English Tea and Biscuits (and scones and shortbread and…

finished browned biscuits.

Back in 1980 I spent a semester of school in England. My college, New England College, had an extension campus there and one in Toyota City, Japan. On our campus there was a total of about 300 students from all over the world. I think 30 of us were from the States, and in my dorm it was just my roommate and I as the only women, and 2 of the 4 students from the US. We had two male friends from the US who lived down the hall. The rest of the guys were from the Middle East, India, Turkey, Sudan, Jordan. I’m not even sure of how many countries were represented.

Learning to live together happily, or at least tolerably

It was an uncomfortable blending of culture and societal norms. It was during the Iranian hostage crisis so there was always something in the news, bomb scares, negotation talks. Our shared living room was used primarily as a place of prayer for the guys who lived in the dorm. We weren’t allowed in at those times, so pretty much we just didn’t use it at all. Most of the men in the dorm had issues living with women, let alone sharing a bathroom, so they refused to step into the supposedly shared shower. We, on the other hand, refused to use a bathroom that always had about a ½” or more of dirty water on the floor. The guys carried the shower head out into the bathroom to avoid stepping in a space we might have bathed in, thus a permanently flooded bathroom. Interesting times. We made the best of it and definitely met some great people.

porcelain clawfoot bathtub
maybe not these marble floors. It was a school dorm after all. But this gives you the idea.

My roommate Nancy and I walked over to the women’s dorm regularly to use their facilities. It was in the manor house so definitely a bit nicer than our dorm. Drawback, having to walk over there, AND the fact that there were no showers, only giant bathtubs. But we didn’t complain too much about a long leisurely bath. I had hair down to my waist at the time, so a good shampoo and rinse took quite a while, and a number of tub-fulls of water!

Workstudy does not mean all work and no play!

I worked while I was over there, in the Marketing department and supporting HR. I made posters for on-campus activities (It was just a few months out of the 70s, so lots of drawing with markers, painting, very hand-made). I also researched and prepared visa letters for the many students needing permission from their government to study at an American school in England.

Most of the students came from relatively wealthy families. I’m not sure how many work study students there were. But I was one. Lucky for me, I’d finished all my educational credits for my degrees the previous semester. I had received a full scholarship and grants to cover all expenses, so my time in England was really more of a social and cultural opportunity. I made a bit of extra cash and enjoyed exploring as much as I could, which was a good deal. I had just three courses to take; one required me to travel to London once a week to watch plays, and then report on them the next day, a second was watching Hitchcock and Welles films, then analyzing camera angles, lighting, special effects, etc., and finally I appeared in a touring show of Two by Two. Ours was actually the premiere of that Broadway show in Great Britain. Not a bad final semester!

On stage and off we enjoyed ourselves

Time for Tea! Thank God for Derek and a nearby village!

On days when things were slow at work and my friends were bored with classes, it wouldn’t be unusual for one of them to stop in at my office to see if I could leave with them to go to tea. My boss Molly was always excited for me to go out and enjoy myself.

We had a school driver, Derek, who would take the group of us in to the village and drop us off at Belinda’s Tea Room then pick us up later. Belinda’s was a cute little place with a garden out back and cages of canaries just inside the cottage door. I remember hearing them sing as we waited for biscuits and tea, or scones with clotted cream and berries.

bowl of berries with biscuits and cream
What a way to spend an afternoon

Afterwards we’d walk around town, stop in at an antique store to buy vintage linen (I collected antique men’s dress shirts) or wander through a strange little museum of Victorian toys and oddities. I distinctly remember a diorama of stuffed kittens dressed in costumes having a picnic.  Amazingly enough, 40 years later, Belinda’s is still there. The kittens are hopefully gone.

We’d also walk up the road next to Arundel Castle and have tea and sandwiches at the tearoom there. I think it’s now known as Ye Old Tea Room, and is in the Arundel House B&B. Shortly before the end of my semester there, I was offered a summer position at that tearoom. I’d been offered a job at the local Opera Company and it would have been a way for me to stay. I turned it down. That may be one of the few regrets I have in this life. Maybe not.

Another favorite place we frequented, if we happened to be in Arundel around lunchtime or had already missed dinner, was the Black Rabbit Pub. It’s down by the river and a beautiful setting in Spring time. And it’s also still there!

The Black Rabbit across from the River Arun. I remember some nasty aggressive swans swimming there.

And how did all these memories dredge themselves up? I was thinking about making some biscuits. Lemon Cheddar biscuits actually… and it didn’t take too much time to leap to my days in England and drinking tea while eating crispy biscuits and scones.

Lemon Pepper and Cheddar Shortbread Biscuits

Ingredients for biscuits:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • ½ cup white cornmeal
  •  1 TB cornstarch
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 – 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 – 2 TB lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 TB granulated sugar
  • 6 TB unsalted butter cut into 1/2” chunks
  • 3 TB ice water

Instructions for making biscuits

  • In food processor, combine flour, cheese, cornmeal, cornstarch, salt, pepper, zest and sugar for 20 seconds
  • Add butter and process until it looks like coarse meal
  • While processor is running add 1 TB water at a time until dough ball forms
  • Place dough on long piece of plastic wrap
  • With a bit of flour, roll dough by hand until you have a 6” log. Wrap in plastic and freeze for 30 minutes (or chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days).
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment (I use a copper non-stick oven mat)
  • Remove log from freezer and cut into 1/8” slices and place on parchment lined sheet, 1/2” apart
dough and knife
Try to slice them evenly so they’ll cook brown evenly.
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until nicely browned. Turn them half way in to allow both sides to brown
finished browned biscuits.
You can see the bits of cheese and lemon zest and they smell heavenly
  • Let cool.

This recipe can be adapted to other types of cheese, add fresh herbs, garlic, cooked bacon, sesame or poppy seeds and so much more! Great with a soft cheese and honey platter!

Local Honey and Cheese Platter from one of our favorite local places – Fishbones