point: this type of device, a personal book light, is often sold as a way of letting one of two people who share a bed continuing to read after the other has fallen asleep. This might work for some people, but it doesn’t work for us. I’m the late reader, but P is a light sleeper. Attempting to read in bed wakes him up. I could sleep through earthquakes, so if ever he wanted to read after I fell asleep, I’m sure it would be fine.

Tweets on 2011-07-23

  • @willhowells my cyclist violence fantasy is usually limited to an umbrella in the spokes. in reply to willhowells #
  • @willhowells however, I'm totes down with using a bazooka on people who drive with the radio too loud. #zerotolerance #
  • RT @journodave: An incredible picture of Oslo city centre. Huge amount of damage done. #
  • Yet again, @journodave is first in with the news, which is why I have recommended him as #ff in the past. What day is it today, again? #
  • Does anyone have any recommendations for French and German language tweeters who are fun to follow? #
  • Best serious language learning tip I was ever given was "read what you normally read, but in the target language." #
  • @dbelbin hope you have backups! in reply to dbelbin #
  • RT @centre_alt_tech: We're also on google+ if you prefer your social networking google style. Add us here: #
  • I'm at Starbucks (Sainsbury's, Castle Bridge Rd, Nottingham) #
  • Don't worry quite dare check twitter or #bbcr4 news for fear of worsening atrocities from Oslo and/or Kay Burley. #
  • On the first day of the school summer holidays, frost is forecast. #
  • Have installed SwiftKey X. Which has its own version of unpredictable text. Sorry for any strange phrases as I acclimatisationalatify. #
  • @austinrathe hear Paddick talking about how much actual marriage meant to him during the equal marriage conf debate: in reply to austinrathe #
  • Hums… no, you can't hurry bread, no you just have to wait. #
  • This bear really needs to be more careful with his lightsabre. #

  • Ooh, that's good-looking dough. #
  • Wait, what? Second proof is an hour and a half? How did I miss that the first time I read recipe? Is there any hope for sleep tonight? #

  • These are already swelling quite convincingly. Trick is to get them in oven before they spread sideways. #

  • Burger baps looking good too. Nearly time to put oven on. Will I ruin everything at final hurdle? #
  • Most of the bottles on the kitchen counter really oughta go back to the drinks cabinet. It's not like we use them every day. #
  • Micro nuggets of dough inseparably sticking to my arm and hand hair. #

  • They look pretty awesome. Done 10 mins early. But are they raw in the middle? #
  • @journodave holy crap, that's awful. in reply to journodave #

  • And that's the onion / celery seed hotdog buns out of the oven too. And so to bed. #
  • OK, maybe a tiny sip of sherry before bed. #
  • Ooh, missed my 13000th tweet. And I have exactly 700 twitter followers. I love you all. (well, apart from you, obviously) #

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80 dead in Norway shootings

I’ve been keeping late hours baking but as I was getting ready to turn in, the news began breaking about the extent of the awfulness in Norway. As I write, 80 are confirmed dead at a summer camp for youth members of Norway’s ruling Labour party.

It’s terrible, terrible news, all the more vivid for me for the thought that this meeting must have been a similar sort of thing to the dozens run by our own party over the years. None of us would ever have considered Activate, or a Liberal Youth meeting a target for such an atrocity. A swathe cut through an entire generation of young political activists.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have lost children today.

Tweets on 2011-07-22

  • @ianvisits similar to amazeballs. HTH. in reply to ianvisits #
  • Lib Dem exec. Standing room only to discuss 5 year fundraising plan. (@ Lenton Methodist Church) #
  • We're going not going to discuss boundary changes tonight as we're running out of time #halleluia #
  • I have two custards in the fridge that need turning into icecream! #
  • Oh god nooooo! We're talking about boundaries! #stopitatonce #
  • RT @jamesmcgraw: How many relieved people does it take to change a light bulb? Phew. #
  • RT @Psythor: RT @danjordan: Happy π approximation day: 22/7 #
  • RT @timprater: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than to register for Lib Dem conference online. #
  • @NGHodder B&Q do indoor stuff too, like paint. in reply to NGHodder #
  • @Psythor I totes chickened out of going back to university to talk about "what I have done since graduating" to postgrads. in reply to Psythor #
  • @Psythor or "What I did with my MA in Film Studies – sweet FA" #
  • @Psythor aren't students the worst people to bullshit to? Stick to the safe ground of disintermediation. in reply to Psythor #
  • Must shortly step away from the computer, but before I do, today's Dilbert is a corker. #

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Tweets on 2011-07-21

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