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How To Host An Easy Afternoon Tea

Would you like to host an afternoon tea but don’t have the time or inclination to spent hours in the kitchen?

The following menu has been planned around items that are readily available at any supermarket. Just remember that nothing sticky or too moist should be served. Bite size is the right size. Everything should be easily eaten with the fingers.

MENU

SANDWICH AND SAVORY COURSE: *

  • Chicken Salad Sandwich – Deli
  • Pimento Chees Spread – Dairy
  • Mini Quiche – Freezer
  • Devilled Egg or Egg Salad Sandwich – Deli

SCONE COURSE: (Scones do NOT have to be served!!)

  • Scones – Bakery
  • Clotted Cream – Deli (Sometimes called Devonshire Cream) Again, it is not obligatory to serve clotted cream. A buttered scone is equally as good.
  • Jam

DESSERT COURSE:

I like to garnish the serving plates with whole strawberries and/or colorful seedless grapes. It is not necessary to serve ALL these items, they are merely suggestions.

  • Donut Holes – Bakery or Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Mini Chocolate Eclairs or Cream Puffs – Freezer
  • Small “store-bought” cookies
  • Mini Phyllo cases filled with lemon curd – Freezer
  • Tea Breads – Bakery

*Notes:  Suggest using Pepperidge Farm Thin Sandwich Bread because it has a firmer texture and is more suitable for tea sandwiches.  If the chicken or egg salad filling is too moist, drain off the excess moisture.  Don’t be overly generous with the filling or it will ooze out the sides. After preparing the sandwich, press down firmly on the top layer.  With a sharp bread knife,using a sawing motion, cut off all the crusts and then slice the sandwich into quarters. Each guest will get one quarter of the sandwich. (It is customary to provide four different types of sandwiches or savories per person.)

If you don’t have a tea set, ask your friends to bring their own cup and saucer and to share its history with the other guests. 

Remember the importance of afternoon tea is the memorable time spent with one’s friends, not all the elaborate food and fancy china.

A Very Simple Table Set-up

  1. It is customary to use a table cloth for the table.
  2. Place a side plate in front of where each guest will be seated.  
  3. A luncheon knife goes to the right of the plate.
  4. The pastry fork (or a salad fork can be used) goes to the left of the plate.
  5. Place the folded napkin on the center of the plate
  6. Set the tea cup and saucer at the top right corner of the plate. Keep the tea cup handle pointed towards the right. The teaspoon goes behind the cup and across the saucer.
  7. The tea pot, trivet, sugar bowl and milk pitcher should be placed at the center of the tea table, so that everyone can easily handle these items. If you are using bagged tea instead of loose tea, make sure to provide a plate(s) where your guests can deposit the used tea bags.
  8. The serving plates for the food should also be put in the middle of the table.
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My Mum’s Prized Butter Tarts

This recipe was on our old web-site and we’ve had lots of requests for it to be reposted on the new site.  It was one of my Mum’s best recipes and she always made the tarts at Christmas time or when I went back to England to visit.  They were a special treat.

(Butter tarts are a type of small pastry that is primarily eaten in and associated with the English-speaking provinces of Canada.    It is thought they were common in pioneer times.)

Pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup of unsalted butter
½ cup lard
About 1 cup of ice- cold water

Put first five ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.  Empty into a large bowl.  Add the flour, a little at a time, using just enough to bind the mixture. Collect all moistened particles into a ball.  With as little handling as possible, form dough into a round disk.  Place on a lightly floured surface.  It should be soft enough not to break when it is rolled. Handle the pastry as little as possible.  Kneading will toughen it. Roll with a light even pressure to a thickness of ¼ inch.  Cut into 3-inch circles and line tartlet pans.

Butter Tart Mixture:
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 beaten large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup currants

Preheat oven to 450˚F

Mix all the ingredients together and place a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into tartlet pans that have been lined with pastry.  Put on center rack in the oven. Bake at 450˚F degrees for eight minutes.  Reduce to 350˚F degrees and bake until the pastry is lightly browned.  Remove tartlet pan from oven and place on cooling rack for about ten minutes.

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Apple-Green Tea Cocktail

 

Ingredients:
10 heaped teaspoons green tea
2-1/2 cups water
½ cup ice
Hard cider
Vodka
Apple slices for garnish
Blue sugar for garnish

  1. Heat 1 cup of the water until nearly boiling. Add the tea and let steep for five minutes.
  2. Strain the tea over the remaining 1-1/2 cups of water and add ½ cup of ice cubes.

For each glass:

  1. Rim a tall glass(16 oz.) with Blue Sugar.  Fill with ice. Add 1 shot of vodka, 2/3 cups of hard cider and top off with the green tea.
  2. Garnish with an apple slice and serve.

Serves five.

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Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles

Do you like making Christmas gifts for your friends and family?  Earl Grey Chocolate Truffles are so easy to make and delectable to eat.
INGREDIENTS
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
2 heaped teaspoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

PREPARATION

Bring cream and butter to a boil in a small heavy saucepan and stir in tea leaves. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, finely grind chocolate in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Pour cream through a fine-mesh sieve onto chocolate, pressing on and discarding tea leaves, then whisk until smooth. Chill ganache, covered, until firm, about 2 hours.

Spoon level teaspoons of ganache onto a baking sheet. Put cocoa in a bowl, then dust your palms lightly with it. Roll each piece of ganache into a ball (wash your hands and redust as they become sticky). Drop several balls at a time into bowl of cocoa and turn to coat. Transfer as coated to an airtight container, separating layers with wax paper.

Makes approximately 34 truffles

Note:  Truffles can be made 1 week ahead and chilled, or 1 month ahead and frozen in an airtight container. Advise making them on the small size because they are very rich.

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Pumpkin Scones

pumpkin scones

This month’s recipe is for pumpkin scones with a caramel drizzle.  This scone is a good spicy, sweet treat in the morning with a hearty breakfast tea or as an after-dinner dessert.

Many people think of pumpkins as little more than a Halloween decoration or a Thanksgiving pie filling. It’s time to rethink this plump, nutritious orange plant. Pumpkin is a highly nutrient-dense food. It is rich in vitamins minerals but low in calories.  Pumpkin seeds, leaves, and juices all pack a powerful nutritional punch. There are many ways pumpkin can be incorporated into desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter.

Ingredients:
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flourpumpkin scones
2 tsp baking powder (Make sure it is fresh)
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
1/8 ground cloves
¼ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into ¼ inch pieces
½ cup + 1 Tbsp canned pumpkin
3-1/2 Tbsp sour milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp milk

Glaze
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (sifted)
1 Tbsp milk, more as needed
Pumpkin Icing
1 cup confectioner’s sugar (sifted)
1 Tbsp pumpkin puree
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp milk.

 

Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Set rack in top third of the oven.
In a food processor pulse first ten ingredients until well blended. Add butter and pulse until mixture
resembles fine breadcrumbs. Pour mixture into a large bowl. Make a well in the center.

In a bowl whisk together next five ingredients. Pour into well in flour/butter mixture. Using a wooden
spoon, stir well, then kneed approximately ten times on a floured work surface to bring the mixture
together. Invert dough onto surface. Pat and shape into an even round – must be a minimum of one
inch thick. Using a 2-1/2 inch floured cutter, cut out 12 rounds.

Transfer scones to a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush tops with milk and then bake in the preheated
oven for 15-18 minutes – until tops are golden brown and toothpick stuck into center of a scone comes
out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool ten minutes (no longer) before spreading with glaze.

Glaze:
In a small mixing bowl combine confectioner’s sugar and milk, adding only enough milk to make a thick
(not runny) consistency. Spread glaze over tops of scones to evenly coat. (Use all of it.) Let glaze set at
room temperature.

Pumpkin Icing:
In a small bowl, mix together confectioner’s sugar and other ingredients. Transfer mixture to a small
Ziploc bag, seal and then cut a small tip from corner and drizzle over the tops of the scones. Allow
Icing to set before serving.

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How To Store Tea

If you are buying expensive teas and not storing them properly …. You are wasting your money.

Teas that are vacuum-packed or in sealed tins have a life of about two years. Once opened, it should be stored in an opaque, air-tight container and kept in a dry, dark place as light and heat will interfere with the quality and life of the tea. Never, store it in a glass container. If the shop where you purchase tea keeps and displays it in glass containers, then it is a sign that they know nothing about tea and we highly recommend not buying from them. Plastic containers are not good because the tea will take on the odor of the plastic. Make sure you don’t keep it near strong smelling spices or foods as the tea will take on both their aroma and flavor.   It is for this reason, we also recommend not purchasing tea from a place that sells strong-smelling candles, potpourris or coffee. Never, never put it in the fridge of freezer.

Your tea is past its prime as there will be no aroma and it will produce a bitter or flat-tasting cup.

Buy little and buy often to ensure total freshness. (That is the reason we package in 2 oz increments.)  Keep the tea in its original, foil-lined bag and express the air from the bag before sealing. To keep control of your “stash, write the purchase date on each label.

We recommend tin canisters. Before using, rinse out with warm water. Then, towel dry.  If storing a particular type of tea, first place a small amount in the canister and shake well with the lid on. Discard these leaves which will have absorbed any odors in the canister and imparted the appropriate fragrance for storage of tea. Now, fill the canister.

Originally tea was stored in a small container known as a “tea caddy.” The name came from the Malayan word “catty” meaning pound. The first caddies were jars with terracotta lids but as tea became a prized commodity, these were replaced with ornate chests with a lock to ensure the tea’s safe-keeping. Once tea became cheaper there was less concern with the appearance of caddies, and as a result they fell out of use, as tea was now kept in decorative canisters in the kitchen.

The British are well known for their decorative tin ware. We are now importing a selection of canisters that are available in our on-line store or at the various shows and festivals we’re participating in this year.

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How To Make Scotch Eggs

Fortnum & Masons, the famous London department store, claims to have invented Scotch eggs. In the 1730s, Fortnum’s had to create foods to suit its wealthy customers, whose far-flung country estates could only be reached by long-distance coach rides. Portable snacks were in demand, so Fortnum’s came up with a number of ideas, including wrapping a hard-boiled egg – which in those days was probably a pullet’s egg – in sausage meat and coating it in fried breadcrumbs. Substantial, tasty and full of protein, it was an excellent way to stave off hunger pangs. They claim that the name has nothing to do with Scotland; ‘scotched’ was merely another word for ‘processed’.

Another explanation is that the recipe originated in the Lowlands of Scotland, and was made by poor farmers who would have kept chickens and pigs. It was a poor man’s lunch produced from leftovers that were easy to carry.
Scotch eggs are can be served hot with gravy at high tea, or cold as a snack. It is perhaps as a snack that they are known best, since Scotch eggs are often featured as pub grub being served with a green salad, piccalilli or pickled walnuts. Also makes great picnic food.

My version is perfect for those of us who are wheat and gluten intolerant. Unlike many gluten-free recipes, it actually tastes good.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

 

Ingredients:

8 medium eggs

1 lb. ground pork sausage meat

½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or parsley or

½ teaspoon rubbed dried sage

¼ teaspoon dried sweet marjoram

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground pepper

1 large egg, beaten

½ cup dried breadcrumbs*

Vegetable oil for deep-frying

 

Boil the eggs for 10-12 minutes, then cool under cold running water. Carefully peel off the shells and put whole eggs on one side.

Put sausage meat into a large bowl. Add next seven ingredients and work into the sausage meat with hands. Divide into eight equal amounts.

Make a coating for each egg. Flatten and then make a patty with the sausage meat. Work it around the egg with wet hands to completely cover with an even layer.

Roll the covered eggs in the beaten egg, and then in dried breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil to 350-375°F. Carefully put in 2-3 eggs at a time and deep fry for 4-5 minutes until they turn a deep golden color. Turn as they cook so eggs brown evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on crumpled kitchen towel and repeat with the remaining eggs.

Eat cold, halved lengthwise. Beware: Do not try to freeze.
* I use Hol Grain Coating Mix, a Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Sugar Free and MSG Free Product

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Millionaire’s Shortbread From Hunny Bee Vintage

Millionaires-Shortbread2

Allison and Alan CondieJudging from the rave reviews of the customers of Hunny Bee Vintage in Lowestoft, Suffolk, England, this has to be their favorite dessert.  Former policeman from Glasgow, Scotland, and now baker extraordinaire, Alan Condie was very kind enough to share his recipe with us. (The clue to the richness of this recipe is in the name.)  https://www.facebook.com/HunnyBeeVintageLowestoft/

Ingredients:

Shortbread Base

2 ½ cups Plain Flour

½ cups Extra-Fine Sugar

2 Sticks Unsalted Butter – Softened

ToffeeAlan Condie's Millionaire's Shortbread

1 Can Condensed Milk

4 tablespoons Golden Syrup*

2 sticks Unsalted Butter – Softened

Chocolate Topping

200 grams Chocolate

Method:
Line a baking pan (approximately 10.5”x8”x2”) with parchment paper (this allows for easy removal and retention of shape) and fold the paper up the side of the pan. Cube the butter, place in a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour and sugar into the bowls and knead the ingredients together until it is well mixed – sometimes it feels crumblier than others but will compress into a shape. Spread evenly across the pan. Then prick all over with a fork. Pre-heat oven to 350˚F and put the pan in for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325˚F and continue baking for 20-25 minutes. Take out and allow to cool.

Cube the butter and place in saucepan. Add condensed milk and add syrup. Slowly bring to the boil and the cook on a LOW heat for ten minutes stirring continually to avoid it burning on the bottom of the pan. The biggest “danger” time for sticking/burning is just before it comes to the boil. Pour the toffee over the shortbread evenly and allow to cool.

Melt the chocolate either in a bowl over boiling water or in the microwave (we all have our own preferred method for this) and pour over the set toffee. Again, leave to cool/set. Advise cutting into portions all at once. To prevent the chocolate cracking, heat a sharp knife in boiling water before cutting. Keep reheating the knife during the cutting process.

* If you cannot find golden syrup, use 4 tablespoons Light Corn Syrup and 1 cup of packed brown sugar.

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Yorkshire Teacakes

In spite of the name, the Yorkshire teacake is also found in Lancashire where it is equally popular.

Teacakes are not “cakes.” They are fruited and lightly spiced sweet yeast buns. Cut them in half through the middle and pop them under a broiler, only toast on the cut side . . . and then spread them with oodles of cold butter that melts down into all the crannies. . . at least that’s how we eat them in the North England.

 

Ingredients: 

1 cup of mixed currants, raisins and golden raisins

3 ½ cups Bread Flour

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon mixed spice (see recipe below)

1/8 cup lard

1/3 cup white sugar

1 cup warm whole milk (105˚F)

1 oz fresh yeast

Rinse the dried fruit with warm water, pat dry with paper towel and put in a warm place.

Sieve the flour, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl, rub in the lard and make a well in the center.

Dissolve the sugar in the milk and use 3 tablespoons of the liquid to mix yeast to smooth paste. Stir in the rest of the milk and pour the liquid into the well. Mix vigorously to blend well, then knead until the mixture forms a smooth, classic dough. Work in the dried fruit. Shape the dough into a ball, put into a warm, greased bowl, cover with greased cling wrap. Set in warm place to rise for 45 minutes.

Tip dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it has a smooth, even texture. Reshape into a ball, cover again and let rise for 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 10-12 pieces each weighing about 3 oz. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Set aside, under greased cling wrap and let rest for 5 minutes. Then with a rolling pin, roll out balls into 3-1/2 circles. Place on greased baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Again, cover and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes. Bake in middle of preheated 435˚F oven about 8-10 minutes.

Makes 10-12


Mixed Spice Recipe:

1 Tbs. Ground Allspice
1 Tbs. Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbs. Ground Nutmeg
2 Tsps. Ground Mace
1 Tsps. Ground Cloves
1 Tsps. Ground Coriander
1 Tsps. Ground Ginger

Blend all spices together and store in sealed jar away from light

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Tea-Marbled Eggs

Cháyèdán or tea marbled eggs are Chinese fast food. Enjoyed for centuries, tea eggs are great hot or cold, savored on a plate or eaten on the run. The eggs are a cheap snack sold all around China and Taiwan and can be found around the clock at street stalls and convenience stores. They are also traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year celebrations to bring good luck for the coming year, symbolizing golden nuggets and are served to promote prosperity and wealth in the New Year.

Ingredients:

½ cup soy sauce ¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon whole black peppercorn

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

8 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

1 stick cinnamon

2-1/2 cups of water

2-1/2 tablespoons black tea*

8 large eggs

Place eggs in a 4-qt. saucepan; cover with ½” of cold water. Place pan over high heat and bring to a boil; remove from heat, and let the eggs stand, covered for 10 minutes. Transfer the eggs with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water and let cool enough so that you can handle them. Discard the hot water. DO NOT PEEL. Tap the eggs all over with the back of a spoon to crack the shells. The more cracks the more intricate the design will be. Do not tap too hard or the tea liquid will seep into the shell instead of just staining the cracks.

Bring soy sauce, sugar, peppercorns, fennel, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, tea and 2-1/2 cups of water to a boil in a 2-qt saucepan stirring until the sugar is dissolved; add the eggs. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for 90 minutes. Keep an eye on the water level as the eggs must always be completely covered by the liquid.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs sit in the liquid, uncovered, until cool, then chill in the liquid for at least four hours and up to two days. The longer you steep, the more flavorful and deeply marbled the tea eggs will be. Drain the eggs, peel and serve. Unpeeled eggs can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to seven days.

Note * We use Keemun but Pu-erh is more traditional.