I may be 100% Polish and I may have a very Irish last name (McCarthy), and I may be one who loves everything about the French culture, but what do I love most every afternoon and what do I enjoy sharing with new and old friends every month? It’s the very English ritual of Afternoon Tea. This tea ritual is a social as well as a culinary affair, an affair I absolutely love.
I love to look through my china collection and select dishes appropriate for the room where I’m serving tea that day. Why have pretty things if we don’t use those things regularly, enjoy them regularly and share them with others?.
I was so fortunate to inherit my Mother’s English china. I always loved it, so this is the china I use most often in my formal dining room.
When shopping for a dining room rug I selected one that would compliment my Mother’s china.
There is so much art in life – putting ourselves together, putting our house together – and putting an afternoon tea together too. I find the trappings of tea irresistable. Sitting down and taking tea with all the delicious trimmings is just so civilized and refreshing.
You really don’t need food in order to enjoy afternoon tea, but it helps. Of course you don’t have to make the food yourself. You can pick up a few tasty things at the bakery or market, but if you do like to do a little playing in the kitchen, afternoon tea is a perfect opportunity for that play.
Strawberry-Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches are one of my favorite savory tea treats. If you’d like to try them yourself here’s the recipe.
12 slices firm white bread, 2 and a half cups chopped cooked chicken, 1 cup chopped strawberries, 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/4 cup chopped green onion, 1 (11-ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained and chopped, Poppy Seed Dressing, Garnish: sliced strawberries.
Cut bread into 2 and a quarter inch squares, mix ingredients together and create sandwiches. They can be made earlier in the day, covered with a damp cloth and stored in the fridge till serving time. Not much work, but oh so good.
I enjoy making many kinds of scones but for this tea it’s Cranberry scones. They’re easy to make and very yummy. Here’s the recipe should you want to make some for yourself.
2 cups all purpose flour, 1 Tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp, salt, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup whipping cream, 1/2 to 3/4 cup dried cranberries.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt,oil and whipping cream. Stir in dried cranberries. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut into desired shape. Bake on parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with whipped or Devonshire Cream.
The recipe for this sponge cake comes from Chirk Castle in Wales where afternoon tea was a very elegant but small meal consisting of sandwiches the size of postage stamps. Dessert however was another matter, very generous and sweet. If you’d like to make this sponge cake yourself the recipe is below.
Scant 1 cup granulated or super fine sugar, 2 large or 3 medium eggs, 1 cup self-rising flour, sifted, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 stick butter, 2 to 3 drops of vanilla essence.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and line an 8 inch round pan. Beat together the sugar and eggs until thick and creamy. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well. Put the milk in a small pan and heat gently. Melt the butter in the milk and bring to a boil. When boiling, add to the flout mixture with the vanilla essence and beat well to give a runny consistency. Turn into the prepared pan and bang the pan sharply on the table to remove all bubbles. Bake for 20 -25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Tea is one of those simple luxuries – like a good bar of chocolate or a favorite magazine. It truly enhances life with a minimum of fuss. It’s a lovely way to visit with friends in the comfort of home. With any luck your friends will reciprocate and invite you back to their house but even if they don’t you’ll have a wonderful time yourself and feel good that you did something special for others.
You don’t need to be English nobility to create and enjoy an afternoon tea fit for a queen or prince or princess or for yourself or for one of your friends. An afternoon tea is a lovely way to add a little elegance and art to life. It’s also a lovely way to show your friends you care about them enough to pamper them a little with this old world refreshment. I hope you’ll try my recipes and plan a tea party of your own. Treat yourself and your friends.
“The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”