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.
(Makes 12 dainty triangles) 1/2 cucumber Salt 6 thin slices of good white bread Unsalted butter, at room temperature White pepper
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.
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.
Lemon Drizzle Cake
Ingredients For the cake 70g softened unsalted butter
Drizzle Topping 30g granulated sugar juice of 1 lemon Icing 250g icing sugar 3 tbsp water
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas 4. Line a 20 x 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix again. Add the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, lemon curd and milk, and mix with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
Mix the sugar and lemon juice together and pour over the hot cake. Leave to cool in the tin. You can eat the cake as it is, or top with icing.
Mix the icing sugar with just enough water to give a runny, but not watery, icing. Remove the cake from the tin and peel off the baking parchment. Sit the cake on a wire rack over a baking tray. Spread the white icing over the top. Leave to set before cutting into slices.
( 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 ¼tsp Salt 1tbsp Baking powder 125g Butter (unsalted) cold, cubed 85g Unrefined golden caster sugar 1 Egg, large, beaten 125ml Single cream vanilla extract 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.