Friday, January 23

Foody Friday: Chicken Tea Supreme

This one kinda proved why people might look at me askance for posting recipes. You can learn from my mistakes, okay?

This is a bit of a quick one because I'm going out. I've made qite a few changes to the original recipe, because 2 oz of tea is a lot, it didn't taste great, and no one needs that much sauce for only two chicken breasts.

Chicken Tea Supreme


2 Chicken Breasts
3 tbsps Stock
500 ml Water
0.5 oz Earl Grey
250 ml Coconut milk
1 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp Plain Flour


2 saucepans
Overproof dish


Put chicken into stock and put in oven on 200 degrees.

Boil water. Add stock and tea. Simmer for four minutes.

Strain into second saucepan. Give first saucepan a quick wipe.

Add coconut milk to tea/stock mix. Bring to boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Make a roux with butter and flour in other saucepan (melt butter and add flour bit by bit until you have a smooth thick paste).

Gradually add the mix to the roux to make a thick sauce.

Taste a few times. Don't add sugar. No, really. Add more stock, if you don't like it.

Wipe now empty saucepan and boil your veg in it.

Drain chicken.

Put everything on a plate. Or, as the original instructions suggested:

slice chicken finely, and arrange in a fan shape with baby veg and a garnish of parsley


Perrier-Robert, Annie; The Book of Tea (in France Le Te); Hachete Illustrated; 1999

In unrelated news, Trapped has appeared on Flashes in the Dark. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 18


Wolf-Spider has gone to Three Crows Press. I haven't done much more work on selkie (though I've significantly rewritten the first third - the second third has a chunk in the middle that requires it to be rewritten, and hopefully the third third is alright). After posting on the SYL forum at AbsoluteWrite (which keeps crashing at the moment) I've found a new approach to Asylum. Which also requires it to be completely rewritten.

I have drunk about half of Friday's tea-punch (about three quarters of a litre).

Not just now; since friday. It's delicious. It's absolutely delicious.

The SYL forums conform with most of my previous experience with online crit groups (not all - the_literatzzi actually works). You have to really thoroughly prod people to get constructive criticism - to be fair to the person I prodded, she responded quickly and relatively thoroughly - beyond "work it some". One crit forum seems to be entirely full of people being lovely to each other with almost no suggestions at all. Once prodded, they come up with a list of things, which is what's most annoying.= - if you saw those things before, why not mention them?

On the other end of the scale, the feedback on Asylum was... condescending. It was correct (I hadn't got the aim of the piece across, which is my own fault, hence why I'm trying a new approach) but the phrase "I'm not even going to bother going on" got my goat up a little. His own acknowedglement that his tone might put me off taking his advice shows he knew he was being rude. Comments like that (and it's not just one individual, but something you see across the internet) suggest the poster is providing crit of pieces not to help a person but because they feel better about themselves when putting down pieces inferior to their own. I deliberately stopped myself from checking out any of my critter's work - I didn't need another reason not to take good advice.

It really didn't help me swallow my pride that his post was riddled with spelling and grammar errors, either, but I'm learning to accept that even people in the industry don't apply the same standard to their internet posts as they do to their professional work (a terrible advertisement for themselves, but that's their call). It baffles me a little, especially when it's editors and agents. What they do reflects on their business; would you buy from a publication if you weren't confident in their ability to maintain professional editting standards? If not, why would you submit to them? This is true for writer's as well, but since so few authors are picked up from what they post online compared with what they submit, it's more of a concern after publication than before. Not that it doesn't raise my eyebrows every time I see a published author who sees no reason to use punctuation or capital letters.

There is a word I am thinking of, but the closest my mind can call up for me is "profriterole". Um.

Maybe some tea punch will help!

Friday, January 16

Foody Friday: Tea Punch

It's friday again, so it's recipe time. Staying on the subject of tea, and even on the subject of liquid, this week I present a favourite Victorian recipe: tea punch.

In fact, I have four recipes for tea punch. I'll start with the one I've actually made (the one that doesn't take over a week to make...), and include the others for general interest. You know, since distilling your own alcohol is illegal in this country.

I was going to do a spiel on how tea is produced, but with four recipes it doesn't seem relevant. Next week is Earl Grey Chicken Supreme, so that can come then.

Tea Punch (and variations thereof)

Modern Recipe


700 ml Water
300 ml Brandy
300g Sugar
2 tsp Loose Leaf Tea
1 Lemon


1 lt Bottle


Zest your lemon, and slice up the flesh, avoiding pith and pips.

Put into your bowl, along with the sugar and tea.

Boil your water and add to boil.

Leave for 20 minutes.

Add brandy.

Strain, and bottle.

Can be drunk warm or cold, though tastes sweeter when warm (and be careful not to overheat, or all that brandy will disappear). This is the least alcoholic of the recipes.

Victorian recipe

Only slightly less convenient than the modern, it has to be said, though you will end up with loads. Also, considerably more alcoholic.


10g Green Tea
1 kg Sugar
1 lt Water
4 Lemons
3 Oranges
2 lt Dark Rum


Large saucepan
3 lt Bottle


Zest your lemons and slive up the flesh of your oranges.

Bung into pan along with water, sugar and tea.

Bring to the boil, simmer for a few seconds, and strain.

Allow to cool, and add the Dark Rum.

Opposite water:alcohol ratio, so a lot stronger, hence the need for more sugar and fruit. They only get stronger from here on in...

Tea Brandy

We've reached the distilled punches now. Check whether this is legal where you are before you make it!


5.5 lt Brandy
2.7 lt River water (I thought that was weirdly specific, and also rather dangerous considering when this recipe came into being, but the alcohol will kill the nasties!)
30 g Green Tea
2 kg Sugar


Large container (over 8 lt)
Bain Marie
Large filter
3 lt bottle


Infuse the tea in the brandy and water for eight days (you can see why I never even contemplated this one).

Distill in a Bain Marie until you only hve 3 lts of liquid.

Dissolve sugar in the warm liquid.

Filter and bottle.

Again, very strong, especially with the distillation (you're making it stronger than the brandy was originally). When it says Tea Brandy, it means Tea Brandy - it makes no further pretense.

Tea Liquer


125 g Green Tea
5 lt Water
8 lt 'diluted' Brandy/Sherry
2 1/2 kg Sugar


Large container (over 8 lt)
Huge saucepan
Bain Marie
Large filter
9 lt bottle ( or 3 x 3 lt bottles!)


Infuse 1/2 lt of water with your tea. Allow to cool until luke warm.

Add to your diluted brandy/sherry. Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing how diluted your alcohol ought to be.

Leave to "macerate" (sit in a corner) for eight days.

Distill until you have 4 1/2 lt of liquid.

Melt your sugar in the other 4 1/2 lt of water.

Combine, filter and bottle.

I'm not sure why you'd need 9 lt of this stuff, but you could have one hell of a party.

The punch I made is deceptively nice, though I wouldn't say it tastes particularly strongly of tea. Of course, in the late 18th / early 19th Century sugar consumption was a sign of wealth. It wasn't uncommon to take up to 10 sugars in your tea. To a Victorian at a party, these probably tasted more similar to the tea they drank than it does to ours (or Orwell's). Many of the recipes originally come for a French book from this period: Les Secrets du Liquoriste et du Confiseur. Unfortunately, I can't find anything more about it.


Perrier-Robert, Annie; The Book of Tea (in France Le Te); Hachete Illustrated; 1999

(Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to Wednesday - well, I went to see Slumdog Millionaire at the cinema. It was brilliant.)

Friday, January 9

Foody Friday: Tea

You might be wondering why I've decided to post recipes here - my family certainly would be, considering my reputation in the kitchen! Partly, it's to make this blog a little more interesting than a list of submissions, but mostly it's a way of sharing my love of my job. Well, one of my jobs.

I work part time at a museum of social history. One element on this is working in our Kitchen Studio, an interactive area focussed on cooking and the home. Mostly cooking. It tends to be historical recipes, though sometimes we go for foods with an interesting history.

I have a real soft spot for unusual foods. I love game and offal, and I like to play around with recipes I find online (like tomato soup cake, which is delicious). I'm not going to regurgitate my training packs from work; I'm going to explore foods and themes that interest me. Hopefully, some of these recipes will be useful in writing, especially historic or fantasy pieces. And hopefully they'll give you something good to eat!

Since I'm British, all measurements will be in metric (unless I'm sharing an American recipe...). There's a lot of websites dedicated to conversion.

Anyway, on to the show. The first month's theme is Tea! It's hot, wet, and British, and it's just what you want at this time of year. Let's start with the basics: making the perfect cuppa

How to Make the Perfect Cuppa

Loose leaf tea
Boiling Water

Tea strainer


I'm taking advice from that veteran tea-drinking author: George Orwell. He offers an eleven point plan for the preperation of tea - it doesn't take an hour, like the Japense ceremonies can, but there's definitely an element of ritual in it all.

Step One - Choose your tea.

You can use either loose leaf or tea bags, but loose leaf gives a better flavour. Tea bags commonly use what used to be known as 'Tea Dust', the crumbled, dusty parts of leaves that would go straight through a strainer. This produces a stronger, more astringent tea. Fine for a wake-me-up breakfast tea, but it's a waste if you're drinking something like Darjeeling (trust me, bagged darjeeling is rarely as nice as the loose stuff).

So, choosing your tea. Breakfast teas are strong and tannic, e.g. Ceylon. Afternoon teas are delicate and complex, e.g. Darjeeling. Some teas are flavoured, such as Earl Grey (Bergamot oil), Lapsang Souchong (smoked), Jagertee (Rum), Genmaicha (Roasted rice) and Chai (heavily spiced).

Personally, I love Lapsang Souchong, as did William Churchill and James Bond! Though I've been told it smells of kippers...

Orwell says:
One should use Indian or Celylonese tea. China tea has virtues virtues which are not to be despised... but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wise, braver or more optimistic after drinking it.

Basically, if you fear a dystopian future, you want a black tea, not green.

Step Two - Boil The Kettle

Water Must Be Boiling. No Ifs, Ands or Buts. Electric kettle or traditional will do, or even a saucepan at a pinch, but a microwave shouldn't even cross your mind. That noise you didn't just hear? That wasn't the sound of the entirity of Britain gasping, because you didn't consider a microwave.

A coffeepot won't work either.

Water should be fresh from the tap, and shouldn't be boiled more than once.

Orwell Says:
The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep [the kettle] on the flame while one pours.

It is fun using a traditional kettle, because it whistles: a sound traditionally associated with the end of work, like a factory whistle.

Step Three - A Watched Pot Never Boils

While your water is coming to the boil, how 'bout a quick history of tea (from a very British perspective)?

Tea has been cultivated in China for about 4000 years. It was first drunk in Britain about 400 years ago, for comparison. The Dutch and Portugeuse had more trade with the east than we did, so it didn't really take off until Charless II married Catherine of Braganza (Portuguese), and the court took to drinking it.

At the beginning of the 1700s we barely touched the stuff, by 1800 we were importing 11000 tons a year (not including the vast amounts of smuggled tea and adulterated tea) and it was 1/20th the price it had been. Tea drove the British Empire quite literally: it led to the acquisition of Hong Kong and conquest of India.

Hong Kong is quite interesting, actually. Being the bastards we were, we tried to pay China for tea with opium, in the hope they'd get addicted and have to sell us more and more tea. China objected to this business model, and the opium wars began. They ended in our favour, with the acquisition of Hong Kong as a trading post, but during the war we'd also managed something sneaky: we'd stolen some cuttings from China and started growing tea in India, which we'd acquired from the Dutch East India Company a little while before.

Tea actually grow natively in India, in the Assam region, but we didn't find that out until the 1820s. Assam quickly became known as Bitter Tea due to the appalling conditions for the works; a third of them died on site. Definitely a situation of "They're not slaves, we're just not paying them. And flogging them if they try to leave." Did I mention we were bastards? Regulations protecting workers didn't come in until the 1930s.

So, we have lots of tea. While under the East India Company's control, taxes of over 100% were levelled on it at times, but in 1784 the tax was forceably reduced to 17%. Let them Drink Tea!

Speaking of which...

Step Four - Warming The Pot

Your kettle should be near boiling by now. Before it reaches the boil, pour a little hot water into your tea pot. Swill it around until the pot is warm and pour it out.

Orwell says:
This is done better by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

This rather depends on your teapot and your kettle. Brace yourself for a cracked pot or burnt hand if you try it.

Step Five - Adding Water to Tea

If you're using loose lea tea, you want one spoon for each person, and one for the pot. If you're using teabags, you can follow the same rule, though after four tea bags in total you're unlikely to need more in an average pot. If you make too large a pot of tea, the final cups will be stewed to tar before you drink them.

Orwell says:
For a pot holding a quart... six heaped teaspoons would be about right... I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea stronger, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes - a fact which is recognised in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Ah, rationing.

Add your boiling water to the tea.

Step Six - Leave to Brew

Black tea wants five minutes to brew, green tea three. Overbrewed green tea is one of the foulest drinks imaginable.

Since we've got a few minutes, how about a few tea facts?

96% of all cups of tea drunk daily in the UK are brewed from teabags. Tea bags were invented by accident in 1908 by Thomas Sullivan, a New York importer who was sending out sample bags. His customers let him know what they thought of them! Tea bags didn't reach the UK until the 1950s, and even then took some time to catch on.

Afternoon Tea was invented by Anna Russell, seventh Duchess of Bedford (1783 - 1857). Legend has it she got "that sinking feeling" midafternoon thanks to the rather unbalanced British meals, and requested tea and sandwiches in her room to boost her flagging metabolism. A friend came to visit one day and was invited to partake. Afternoon Tea blossomed into a fashionable meal.

High Tea is different; the main evening meal. It's sometimes known as dinner, but then so's lunch. You can cram a lot of meals into a day if you put your mind to it.

Tea cups didn't have handles until the late 1700s. Like the Chinese, we drank from bowls (which were often shipped to Britain as ballast in tea-bearing ships). In the 1600s we were drinking green tea, but due to the tendency to adulterate it with other leafy material (bits of hedge, sawdust, sheep's dung) and then dye it green again with poisonous chemicals we switched to black. No less pure, but the additions rarely required dyeing, so it was a bit safer to drink. Since black tea was more bitter than green, we started adding milk and sugar, as we were accustomed to in coffee.

Step Seven - Pour Your Tea

If you're drinking green tea, afternoon tea, or one of the more unusual types, I recommend taking in black, at least the first time. Otherwise, let us confront the dreaded tea-milk conundrum!

Tea first or milk first?

If you add the milk first, you prevent it from scorching. This is apparently a good thing, though I have to admit the resulting tea is significantly more creamy than tea-first tea, which I don't consider a plus. If you do, then milk-first it is!

I side with Orwell, who makes the salient point:
by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way around.

Other additives make more significant changes to the flavour of the tea. Lemon is quite a nice addition to Earl Grey, but it would smother the flavour of Darjeeling. Honey is best saved for green teas. Jam should be taken on the side (that's a Russian thing).

On, and sugar?

How can you call yourself a true tea lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper and salt.

Apparently in Nepal, they do. So there we go, Mr Orwell.

Orwell, George; 'A Nice Cup of Tea', Evening Standard; 21/1/46
Standage, Tom; A History of the World in Six Glasses; Atlanta Books; 2007

Wednesday, January 7

Writing Wednesday: Writing sex

I've decided that, to make sure I update regularly, I'm going to declare Wednesdays days for blogging about writing (in general), and Fridays for Food (because I can). Website updates and submissions and so on will appear whenever relevant.

So, first Writing Wednesday post is on the subject of sex! Namely, vocabulary in sex scenes.

It's easy to feel silly writing sex. You don't want to sound too clinical, but you don't want to get too euphemistic, either. You need to bear in mind the view point character's speech patterns, but you don't want to get bogged down in slang.

So, these are my personal Nos for a sex scene. Unless you're deliberately trying to make me giggle.

Also, I'm experimenting with cutting posts - click here to see, and click again to hide!

Words too Clinical for Sex Scenes - does it appear in a biology text book?

Uterus (which shouldn't really appear in a sex scene at all unless you're being really detailed about conception)
Cervix (see Uterus)

Words too Euphemistic for Sex Scenes - Has it appeared in the purple prose parody contest?

Love Tool
Manhood/Manroot/Manmeat (if it begins with man, drop it!)

Words too Casual for Sex Scenes - Did Rowan Atkinson use it in that Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch?

Willy (Will-eeee!)
Titties (oddly, I think you can get away with both Boobs and Tits. It's the diminuation that's the passion killer)
Front Bottom/vajayay/hoo-hah/we're not five year's old why are you doing this to us?
Gash (also the unfortunate name of an underwear chain)

Bad Verbs

Anyone else got words they'd like to add to those lists?

Friday, January 2

Brief little update. Glimmer Train now has 'Another Summer Day' and 'Unsent Letters' (it's not only a paying market, but offers $700 for straight submissions, and more for competitions, but those have entrance fees).

I've also picked up multiple woman's mag fiction editions. None of them have submission guidelines in, annoying, but I have discovered a womag blog that has them, so I might try writing something for them. Also pretty high paying markets. Plus, when I'm done with the magazines, I can leave them at the doctors so people have something more interesting than Top Ten Lipstick Tips to read!

I'm currently making bread, and while I'm waiting for it to rise I discovered wordle:

Wordle: sigkinks

Makes it nice and obvious what my favourite words are!

Thursday, January 1

Happy New Year!

New Years also demand new resolutions, but like most people, I tend to recycle the old ones. They're perfectly servicable, after all:

1 - Keep Writing
2 - Keep Revising
3 - Keep Submitting

However, I've been struggling to find a work to describe where I want to go with my writing. Too vague to be goals, too specific to be ambitions. 'Resolutions' fits perfectly. So, here are my long term resolutions:

1 - Write approx 3 Erotic novellas, and several short stories
(Selkie, Bliss, another, and WolfSpider and other short stories)

2 - Write at least 2 pulpy adventure stories
(The Dark, that moon-out-of-sync idea...)

3 - Complete at least one Greenhelm trilogy
(fairly striaghtforward, that one)

4 - Write 3 children's/young adult stories
(House with Too Many Doors, Tower in the Wood, Deliberate Changeling)

5 - Write approx 20 ghost stories. Get at least 10 published, then consider anthologies
(though evidence suggests I might need to get all 20 published before thinking of anthologies...)

One day, I'd like to come back and strikeout the ones I've achieved, like I did with yesterday's cleaning list!

A good way to start a new year: with a submission! I discovered Flashes in the Dark about, oh, ten minutes ago, and I've sent Trapped to them. Ruin came back from All Hallows yesterday, and I'm going to send Pluvial to them soon.

I also edited an chapter of Greenhelm and a chapter of The Dark. Greenhelm has been much neglected of late, and I've been putting off The Dark because I've made a decision to change the setting, which of course requires a lot of minor changes. I was never comfortable setting it in Lesotho, so I've moved it to a fictional island in the South Pacific.

I spent most of today making enough chicken soup to last me the month. Also, a huge pan of beef and bean chilli. No more cooking for me in January!

ETA: And Trapped has been accepted! That's insanely prompt ^_^ It will appear on the site on the 23rd of January!

Edit again: I've updated the site to reflect this. I've also instigated the most recent rejig (I really have to learn to leave the layout alone!) which splits the writing up by pseudonym. I've also included Winter08's site-specific story, which was originally written thanks to prompts at the_literatzzi.