Friday, 17 February 2012

Afternoon tea 2. How much?

afternoon tea

Afternoon tea used to be a British tradition. 'High tea' with sandwiches and cake and maybe a selection of savouries, kept you going in the long afternoon hours between luncheon and dinner. It was eaten at home, of course, by the nobs in posh houses. Your average Bert was lucky if he had a slice of bread and dripping.

However, afternoon tea seems to be enjoying a bt of a revival. It has been available in the up-market hotels in London for quite a while, of course, but now it seems to be taking off in other places too. But the treat comes at a price.

Afternoon tea at the Ritz, for example will cost you a cool £42 a head which is a bit steep, even if they do throw in a glass of champers. (Not literally, one would hope!)

But even at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe, a newly-refurbished art deco gem on the West coast, it would set you back £15.50.

So why not do it yourself? The secret is to make it feel posh so it seems like just as much of a treat as it would have been if you'd shelled out thirty quid.

So what would you want?
Buy some nice bread to start with. Maybe a selection of small, sliced  loaves of various kinds such as white, wholemeal, granary, ciabatta. Whatever you like. My bread always comes out a bit chunky for 'polite' sandwiches so I wouldn't bother making my own.

Think exciting fillings. Not just plain old ham and cheese. Coronation chicken is a good one. That's enjoying a bit of a renaissance too and it's dead easy to make.  Egg mayonnaise? Prawn cocktail? Beef and mustard?  You HAVE to have cucumber. Smoked salmon with lemon or with cream cheese? The world's your oyster.  Thinly-sliced bread but lots of filling.

Then what?  Well, it's cake time. A pack of yummy biscuits or cookies would be good. Some fruit loaf with butter. Maybe toasted crumpets. Scones, of course. And a couple of cream cakes - bought ones, don't try making your own, it really isn't worth it. Perhaps a fruit tart. Chocolate eclair. Whatever you fancy.

And you need a good quality, special tea. Something like an Earl Grey or even jasmine-scented. But make sure you use the teapot. This is not a time for a bag in a mug! And provide a jug of hot water to top it up with.

Above all, clear your table, put a cloth on it and set it properly with your best crocks and cutlery. You wouldn't expect mugs and non-matching plates in a tearoom would you?  If you've got doilies, use them. Anything you can think of to make it a special occasion. Put a small vase of flowers on the table. Switch off the TV, sit up at the table and talk to each other.

And feel smug about the fact that you've probably done it for around a fiver a head, rather than forty.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Afternoon tea 1. Scones.

Makes 4 scones.

4 oz plain flour
1/2 teasp baking powder (or a quarter each of bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar)
1 oz butter
1 oz caster sugar (or equivalent in sweetener)
1/8 pint milk (That's 2 1/2 fl oz)
A bit extra milk to glaze.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Ad the butter and cut it up into small pieces. Rub the fat into the flour.
That means: If you're right handed, hold the bowl with your left hand and then use your right hand to make 'pecking' movements at the butter pieces until they break up and form a sort of breadcrumb-like mixture in the bowl. You'll sometimes see people using both hands to rub in. But if their phone rings they get it covered in flour and butter when they answer it.  You won't - because your left hand will be remarkably clean!

When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs add the 1/8 pint of milk and stir it in until the mixture forms a soft lump. Don't over work it. As soon as it sticks together, turn it out of the bowl onto a LIGHTLY floured surface and form it into a sausage shape about 2" in diameter. Cut it into four rounds and place them, flt side down, onto a greased baking tray. Squidge them down very slightly with your fingers and then brush a little extra milk over the top of each one.

Cook them for 10 minutes at 200C or until they're nicely browned.
Serve with butter or whipped cream, and jam.

Whether you put the jam or the cream on first is a matter of personal taste.