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||I've tried making my own chai before with a sort of loose mixture, and it ended in a (somewhat tasty) disaster. I've just moved to Wisconsin and it's cold enough to warrant a good cup of chai, something I rarely wanted when I lived farther south. Could you offer some sort of recipe?|
|Nicey replies: Liz,
Sorry we drink PG Tips.
Fig Roll Review
|I'm fairly new to your site, shame on me, so I may have missed out on previous raging debates about fig rolls. Now, I'm quite partial to a cup of tea and a biscuit or two, but am I the only person in the world who thinks that fig rolls are vile? There are very few foody things that I actively dislike, and I like both figs and sponge, but put the two together and yuk! Plonk a pack down in the office and everyone descends on them like a pack of starving dingoes on a fat baby, but even the smell is enough to make my guts do a handstand. Am I alone? Do I need therapy?|
|Nicey replies: The crust on a fig roll is a really more of a sweet pastry than a sponge, unless on the American Fig Newton which is more like sponge that has been battered flat. Don't feel bad about not liking them, think of it as your gift to those of us who love them.|
Waitrose Organic Oaten Review
|Ah so it isnít just me then! Iíve often remarked that the aroma of some digestives has the faint whiff of hamster bedding, most people just look at me as if Iíve gone mad, clearly they are mistaken!|
|Nicey replies: Oh yes we should adopt hamster bedding as biscuit tasting term, if wine tasting can have 'gun flint', 'buttery' and 'cigar box' then we can have 'Hamster Bedding'.|
The ships biscuit otherwise known as HARD TACK by generations of mariners is because of its rock hard qualities. It is made to a similar recipe that local bakers would have used to supply Capt.Cook's ship the Endeavour. The old method was to put the very tight dough between two hessian sacks, put your boots on and tread it to approximately ľ" thick, then cut into 4" squares. When baked and dried well, they were packed into barrels and put aboard ship. These biscuits once sealed into barrels would last for a two or three year voyage. However, once a barrel was broached, they got damp with the sea air and maggoty, that is why sailors always knocked their hard tack first.
During the American Civil War, the American army used to have a biscuit made with flour and water, but instead of the dough mixed with water, bakers used beef stock. That way, the biscuit could not only be eaten as it was, the soldiers used to be able to place it in a billy-can with water to make a soup.
We made some ships biscuits for Whitby Museum, (Captain Cook and Scoresby) and they have had a sample on show in one of their display cases for several years, and it still hasn't gone mouldy!
Your fascinating site reminded me of a biscuit-related enigma which has haunted me since childhood days: the phrase "ship's biscuit". Despite this strikingly anomalous use of the singular, I have always liked to picture generously plural stocks of biscuits stowed in tins, or possibly crates, deep in the hold. Fig rolls would be a healthy choice for a long voyage, although perhaps custard creams might be more comforting. Garibaldi would fit the bill too. Somehow, the more effete chocolate varieties seem ill-suited to a life of rum, sodomy and the lash.
But what exactly was ship's biscuit? Since I am too bone idle to go away and research the whole thing on Google, I wondered what light you might be able to cast on the world of tea-time confectionery in a historical maritime setting.
|Nicey replies: Mary,
A ships biscuit is in fact the ancestral biscuit from which all others sprang and even gave rise to the very word 'biscuit'. As we mention from time to time biscuit comes from two french words 'bis' for twice 'cuit' for cooked. They were so named because biscuit were baked twice a first quick bake to cook then biscuit then a long slow drying bake to preserve it for use as ships rations. Made from simply flour, salt and water, they are not something you want to dunk into your cuppa. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a ships biscuit earlier in the year although I had to give it back to its owner. It really wasn't very appetising and looked uncannily like one of those fake doggy turd things. The biscuits are as hard and rock, and it was not uncommon for sailors to break their teeth on them.