30 October 2010

Tea Candy Recipe

A generous gift from a friend has started me on a culinary adventure ... here's how it all started.

Last week the lovely Stacie sent me this very thoughtful gift, with a beautiful card, audio book (seeing as reading is still a challenge for me) of A History of Hand Knitting, and a handful of lollies. (Thank you Stacie! You rock!)

See what they are? TEA flavoured candy! Nom nom nom!!

I immediately searched online to see if anyone in Australia sold anything similar, but I haven't found anything. So the next stop was to find a recipe. I found this one, and gave it a try. The toffees ended up a little too chewy (ie tooth breaking!) and the tea flavour was very weak/non-existent. In the second batch I cooked the syrup to a slightly higher temperature, and got a better hard consistency. But the tea flavour was still too faint.

After several batches and various trials and tribulations, here is my final recipe. I hope you enjoy it too!

Jejune's Tea Candy


  • Large heavy saucepan
  • Metal spoon
  • Candy thermometer (essential!!)
  • Baking tray

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 100 ml glucose syrup (115g) or light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup tea essence (recipe below)
This quantity makes a small batch, about 270g of candy. The recipe can easily be doubled or even quadrupled. NB : bigger batches will take longer to cook, a quadruple batch takes close to an hour to get to 164ºC (as opposed to 20 minutes for a small batch).

First of all, make the tea essence:

Tea Essence
Put ~1/8 cup loose tea leaves, or 6 tea bags into a heatproof bowl or mug. I used regular black tea, but use whatever your favourite is!

Pour boiling water over - you need about 1/3 cup of liquid for the candy, so add at least 2/3 cup of boiling water (as the tea leaves will sop up a fair bit of the water). Let this mixture sit for at least 10 minutes. You can also boil it in the microwave for a few minutes to further concentrate the tea flavour. The stronger the better! Strain the tea leaves out just before you use it.


1. Place all ingredients (sugar, glucose syrup, tea essence) in the saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until all the sugar crystals are dissolved. Put the candy thermometer into the pan, so the base is sitting in the syrup.

2. Bring the syrup to the boil. This is a Thou Shalt Never Leave the Kitchen recipe ... you can do other stuff while the syrup boils (you know the dishes need washing), but do not leave it! The syrup should just be bubbling along nicely on medium heat. You don't need to stir it.

3. Use the pastry brush dipped in water to wash any stray crystals off the sides of the saucepan back into the mixture.

4. While the syrup boils, prepare the pan - you can line it with foil if you like (not essential). The main thing to do is grease the tin with a plain vegetable oil like canola or sunflower oil. You can also use mini muffin tins, candy forms, a gem scone tray, or other metal pans as the mood takes you.

5. Keep a close eye on the temperature! The magic number is 164ºC (330ºF). This will give you a hard crack candy, without burning the sugar. I found that while a plain syrup set well at 168º, when I added the tea essence at the start of cooking (rather than at the end, as per the original recipe I tried) 168º was too hot and burnt the candy.

From the start of cooking to reaching the end point of 164º takes me about 20 minutes (using a gas stove on medium heat). A quadruple batch will take close on an hour.

6. When the syrup reaches 164ºC, turn off the heat and gently pour the mixture into your prepared pan.

7. After about 5 minutes, score the candy with a sharp knife. The window of opportunity for scoring the candy is only about 5 minutes, before 10 minutes have passed. Use a pot holder to hold the tin, and be careful - the candy is still very hot! You don't need to cut all the way through to the tin, just press down to make grooves.

Knife scoring candy in a tin
8. Leave the candy to cool completely, at least an hour. Then tip it out of the pan and break it up into cute little cushions. It should snap satisfyingly along the lines you scored.

Tea candy in a jar9. Place in an attractive container, and either give as a gift (this batch is for my brother-in-law) or have as a treat in the pantry. They are very hard candies, like lollipops, good for sucking on.

Clean up is easy if you just let everything soak in hot water for a while, the hard candy will just dissolve away.

I'd love to hear how you get on with this recipe. I still think it needs to have a stronger tea flavour ... let me know if you come up with any improvements!

25 October 2010

Smilee Grapefruit

I wanted to share a real find with you - Son and I were at our local Lebanese grocers (at the Mawson shops, for locals) the other day, and he spotted these packs of Deemah Smilee drink mix. It comes in pineapple and mango flavours. So - in the spirit of always liking to try new foods and drinks from other lands - we got a pack of each.

The powder mixes up in water a bit like Tang, but is much less sweet, and the flavour is really good. The pineapple one tastes closer to freshly juiced pineapple than tinned pineapple juice, and the mango one is refreshing as well.

A $3 bag makes 6 litres of drink. It's also great sprinkled on plain yoghurt or ice cream! I can see this will become a regular addition to our pantry!

And it's Halloween next Sunday! A holiday I have very fond memories of as a child growing up in America ... who can forget the goose costume my dad made for me one year, with a fully feathered and beaked mask (kitchen paper feathers) and webbed feet! I don't quite know why I wanted to be a goose when I was 6, but I think it was something to do with Charlotte's Web? And as a teenager, living on Mt Stromlo (which had a very international community) my brother Dave and I would dress up in scary garb and put on our "spooky sound effects" record to play to the younger kids who did trick or treating around the mountain (that's us in 1980!) :

This is me and the kids (Dotter as Baby Tiger, and Son as a Friendly Ghost) with some young French friends in Boulder CO, when we lived there in the mid-1990s. The kids loved Halloween then, and I admit I loved the chance to dress up as well!

I've been interested to see that this year there's been a huge increase in Halloween paraphernalia in the shops. Plastic pumpkin buckets, packs of individually packaged lollies, witches hats, masks, window decorations, the lot! Shops even have "Halloween displays" in prominent positions, a real rarity (yeah, next to the Christmas decorations which are out already, bleah).

I don't have an issue with this - apart from it being the wrong bloody season for the festival (we have Easter in autumn, and Halloween in spring, gah). Halloween, while at its most commercial and popular in the States, originated in Scotland, as All Saint's Day over 1300 years ago, in the 700s, and spread through Britain first, before eventually being exported to the New World by Irish immigrants in the 1800s. It is celebrated around the world in many different guises, but has never really taken off in Australia - maybe because of the season mismatch, or a mistaken reaction against an 'American' holiday?

The major supermarkets are even stocking large pumpkins for carving purposes (out of season!) - at $25/each, though, I wanted to go for something cheaper. I couldn't find non-cut-cup small pumpkins, then Dotter had the brain wave of carving up a few grapefruit ... which proved to be super fast, cheap, easy and effective! A few of these little guys will light the side of our driveway, so kids know we have treats in store :)

22 October 2010


I'm on a fair few meds at the moment (to put it mildly) ...

The generic brand Salpraz pisses me off hugely - they have the most wasteful packaging you can imagine. I get the better-packaged (and better working) brand Somac instead now. This Salpraz box is for just 30 tablets, and is a good 6 cm (over 2") high, with only 6 tablets per foil sheet.

See those huge foil blisters? And the size of the tablet that comes out of them? It's redonkulous. It's hard to actually find the blasted tablet within the blister ... the packaging is about 5 times too big.

When you're on prednisolone, especially at insanely high levels, you need a medical alert bracelet. Because I won't be on it long term (hopefully), I didn't want to pay for an expensive metal bracelet. So I ordered one of these blank rubber wrist bands from the Aussie company Mediband, and wrote my condition inside. They do a good range - I got a Type 1 Diabetes one for Dotter as well (although she also has a metal medic alert necklace). This is the one I got.

This week I've seen my physiotherapist, immunologist and neurologist and GP. The three auto-immune contestants are still Sjögren's Syndrome (which my grandmother had), CNS Vasculitis (or possibly Sjögren's + Vasculitis) or Sarcoidosis. I need a bunch more rather unpleasant tests to narrow things down, a cerebral angiogram being the most frightening. I'm trying not to think about it too much ... there's a long way to go yet, with a fair bit of outpatient hospital time ahead.

I think there's a little improvement in my visual field, but I won't know for sure until next week when I have a new peripheral vision test. I'm still not allowed to drive. My right arm is still numb, and the numbness now extends into the right side of my jaw and mouth. The reflexes in my right leg are "hard to elicit". I'm having a nerve conduction study done soon.

The prednisolone is pretty horrible. I don't recommend it. I've got a lot of side effects, from the minor (bitter taste in my mouth all the time, severe heartburn, insomnia) to the serious (steroid-induced diabetes). My doctors are keen to get me off it soon, I'll start tapering off at the end of October, and be off it by the end of November. I'm not responding as well as they were hoping.

I'm likely to need to be on some hefty immune-suppressant meds long-term, including one used for organ transplant patients to stop rejection, and low doses of a chemotherapy agent (with all the associated hair loss, nausea and the rest). Both of them are carcinogenic.

Whatever I have, it's definitely auto-immune, and there's no cure, so the rest of my life will be all about managing symptoms, flare ups and remissions.

Just taking it a day at a time at the moment, and taking advantage of this prednisolone-induced manic cleaning obsession while it lasts ... also doing a fair bit of blatant retail therapy, I must admit :/

15 October 2010

Come in for a cuppa!

We've been renting this house in Tuggeranong for nearly 3 years now, and for the first time it's decent enough to show you around! Dotter moving out has instigated a huge spring cleaning; the increased energy and decreased sleep I've got from these very high doses of Prednisolone has thrown me into almost a 'nesting instinct' - almost every closet and room has been turned out now, and nearly the whole house has been de-cluttered and organised in a matter of a few weeks! It's quite insane. I'm taking advantage of it while it lasts!

So - welcome to our home, come in and have a cuppa tea and some homemade cupcakes! Note the all important yarn stash in the front hall (wooden chest, basket and picnic hamper, all full).

I bought these bookshelves with some of my ill -gotten gains from Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies ...

My Roland electric piano is under the sheet ... I need to get back to playing more regularly.

The trusty exercise bike is positioned so we can watch telly while exercising ...

I love the bay windows in the living room. We have them in the master bedroom too.

The dining table setting is our best piece(s) of furniture, it seats 8 and is really solidly made.

My kitchen! It's a good size, with a gas stove. I made the curtains from a doona cover from an op shop. Spot the handknitted hand towel ...

The family room area is tiled, and adjoins the kitchen.

Dotter did the Phoenix painting when she was in high school.

Petal's food and water bowls, and her flat tray for her toys (she can't get into anything higher!) are on the left there.

The laundry is off the family room. I love my front loader!

My little office is also off the family room. The white plan chest used to belong to Ralph's grandfather and namesake, Ralph Malcolm Warner, who was a war artist.

The mega book cover foam-core posters were sent to me by Wiley, to use in (heretofore non-existent) publicity stuff.

My trusty little desk, MacBook, filing cabinet, comfy chair, and Miss Petal's bed ...

The back section of the house contains two bedrooms, the loo, and main bathroom. I'll draw a kindly veil over Son's room - we're only 1/3 of the way through sorting out his mess :)

Remember Dotter's room (scroll down to the next post)? This is how it looks now! The white desk holds my sewing machine, haberdashery, and beading supplies.

And inside the closet in Dotter's room I made this cardboard divider for some of my fabric stash ... fully green compliant ;)

Miss Petal is all worn out from helping to clean up (cos you know she's so helpful around the place).
Time for our cup of tea and cupcakes! Thank you for visiting!

11 October 2010


The deed is done, Dotter has fledged, and moved out of home into a group house about 30 km north of us (~ 18 miles). The opportunity arose for her to move in with her AIE teacher Adam, of all people. Another games programmer, Evan, is the third housemate. Dotter and Adam are great mates, and the school gave their blessing to the move, as Adam isn't responsible for marking Dotter's work.

Dotter is pathologically untidy .... just for the record (because I hope never to have to deal with this again) this is her bedroom at home, admittedly mid-move, but fairly typical of the standard state of her room (we long ago decided to choose our battles with our kids, and tidy rooms wasn't worth the constant anguish). It took her and me over 12 hours to sort through it all, de-clutter, throw out barge loads of rubbish, and pack a much smaller subset to take with her.

Jen's room at homeMiss Petal got in on the act too ...

It's all sorted, greatly reduced, and packed, ready to go ... one trip for these things, one for furniture, and one for her succulent plants collection ...

Here's a bit of the drive north ... we're heading for Florey, in Belconnen.

The house is small but very neat, uncluttered, and tidy, in good repair. It's a corner block, and there's a little front yard.

The local Florey shops are really excellent - only a 10 minute walk away, and there's a Medical Centre, which is accepting new patients (not something you assume in our fair city), is open 7 days a week (WTF?!!), and you can walk in (without an appointment, if needs be - so you'll wait, but you'll see someone). There's a chemist (open 9am to 9pm every day of the year except for Christmas), a take-away, a large IGA supermarket, butchery, bakery, hairdresser, physiotherapist, Chinese restaurant, Morks Thai restaurant, The Perfect Bean family-run café, and a Dominos Pizza ... The suburb is well served by buses, and there's two Aldis nearby.

A small but well-equipped kitchen ...

And a puppeh! Here's Son with young Bobby, a chi/terrier cross, who belongs to Adam. He's a quiet shy pup, and hopefully we'll be able to introduce him to Petal one day for play dates. Check out his Mohawk hair-do!

Dotter's new room is looking good (and hopefully it will last!) ... she knows she needs to change her ways. I'm sure that being in a group house will be an added incentive to be tidier.

The wire baskets hold shoes, and a small stash. We figured it was best if the bulk of her yarn collection stayed with us, and she can replenish it as needs be.

The proud girl in occupation!

It's weird not having her here, and I will miss her, of course - we're very close - but I think it's all going to be OK. She was ready to go, is excited by the journey ahead, and is good at getting on with people and resolving any conflicts head-on. I'm happy to see her making her way in the world, and I know she'll be able to cope. Independence has always been our goal as parents., starting with getting our kids helping in the kitchen at 3, having their own bank accounts from age 8, responsible for their own laundry from age 10, and learning to shop for groceries and plan meals.

And to be brutally honest, I won't miss living with her mess, not even a little bit ...