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Arabic Clotted Cream - 2006




Dear Tea Friends,

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The farmer’s market, near my country home, brimmed with baskets of garlic, freshly dug potatoes (still smudged with mud) leeks, broccoli, kale, endive, squash, grapes, pears, pumpkins, and apples this weekend. Even when I don’t really need anything, it’s fun to walk along the banks of the Delaware River, on a Sunday afternoon, with the sun turning the changing leaves into stained glass, and chat with the people who produced the bounty. Plus, food tastes better when it’s in season and picked mere minutes from where it’s sold, rather than trucked cross country or flown in out-of-season. If there’s anything more satisfying than the crunch of a locally grown, crisp, rosy, red apple, it’s a piece of apple pie. 

Our house guest bought an un-sweetened pie for dessert and we debated whether it should be served with a slice of Gruyere cheese, as my husband suggested, or topped with ice cream. Scooping out the ice cream, for two of us, I remembered that when we lived in England, pie was often served with clouds of clotted cream. In Cornwall, tea rooms served hard meringues, the size of Big Macs, sandwiched together with clotted cream, and scones slathered with cream and drizzled with treacle. For some mysterious reason these were called “thunder and lightening.” (if you know why, please email me) And let’s not even talk about the thick clotted cream fudge sold on street corners.

One farmer’s wife, whose family had been selling their clotted cream to a famous London grocer, for generations, told me that her granny said Phoenician sailors were the first to discover the confection. The sailors, who traveled to Cornwall to trade for tin, supposedly clotted their cream to prevent spoilage on long sea voyages. Don’t know if that’s truth or fiction, but I recently found a recipe for Arabic clotted cream, called qashtah, in “Mediterranean Street Food,” a cookbook written by Anissa Helou. The preparation method she observed in Tripoli is very similar to the way I saw it made, with un-pasteurized milk, on a farm in Devon. In Lebanon, as in England, the cream is usually served with dessert, or as a simple sweet drizzled with honey. During Ramadan, however, a month-long time of worship and contemplation of the Quran,  pious Lebanese Muslims, who neither eat nor drink during daylight hours, enjoy fried clotted cream fritters, as an evening treat to break their fast. The fritter recipe sounds delicious as does the one for Lebanese shortbread listed on the next page.

Isn’t it fascinating how some of the treats traditionally associated with an English-style afternoon tea turn out to have multi-cultural roots? Such interwoven stories are the reason I created my Tea In The City: New York sipping and shopping tours. Tours can be arranged for individuals, to suit their schedules, or you may join one of the tours offered most Mondays. Reservations required.

To learn more about where to go and what to do if you love tea and New York, please visit www.teawithfriends.com or contact me @ 201-222-1154; 866-616-1154, toll free. Tours are limited to 11 people, minimum 4. If you are the first to reserve, but have less than 4 people in your party, I’ll place your name on the waiting list. I look forward to guiding you to some of my favorite places to savor and shop for tea in my favorite city.  


Elizabeth Knight



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