I was going through the cupboards on the weekend and unearthed some long-forgotten foodstuffs, among them, a seasoning packet for slow-cooker stew. I've been looking to recruit the slow-cooker to aid me in making quick meals, but hadn't found any recipes that can be prepared quickly in the morning and left for 8 hours while I'm at work. This packet recipe was just the ticket in that respect, but the packet itself was suspect. Aside from the obvious gamble of using something that's been in our cupboards for... years... it's also full of things that I try and avoid. It basically an over-salted, hydrogenated, mass-produced mixture of spices which I have the fresher versions of in my fridge and spice drawer. So why bother? Well, I really, really hate wasting things.
So I decided to use it, rather than throw it out. Couldn't have been simpler to make: cut meat. Put in pot. Cut veggies. Put in pot. Mix packet with water. Put in pot. Turn on for 8 hours. And voila! And I'm sad to say that the packet did not exceed the already low expectations I had for it. The stew was very salty, and had that distinctly un-homemade taste. It tasted like it came from a can. Bummer.
Furthermore, as great as the slow-cooker is, I kind of prefer making things that require attentive stove-top love. When I talk about wanting to take back the kitchen, this is not the way I want to conquer. I want to be more hands-on. But anyway, enough about that. Let's move on to the thing that made the meal delicious, despite the lack-lustre stew: the tea biscuits.
This tea biscuit recipe is imprinted on the tree rings of my youth. I have very fond memories of these tea biscuits of which my dad was the primary baker. He made them all the time to accompany my mom's stews and soups, and would whip up a batch if I had a stomach-ache and we would have them plain, or with honey or jam. Pure comfort food. Oh, and the tea biscuit paraphanelia: to keep the biscuits warm on the table, they were put in a basket that was covered with a folksy, fabric rooster, and you had to lift it's wing to take one out. These tea biscuits also made excellent missiles for table-top battles between my brother and I, to the dismay of our dining guests.
Once, in University, I called my dad for the recipe and was shocked when he said he'd need to consult his recipe book. Recipe book?! What recipe book? I thought it was your recipe! I thought you knew it like a homing pigeon knows where to fly! To be melodramatic, I'd say that a core idea in my belief system was shattered that day. But, at least the book in question was the venerable Beard on Bread. Ok, I suppose I can live with that. But in my recipe notebook where I scribbled it, I call it "Dad's Tea Biscuits." But in case the James Beard Foundation is reading this (yeah, right), here's the recipe posted on their site.