Everything may not stop for tea at four o'clock any more, but afternoon tea is a wonderful tradition and worth making time for every now and then.
All you will need is a big pot of tea, little sandwiches, cake and friends to share it with.
The quintessential British ritual of afternoon tea owes its origins to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who is said to have complained of "having that sinking feeling" during the late afternoon. As a young women in the early 1800s she lived during a time when it was common to eat only two main meals a day, with breakfast scheduled early in the morning and dinner served at around 8pm. The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a 'light refreshment’ taken privately in her rooms during the afternoon. Over time well-heeled acquaintances joined her and before long all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.
Our Essentials for Afternoon Tea
Big pot of our Cornish Afternoon Tea with everything below.
(Makes 12 dainty triangles)
6 thin slices of good white bread
Unsalted butter, at room temperature
Peel cucumber and slice in paper-thin rounds. Place into a colander or sieve and lightly sprinkle with salt and leave it to drain for 15 minutes. Then taste to check they are not over salted, you can rinse them if they are.
Lay out a few pieces of kitchen paper on the work surface, place the cucumber slices on them, and pat dry with more paper.
Lay out the bread and butter each slice generously. Arrange the cucumber on half the slices, overlapping each round, and sprinkle with a tiny amount of ground white pepper. Top with the remaining slices.
Pressing down firmly, cut the crusts off, and then cut each sandwich into four neat triangles. Serve immediately.
150g cream cheese
2 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp capers, drained, finely chopped
6 slices wholemeal bread, lightly buttered
6 slices smoked salmon
Mix the cream cheese, herbs and capers together in a bowl.
Spread this mixture onto four slices of the bread. Top with the smoked salmon and close the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread. A little cracked pepper and salt perhaps then remove the crusts and cut the sandwiches into quarters.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4. Line a 20 x 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.
( Not an essential or traditional and a little messy but still one of our favourites :)
Makes 6 shortcakes
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
325g Plain white flour
1tbsp Baking powder
125g Butter (unsalted) cold, cubed
85g Unrefined golden caster sugar
1 Egg, large, beaten
125ml Single cream
3 tbsp caster sugar
Pre heat oven to 220c, fan 200c, gas mark 7
Mix strawberries with 3 tablespoons of the sugar and refrigerate while juices develop, at least 30 minutes.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cubed butter, remaining sugar and salt in a medium bowl and rub together with your fingers until you've got a breadcrumb like mixture.
Mix together the single cream and three quarters of the beaten egg and fold into the flour mixture. Don't overwork it.
Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto a greased tray, you should get about six scones, bake for 18 to 20 minutes.
Remove shortcakes from the tray and place on a rack to cool slightly. split each piece in half horizontally.
Whip up your double cream with the vanilla extract and three tablespoons of sugar until it forms soft peaks.
Spoon some of the strawberries with their juice onto each shortcake bottom. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and then the shortcake top. Spoon more strawberries over the top and serve.
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