Wednesday 12 July 2017

Summer Berry Ice Tea Sundae

We've been enjoying some lovely warm weather lately - ice cream weather you might say! And maybe not everyone's first thought when it's hot and sunny is tea, but what if you could combine tea and ice cream into the perfect frozen dessert? 

Exactly. Happy days.

So today I'm sharing a recipe for Summer Berry and White Chocolate Ice Tea Sundae.  Quite a mouthful, both literally, and in name. So where does the tea come in? Well, I picked one of my favourite refreshing blends of tea from Bluebird Tea Co and infused it into white chocolate sauce to drizzle over the sundae. You can almost certainly do this with any blend of tea that you enjoy, but I picked the appropriately-named Jelly and Ice Cream.

Jelly and Ice Cream is a rooibos tea filled with coconut, strawberry, vanilla and apple.  It's creamy and fruity and delicious and it's one of my absolute favourites. I usually drink it brewed hot with a splash of milk and enjoy the sweet ice-creamy flavour, and it therefore seemed like the perfect choice to add into a sundae.

Ingredients: Makes 4 Sundaes

8 shortbread biscuits
200g frozen berries
150ml single cream
100g white chocolate
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
4 tsp tea

I used Jelly and Ice Cream tea, as mentioned above, but you could use your own favourite. Equally, if you want a different flavour of ice cream, go for it! Finally, I used a mixture of frozen strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, but any frozen fruit you enjoy would work.

1) Pour the cream into a small saucepan and add the tea (it's easiest if you put the tea into a little drawstring teabag so you can get it out again later). Put the pan over a low heat until the cream just comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave the tea to steep for at least half an hour to allow the flavours to infuse into the cream.

2) When you've infused the cream, remove the tea, and put the cream back on a low heat.  Add the white chocolate and stir thoroughly, until the chocolate is melted and combined with the cream. Leave the sauce to cool.

3) Use a pestle and mortar to grind the shortbread into crumbs. Divide the biscuit crumbs between 4 glasses, leaving a couple of spoonfuls to sprinkle on top of the sundaes.

4) Split half the frozen berries between the four glasses and add a scoop of ice cream over the top, to build up layers in the sundae.

5) Share the remaining berries between the four glasses, keeping one back to top off each glass.

6) Drizzle the tea and white chocolate sauce over the top of each sundae. Sprinkle over the last few biscuit crumbs and top each sundae with a final berry.  Voila! The perfect summer dessert is ready to go.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you putting the whole lot into one giant bowl and attacking it yourself.  Just in case the summer weather lets us down and it's pouring with rain and you need cheering up. Let's just call that an alternative serving suggestion.

Kisses xxx
P.S. As a tea rep for Bluebird Tea Company, I can offer you a one-use-only 20% off discount code: just enter CURIOUSTEABIRD07 when you check out. You can hop on over now to find the summery cocktail-inspired Tea Tipples to try, or to snaffle some Jelly and Ice Cream rooibos.

Thursday 6 July 2017

Living the Lovely Canal Life

I recently shared a post about a week spent on a barge during the Easter Holiday with a trusty band of lovely friends.  I loved having my camera and shooting the waterways gliding past, and so today I have a few more pictures from that experience. There isn't really any more story to tell; it's a experience to be lived rather than discussed and it existed in the small moments: feeling the boat rock slightly as you fall asleep, cosy in your cabin. Tramping down the dewy grass as you cast off your boat first thing. Wrapping slightly chilled fingers around a mug of warm tea as the evening draws on. Leaping on to the bank with windlass in hand and wind in hair ready to take on a lock, feeling proud that you know how to do this and can send your crew on the way. Peering into little windows and catching snapshots of another crew on their own adventure. The feeling of freedom and self-sufficiency.

And beautiful English countryside under spring skies.

Quack's all, folks.
Kisses xxx
P.S. This whole adventure sort of kicked off because going on a canal boat was one of the things on my list.  And it was wonderful; I really, really, REALLY want to go again.  That's the whole point of the list: to encourage me to try new things and find new passions!

Monday 3 July 2017

Pottering Along on a Barge

Back in April, an intrepid band of explorers set out to charter a barge and navigate the untamed wilds of Britain's canals.  It was very similar to the voyage up the Congo undertaken in 'Heart of Darkness' but much more genteel.  We are, or course, equally as hardcore.
We picked up our trusty floating home for the week, named Kingfisher, and following a quick driving lesson and a lock tutorial, we were sent on our merry way with instructions to be back in time at the end of the week. Simple.
I had never been on a canal boat before, but was looking forward to a week of calm waterways, solid friend time, merry locking and just relaxing and watching the world go by.  And that's pretty much what we all got, only I loved it more than I ever would have thought.

First of all, driving is easy and enjoyable. You can sit on the back of the boat, enjoy the scenery, wave at passer's by and other boats and have your crew bring you cups of tea to while away the hours.  It's peaceful and lovely and you can glide along at pottering pace without a care in the world.
Inside the barge also turned out to be much roomier than I had imagined, and much less rough and ready. Hot showers, for instance. Adorable bedrooms with impressively fitted storage, a full-on kitchen and lounge area to hang in, or outdoor seating at the front of the barge if the weather's nice. Everything we could possible have needed was on board.

I soon learned, however, that half the charm of canal boating lies in vaulting onto the bank to go and operate the locks.  In these circumstances, driving is less fun than hauling along to the nearest lock and going hell for leather with your windlass. There was a real sense of achievement in throwing your bodyweight into levering open the heavy wooden gates, and it was surprisingly social.
We met lots of other boaters at locks and we would always be happy to team up and work them together, sharing boat anecdotes and swapping holiday stories as we manually shimmied our barges up and down watery hills. My favourite bit was probably the flight of seven we managed, just in terms of sheer accomplishment and the satisfaction of shifting the locks like a well-oiled machine. That's teamwork, baby.

I did have to institute a mutiny, however.  One so-called friend had made us all badges to wear for the trip. A lovely thought, you might imagine.  His badge said 'Captain', and he doled out First Mate and Cabin Boy to two other crew members.  And what did that leave me?

Mutiny was swift and successful.  Safe to say that by the end of the week, my hoody proudly bore two badges, reading 'Captain Parrot'.
Pieces of Eight.
It was just so nice to get away from everything and really relax.  I appreciate 'Nice' sounds like a very bland word, but there was time for Man Time (see above, putting the world to rights), reading time, musing-aloud-about-the-future time, cooking time, board games time, walking the tow-path time, cider time, tea time and photography time.
Also running along the roof time, but I enjoyed very much but which is technically not allowed. But the blossom was out, we struck lucky with the weather and the week just kept on rolling by.  There's always something you can do, but often not a lot you have to do which is a perfect balance really.

We crossed a couple of aqueducts which gave us some lovely views and definitely made me want to experience travelling over some of the larger, more well-known varieties where you're high in the air with the countryside spread below. We also navigated through a hugely long tunnel, the inside of which was pitch black and exciting, and exactly wide enough for two boats to pass and no more. 

Each evening we moored up and enjoyed our little floating home.  It was lovely to natter the day away, take on a board game or two, or venture to the nearest pub for some delicious pub fare.  Necessary when you've relaxed that hard.

Going on a canal boat was one of the things of my list of Life Goals (you can find it here) but it's safe to say that this is one I really want to repeat. I can understand why people want to go again and again as it's utterly charming and wonderful.  Pure, carefree enjoyment from start to finish with a lovely bunch of friends and daily life left well and truly behind. I can't wait to go again!
Kisses xxx
P.S. Note to self: next time take more snacks. Driving time is snack time.