Empress Scones

Empress Collage Empress Scones

The Fairmont Empress on the inner harbour in downtown Victoria is always stunningly beautiful – but it’s even more so in the fall, when the ivy-covered walls begin to change colour.

Screen Shot 2014 10 16 at 7.38.07 AM 585x585 Empress Scones

The Empress hosted the launch of In the Dog Kitchen yesterday with a tea paw-tea for dogs and their owners; it was a blast, albeit a rainy one. We had dog treats (Elvis’ bacon & peanut butter cakes! Turkey dinner doggie biscotti! Grrrranola bars!) made by the chef, and a photo booth with a wee replica of the Empress and little dog-sized fascinators, pearls, mink stoles, bow ties and vests for them to dress up with. So much fun. (My new iPhone won’t let me send photos from my phone to my computer to post here, but you can see all the evidence and hilarity on my twitter feed.)

The Empress Lawn Empress Scones

I love the big Fraggle Rock-esque trees on the front lawn.

Empress Collage Empress Scones

And what else do you do at the Empress in the afternoon but have high tea?

Empress tea 4 Empress Scones

Tea with milk, egg salad on tiny croissants, scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream.

Empress tea 1 Empress Scones

If you can’t find your own clotted cream (it’s difficult to find, and expensive for those tiny jars) you can make your own – but I prefer defaulting to crème fraîche, which is far easier to make.

jam cream Empress Scones

You’ll need a starter – buttermilk or good quality plain yogurt. Stir a heaping tablespoonful of it into 2 cups of heavy (whipping) cream, stir well, pour into a glass jar, cover with a lid and let it sit in a warm spot on the countertop overnight. That’s it. After 12-24 hours, it will have thickened into this wonderful, slightly tangy crème fraîche which you can serve right away or refrigerate until you need it.

Empress tea 2 Empress Scones

And if you can’t make it to the Empress, here’s the recipe for their famous scones.

Fairmont Empress High Tea Scones

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
3 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup raisins
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, rub together (they say “crumb”) the flour, butter, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, raisins and cream, and mix until you have a smooth dough.

Roll out to one-half inch thickness and cut to desired size, brush with an egg wash (an egg beaten with a little water – this is optional – and you could always brush the tops with cream instead) and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Makes lots.

button print gry20 Empress Scones

October 16 2014 | bread and breakfast | 8 Comments »

Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup with Apples

IMG 0017 585x780 Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup with Apples

I take a lot of pictures on my phone. Right now there are approximately 4,375 on there (no exaggeration) and yet they’re not quite good enough to post here. And so I finally knocked one thing off my to-do list that has been hanging out there for at least a year (I have plenty of years-old to-do items, sadly) and got up to speed with my phone, which means I can finally (maybe) try to catch up on Instagram and not have to lug my regular camera around and then have to connect it to my computer to upload images.. so archaic! Look at me all cutting edge!

So this post serves as a test, to see if the new toy is up to snuff. I did also want to share this soup.

We had three turkey dinners this weekend – a tryptophan triple header. The first was at our house, with friends who have no family in town, which involved me making the stuffing in an electric skillet and then running across the street to put the turkey in my sister’s oven, and us and our friends eating dinner on the couch because our dining room is filled with a fridge and stuff. The second was out at Mike’s cousin’s house, where they covered their bird with bacon and barbecued it in an aluminum roasting pan. The third was tonight at my mom’s house, and I was charged with soup – something I could do in the slow cooker on my dining room table – and so I tucked a couple sweet potatoes in the oven alongside the turkey on Friday night and then kept them in the fridge in their jackets until this morning, when I peeled and tossed them into the pot. It isn’t much different from a carrot-lentil-sweet potato soup I’ve been making for years – but this comes from the BBC. I do like their recipes.

Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup with Apple

2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
2 onions, chopped or grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 Tbsp. curry powder or paste
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro (stems too)
2 medium dark-fleshed sweet potatoes, roasted and peeled or peeled and chopped
1 L chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
1/2 cup dry red lentils
1 tart apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup half & half or coconut milk
juice of a lime

If you have a stovetop, heat a drizzle of oil in a medium pot; add the onions and saute for 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Add the curry powder or paste and cook for another minute; then the cilantro.

Add the sweet potatoes, stock, water, lentils and apple; bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until everything is very soft. (Alternatively, toss everything in the slow cooker and turn it on low for 8 hours.)

Puree the soup in the pot using a hand-held immersion blender; add the half & half, lime juice and salt, blend again and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Serves 8.

pixel Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup with Apples
button print gry20 Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup with Apples

October 13 2014 | slow cooker and soup | 6 Comments »

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