Being in London for the coronation weekend was an incredible experience. Upon our arrival, Neil and I could feel the excitement in the air. All the major stores have beautiful displays commemorating the coronation and all the shops have signs congratulating the King.
Every time we entered a taxi or ordered a meal, we would ask “What do you think of the monarchy?” Every answer has been super positive. They greatly admire William and Catherine and they love their adorable kids — George, Charlotte and Louis. They are all in agreement that Harry has made a huge mistake. I was surprised to find out that they all love Queen Camilla. When I ask people about Diana, the Princess of Wales, they say that she wanted the divorce and that she would never have been queen, even if she was alive. It gave me a new perspective, as I’ve always been a big fan of Diana and I’ve disliked Charles and Camilla. But Londoners truly love them. We asked older people what they thought of their new King. They described him as very level headed, very inclusive and ahead of his time in his awareness of the environment and global warming. They tell us about his charitable causes and the Princes Trust that helps young people. They feel that he will be for the people. They have given me a newfound admiration for King Charles III. The people of England know how special it is for them to have the royal family and that there is no other royal family in the world like it.
We stayed at a hotel across from St James Park. On Saturday morning, the concierge warned us that it was going to be crazy out there and that we should stay and watch the coronation on television screens in the bar. We took a look at a map and decided to take a short walk and see if we could get a look. We left the hotel and were immediately surrounded by streams of people walking on both sides of the street. We soon realized that it was true madness. Police barricades and street closures and rain coming down, but there was still no stopping the crowds. We walked for an hour and realized there was no way for us to get close, so we headed back. It was an unforgettable experience to see the enthusiasm in the crowd and the people dressed up, with lots of crowns and holding signs.
On Sunday, Neil and I enjoyed a very special high tea at Claridge’s. There is nowhere in the world quite like Claridge’s. Established in 1856, its reputation attracted the notice of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and it soon became the favorite of European royalty and visiting heads of state. In the 1920s, Claridges transformed itself into an art deco landmark and over the decades, it has been the London destination of movie stars and fashion designers, businessmen and statesmen.
As befitting an institution of the English establishment, the tearoom is breathtaking. Filled with fresh flowers and plants, it evokes an English garden. The decor is beautiful and the room hums with conversation. The cellist and the pianist played joyful tunes of olden days.
I ordered a verbena tea and Neil drank chai. We nibbled on delicious finger sandwiches filled with smoked salmon, cucumber and egg salad.
Then we enjoyed magnificent scones, some plain, others with raisins. The outside of the scone had a slight crunch with a crispy edge, while inside was incredibly moist and fluffy. Each bite of the scone with the hotel’s berry jam and clotted cream was heavenly. Clotted cream is quintessentially English. It is a thick cream made by heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly. When cooled, the cream content rises to the surface and forms “clots” or “clouts” which gives it the name.
Then we were served a platter of perfect little fruit tarts, tiny cakes and bite-sized pastries. When I bit into the chocolate-covered cream eclair, I couldn’t help but exclaim “Mmmmmm, so good!”
My mother was in my thoughts as we both loved having high tea together on special occasions. I will miss her awfully this Mother’s Day.
Growing up in Australia, there were some things that were constant. The Queen (on our money, on walls in public offices, on our lips with the national anthem “G-d Save Our Gracious Queen”) and afternoon tea with scones and sandwiches.
My daughter Alexandra and I were sitting at Starbucks on Beverly Drive when the news flashed that the Queen had died. I cried.
I have no idea why, but my older brother Rafi mastered the art of making scones (and shortbread) when he was 13. I have never seen him cook or bake anything else since. But he gave me the idea that I could also make scones and I’ve been making them ever since.
Historians cannot agree on the origins of scones. Do they get their name from the Dutch “schoonbrot,” meaning fine white bread and the related German “sconbrot,” which means beautiful bread. Or do they get their name from the medieval town Scone in Scotland
Historians cannot agree on the origins of scones. Do they get their name from the Dutch “schoonbrot,” meaning fine white bread and the related German “sconbrot,” which means beautiful bread. Or do they get their name from the medieval town Scone in Scotland. The original Scottish recipe was a quick bread made with oats and baked on a griddle and the first written reference to scones was made by a Scottish poet in 1513. Over the years, the recipe changed to include white flour, butter and (sour) milk or buttermilk.
In the 1840’s, Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, a close friend of Queen Victoria popularized the ritual of afternoon tea with its set menu of sandwiches, scones and pastries.
Life doesn’t stay constant. This Mother’s Day, Rachel will miss her mother. G-d willing, we’ll be celebrating my wonderful mother and mother-in-law without my daughters Gabriella (in New York) and Alexandra (in Poland). But our Mother’s Day menu will stay the same. Frittata. Salads. Smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels. And the very best homemade scones, served with every kind of jam (strawberry, raspberry, apricot and marmalade) and freshly whipped cream.
We hope you try our very easy recipe for scones. It’s not particularly Sephardic, but delicious nevertheless. Tea is universal, so let’s sip a cup and pray that our joys always be constant. Happy Mother’s Day!
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 ounces (one stick) salted butter
1 cup milk, approximately
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a medium bowl.
Rub in the butter until flour feels sandy. Stir in enough milk to achieve a soft, sticky dough.
Spoon the dough onto a well floured surface. Generously dust the top of the dough with flour and knead the dough two or three times.
Flatten the dough into a 1 1/2 inch thickness, then cut into two inch squares.
Pat scones smooth and place on the baking sheet. Brush scones with milk.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until firm and golden.
Variations: Add 1 cup raisins, currants or chopped dates.
Scones are best served fresh with whipped cream and your favorite jam.
Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project has grown from their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Follow them
on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food. Website sephardicspicegirls.com/full-recipes.