A Winter Tea . . .

Thursday 25 January 2018

A Winter Tea

The English, especially English men, find a particular comfort in drawing closed the curtains on a leaden afternoon sky, lighting the fire and enjoying some little delicacy that they can toast and butter themselves.  

Afternoon Winter Teas have the capacity to chase away the Winter blues like nothing else can  . . .

"The fire was blazing brightly under the influence of the bellows, and the kettle was singing gaily under the influence of both. A small tray of tea-things was arranged on the table, a plate of hot-buttered toast was gently simmering before the fire, and the red nosed man himself was busily engaged in converting a large slice of bread into the same agreeable edible, through the instrumentality of a long brass toasting fork."
~Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers 

It was a miserable cold day yesterday Tuesday and Todd had to go into town to do some business. While he was gone I decided that I would put together a bit of an English Tea to greet him when he got home.  
A Tea is not all that much work to put together for the family, and it makes a nice change from the usual fare of an Winter evening's supper.  It doesn't have to be anything really fancy, and just a tiny effort is involved, but I can promise you that it will delight everyone involved! 

A Tea such as this must always start with a few sandwiches.  Have a rummage around the refrigerator to see what you have to hand, and ready to use. You don't need to make a bazillion of them.  Yesterday I made 3 sandwiches, and a couple of small finger rolls filled with egg mayonnaise.  
I did cheese and pickle, some ham with honey and Dijon mustard and I had some leftover guacamole which needed using which I put together with a bit of cream cheese and some grated cheddar.  They were amazingly delicious. Crusts cut off and sliced into pretty quarters, they went down a real treat.

*Finger Sandwiches*
makes 18 to 24

What would afternoon tea be without a plate of tasty sandwiches?  (Choose 3 of the below fillings)

12 thin slices of white or wholemeal bread, crusts removed
room temperature butter, for spreading
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper as desired

For the egg and cress filling:
2 TBS good quality mayonnaise
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest from an unwaxed lemon
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
a handful of mustard cress

For the Gentleman's Morsels:
1/4 pound shaved roasted ham
apricot jam, seived
Dijon mustard

For the Roast Beef:
1/4 pound thinly sliced rare roast beef
horseradish mayonnaise
a handful of rocket leaves

For the Parma Ham and Fig filling:
1/4 pound of parma ham
1 ripe fig
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp olive oil
handful of rocket leaves

For the Stilton and Pear filling:
50g of Stilton cheese, thinly sliced (1/4 pound)
1 ripe firm pear

To cut sandwiches, lay your hand on top of the sandwich and lightly press down. Using a serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, cut diagonally into quarters or lengthways into 3 fingers.

For the egg and cress sandwiches, thinly butter 4 slices of the bread.  Combine the mayonnaise, lemon zest, egg and season with some black pepper, folding together well.  Spread evenly on half the slices of bread.  Sprinkle with the cress and top with the remaining 2 slices of bread.  Cut as above.

To make the Gentlemen's Morsels., thinly butter 4 slices of the bread.  Spread 2 slices with seived apricot jam.  Spread the other 2 with Dijon mustard.  Lay the ham evenly over top of 2 slices and top with the other 2.  Cut as above.

For the Roast Beef, thinly butter 4 slices of the bread.  Spread 2 slices with the horseradish mayonnaise.  Top with the roast beef and season to taste.  Sprinkle with the rocket and top with the other 2 slices of bread.  Cut as above.

For the Parma Ham and Fig sandwiches, thinly butter 4 slices of bread and fold ham on top of two of them.  Cut the fig into thin wedges, remove and discard the skin and then arrange the wedges on top of the ham.  Whisk the vinegar and oil together.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Drizzle over the figs.  Top with rocket and the remaining slices of buttered bread and cut as above.

To make the Stilton and Pear sandwiches, thinly butter 4 slices of bread.  Arrange the stilton over 2 slices of the bread.  Slice the pear into thin wedges, removing and discarding the core, then arrange on top of the cheese. Season with black pepper, then top with the remaining slices of bread and cut as above.

When I was boiling the eggs for the Egg Mayonnaise buns, I did a few extra so that I could make some Deviled Eggs.  Todd loves Deviled Eggs. 

*Perfect Deviled Eggs*
Makes 12 servings
I wish I had a pound for every one of these I have cooked in my lifetime.  I'd be sitting real pretty on a huge pile of dosh right now!  These are excellent.  Always the first things to disappear on the buffet table. 

12 large free range eggs, hard boiled and peeled
110g of good quality mayonnaise (1/2 cup)
2 TBS grainy dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
paprika to garnish 

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise.   Remove the yolks to a mixing bowl.  Mash the yolks thoroughly with a fork.   Whisk in the mayonnaise, mustard, salt and black pepper.   Mix until smooth.  Spoon or pipe into each egg yolk half, dividing the mixture equally.  Dust lightly with paprika to serve.
Note:  If you are not serving these right away, cover and chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.  Dust with paprika just prior to serving.

I had a packet of Pikelets in the cupboard, so I warmed up those to have with some butter and jam.  These ones were yeasted, which are a bit different to the normal ones I make from scratch, which are more like pancakes.  
Either way, they are delicious.  I had some Potted Stilton with Cranberries leftover from Christmas in the refrigerator, so we had that as well, and I can tell you it went down very nicely spread on my warm pikelet!  I love LOVE Stilton with cranberries.

Makes 25

A drop scone or pancake by any other name.  Yummy.

150g of self raising flour (1 cup + 2 TBS)
1 TBS caster sugar
pinch of salt
185ml of milk (3/4 cup)
1 large free range egg
butter to brush the grill

to serve:
softened butter

Sift the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl.  Beat together the milk and egg.  Add all at once to the dry ingredients and whisk together until smooth.  Heat a large griddle pan, or nonstick frying pan.  Brush with butter.  Drop the batter by tablespoons onto the heated griddle.  Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom is lightly browned.  Flip over and cook on the other side until golden.  Allow to cool completely and serve with some softened butter and jam for spreading.

A bit of sweet and a bit of savoury . . .  it all goes down well for an afternoon tea.  You don't really have to make anything special . . .  if you have jam tarts in the cupboard, or some nice biscuits/cookies, they will do just fine.  

I had some sausage rolls and leftover Cheese, Spring Onion and Bacon Scones from the other day.  So I warmed up those. You can make both from scratch, plain scones, or fruited scones are nice.  I didn't have any cream or I would have made some fruited ones fresh.   

A Winter Tea 

These Orange and Currant Scones are the bomb!

I had a packet of sausage rolls from M&S in the freezer so they came in really handy, but its easy to make your own as well as I have done in the past. 

*Joy's Sausage Rolls*
Makes a dozen

This is my friend Joy's recipe for sausage rolls.  My husband and I first had them when we visited Joy and her lovely husband Simon about 10 years or so ago now.   They were delicious and I just had to have the recipe!  Simple to make also. Great hot or cold, which makes them perfect for picnics and school lunches! 

500g sausage meat,coarse ground (a generous pound)
1 large onion,peeled and finely chopped
1 large free range egg, beaten and divided
90g of fine dry bread crumbs (3/4 cup)
salt and pepper to taste
500g of ready made ready roll puff pastry (a generous pound) 

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7.  Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Place the sausage meat in a bowl.   Add 1/2 of the beaten egg, the onions and the bread crumbs.  Mix well together with your hands to combine. 

Roll the pastry out  just a tiny bit thinner than it comes out of the package.   Cut into three equal strips, crosswise.  Divide the sausage meat into thirds.  Shape each third into a log the length of the strip of pastry, by rolling it between your hands a bit.  Place it down the centre of the pastry strip. Brush one long edge of each pastry strip with some of the remaining beaten egg.  Roll the pastry up over the meat to cover, allowing it to overlap.  Press gently closed, turn over and flatten slightly with your hands.  Cut each strip into four evenly sized pieces.  Place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the tops with the remaining beaten egg and then snip a couple of times with a pair of kitchen scissors to vent.

Cook in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.  Delicious!

A nice cake, family style, should be the centre of the tea table.  I had baked a lovely Banana Cake that I planned on serving, but I had an accident when I went to flip it onto the cooling rack. 

It happens to us all from time to time, and it ended up still being raw in the middle so what a mess!  The edges were very tasty but it was no Tea Table Centrepiece. It would be great in a trifle however (the cooked bits.)

This is what it should have looked like.  The recipe was adapted from a book I got recently called Fika and Hygge by Bronte Aurell.  FABULOUS book! 

*Swedish Banana Cake*
Makes 8 - 10 servings
Light in colour to most banana cakes, and very indulgent.  Delicious! 

3 ripe bananas
1 tsp lemon juice
125g butter, softened (1/2 cup)
300g caster or granulated sugar (1 1/2 cups)
3 large free range eggs, beaten
210g plain flour (1 1/2 cups all purpose)
50g corn flour (1/2 cup corn starch)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain greek yoghurt
For the frosting:
125g butter, softened (1/2 cup)
125g cream cheese (1/2 cup)
1 tsp vanilla
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lime
300g icing sugar, sifted (2 1/2 cups)
chopped toasted pecans to garnish (optional) 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a 9 inch spring form pan and line with baking paper.  Set aside. 

Put the bananas into a blender with the lemon juice and puree until smooth.  Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, a bit at a time.  Stir in the vanilla.  Sift the flour, corn flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir this into the creamed mixture.  Blend in the banana mixture a bit at a time until thoroughly combined and then fold in the yogurt to combine.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes.  (Time will depend on how large or small your bananas were.) The cake shoudl be well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.  The top should also spring back when lightly touched. 

Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes then tip out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Remove and discard paper.  The cake must be cold before adding the frosting. 

TO make the frosting, whisk together all ingredients unil smooth and creamy.  If you think it is too soft, chill it for about 1/2 an hour prior to using.  Spread generously on top of the cooled cake and sprinke with chopped nuts, if using.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

I Knew then that I wouldn't have time to bake another cake from scratch, so I gave Todd a quick buzz on his mobile and asked him to bring us home a Victorian Sponge from M&S.  It was actually quite good for a store bought cake.  Here is my recipe for one you can bake yourself from scratch and I can tell you that it is very very good.

A Winter Tea 

*Traditional Victorian Sandwich Cake*
 Makes one 7 inch cake

Popular during the reign of Qyeen Victoria, this cake remains popular to this day, which is a huge testament to it's taste and ease of baking!  Don't be tempted to use all butter.  This is one recipe that is better for the use of a mixture of butter and margarine. 

85g butter, softened (6 TBS)
85g soft margarine (6 TBS)
(If you so wish you can use 170g of butter, or 12 TBS,
but your cake won't be as light in texture)
170g caster sugar (1 cup)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 large free range eggs, beaten
170g self raising flour (a scant 1 1/2 cups)

To finish:
3 TBS raspberry jam
buttercream to fill (optional)
icing sugar or caster sugar to dust the top

Butter and base line two 7 inch sandwich tins.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Cream the butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla together until light in colour and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition.  If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.

Fold in the flour with a metal spoon, taking care to use a cutting motion so as not to knock out too much of the air that you have beaten into the batter.  Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, leveling off the surface.  Make a slight dip in the centre of each.

Bake on a centre rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponges have risen well, are golden brown, and spring back when lightly touched.  Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes before running a knife carefully around the edges and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, place one layer on a cake plate. Spread with raspberry jam and buttercream (if using).  Place the other cake on top, pressing down lightly.  Dust with icing or caster sugar and serve.

Don't you love my tea cosy?  I made it myself recently.

Of course afternoon tea requires cups of hot tea to wash down all your sweets and savouries with.  We don't do black tea ourselves, so we had ginger and lemon tea, which was also very nice.

*How To Brew The Perfect Cup of Tea* 

It's not really all that hard if you follow a few rules of thumb . . .
  1. Use a good quality loose leaf or bagged tea
  2. This must be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature
  3. Always use freshly drawn boiling water
  4. In order to draw the best flavour out of the tea the water must contain oxygen, this is reduced if the water is boiled more than once.
  5. Measure the tea carefully
  6. Use 1 tea bag or 1 rounded teaspoon of loose tea for each cup to be served, plus one for the pot.
  7. Allow the tea to brew for the recommended time before pouring
  8. Brewing tea from a bag in a mug? Milk in last is best . 
A Winter Tea

"Tea! Thou soft,thou sober, sage, and venerable liquid, thou female tongue-running, smile-smoothing, heart-opening, wink-tipping cordial, to whose glorious insipidity I owe the happiest moment of my life, let me fall prostrate!"
Colley Cibber, The Lady's Last Stake, 1708  

And there you have it.  A Winter's day mood brightener for two.   


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  1. Oh, Marie, I really must get back to winter afternoon teas. I've been so busy this month that the afternoon flees before I can blink, and then it's time to get supper going. Thank you for this lovely post.

    1. You are welcome Jo! As you can see here they need not be elaborate. Simple or complicated, they are enjoyed by all! xo

  2. I love your post today. The winter blues is real. We are home bound because we are trying not to get the flu and stay warm and cozy in the house. I think I will build a fire tomorrow and make some tea sandwiches.

    1. Thanks very much Betty! I have been really experiencing the Winter Blues this year and this went down a real treat here at home, not just for Todd. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it myself, from the preparations (Despite the destroyed banana cake, lol) to the imbibing of my finished labors! I hope you enjoy your tea sandwiches! xo

  3. Marie..when Mylène and Noah came..I set up w/ my tea cozy too and YOUR scones were on the table..I took pics..your tea is far more than mine with those various delights.Oh that looks like everything to me..even an Easter lunch:)Beautiful!
    Crazy about cozies:)

    1. I am sure it looked really lovely! I hope you enjoyed the scones! I am crazy about cozies too! xo

  4. I loved reading this post today. I could just feel the coziness of your home and smell the delicious aromas of your cooking. Great job; thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks very much Rocquie! What a lovely comment! You made my day! xo

  5. I am reading this post as I devour cheese and chive scones. It is too hot at present to even consider a full on tea. But we are enjoying the change pace. I really should bake more.

    1. Cheese and Chive Scones are delicious Suzan! Happy Australia Day! xo

  6. I am going to try some of those sandwich ideas. Nothing like a good bowl of soup w/ a great sandwich.

    1. I, too, am a real sandwich lover! You can’t beat a meal of a soup and sandwich! Yum! Xo

  7. Marie, I've been saving this till I had time to carefully read and savor every recipe and now I am pinning it because -- well, they all look so wonderful! Thank you for this one!

    1. Yay Jeanie! I hope you have a supper tea party! It will be so much fun I guarantee! xo


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