The sun sat, nestled in the clouds, casting soft shadowed light over the city. The air crisp with fallen leaves, crunching underfoot as we walked from The Vines to the heart of Oxford for Mass. We wrapped our coats tighter, keeping out the cold, holding in emotion. Little did we know in that moment just how the day would end.
The cathedral sat, stoic, all of history passing us by as we stood watching families enter through the heavy wooden doors. Sit, stand, kneel, pray, the motions carried us from present to future.
My brother the Greek Orthodox, this was his home, his heart. I stood next to him lost in the sounds of chanting and pools of stained glass light, which were scattered in a million pieces over every surface.
On this particular Sunday, late in November, the sun yearned to show its softened face through the sea of clouds forming over head. The air was intoxicating, filling our lunges, taking us on a wave to our adventure as we stepped out of the cathedral. We boarded a bus, leaving Oxford behind, Blenheim Palace ahead.
Sneaking through a shepherds gate onto the grounds was our first risk of the day. We walked through the lush grass admiring the great beauty of the English Countryside. The palace stood, grand and looming behind great gates. Tour busses filled the gravel drive way. The soft grey stones grumbled under hundreds of camera laden feet that traversed its ruddy surface. The heavy black gates to the courtyard had been pushed back to welcome in the groups of paying customers… why then couldn’t it also welcome us?
Once inside the courtyard walls we grew bold, attempting to creep into the palace itself to be caught moments later, “Excuse me, do you have your tickets?”. Rushing back through the once welcoming gates, we became elated by the narrow escape. We ventured even further through the grounds, ending in the next town over to visit Sir Winston Churchills grave at St. Martin’s Church. A fitting penance to our crime.
The days evens left us famished. We followed the cobblestone walls to a small country tea house. Creamed Tea, a great love, was in order. After all what is better than a piping hot scone topped with fresh preserves and clotted cream to revive a weary spirit!?
-LEMON SCONES & COCONUT CLOTTED CREAM-
What you will need for 5 scones:
1 3/4 cup Pamela’s Baking Mix
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
2 TBSP Butter
1/4 cup Almond Milk
1/4 cup Agave Nectar
1/2 tsp Vanilla
The juice form one Lemon
Sugar in the Raw (optional)
Fresh Strawberries for topping.
In a medium sized bowl mix your dry ingredients. In a separate bowl blend together egg, milk, butter, agave and vanilla, add into the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Using two spoons drop batter onto a silpat baking mat, top with a light sprinkle of sugar in the raw. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Because of their gluten free nature they turned out a bit soft for a traditional scone, but they are delicious none the less.
Coconut Clotted Cream-
1/2 can of chilled Coconut Milk
2 TBSP Butter at room temperature
1 TBSP Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
Whisk all ingredients together throughly (or blend in a stand mixer), keep chilled. I used butter, however, sour cream or mascarpone are wonderful alternatives.
Serve with fresh strawberries for a light dessert or a decadent brunch treat.
Hot tea warmed our bodies as well as our spirits and we spent the next hour in bright conversation and laughter as we smothered fresh scones in cream. We left the tea house, hearts light, only to have our joy turn to sudden worry. A small yellow sign tacked to a lamp post informed us our bus back to Oxford no longer ran on Sundays!
The sun was melting in a sherbet colored sky and our hearts sank with it. We trudged, sullen, back to the tea house. As we reached to open the door, a sweet woman who had been having tea with her young son stepped outside. Upon telling her of our predicament she offered to drive us back to the city.
The lights of Oxford cast a warm glow on the damp streets. Once dropped in the city center we said farewell to the kind woman and her adorable son. Darkness fell, the sky a sheet speckled in stars and we walked, silent, unwilling to break the spell.