To celebrate Afternoon Tea Week our fantastic on-air chef, Jo, shares tips for the perfect menu. Read on for sandwich filling ideas and cake recipes.
We’re a nation of tea-lovers, and so it seems duly deserved for afternoon tea to receive a national nod. From 14th – 20th August, Brits will be polishing their pastry forks and mismatching tea cups, and gorging on dainty and delicious finger food – us included.
This treasured tradition continues to sit at the top of our list. Whether gifting for Mother’s or Father’s days, bridal parties, or any day that requires a regal touch.
You can shop all of our savoury and sweet treats, stylish homeware, plus find out about the importance of tea elsewhere around the world at our dedicated feature online. Before you head over, we caught up with our talented chef, Jo, to get some simple and easy-to-follow tips to perfect our next event…
For me, afternoon tea is as much about the occasion and service, than about the food. If you take away the cups, saucers, teapots and decorative plates – you just have a sandwich and cake.
This element of theatre gives you the chance to be creative with flavours and try something that you wouldn’t normally go for.
Plus, the very nature of the event is choice; if you don’t like something, you can just try something else.
When we created our own afternoon tea (pictured), we included a few different sandwich fillings to lift the traditional (read: boring) afternoon tea.
Seared beef and watercress open sandwich
What we did: quickly sear the meat, Green Seasons’ flat iron steaks are perfect for this, and place inside a small seeded roll with watercress and a dollop of mayonnaise and mustard.
Top tip: it’s tricky to make a sandwich look pretty, so when you use vibrant colours and top quality ingredients – such as steak – serve the sandwich open to show off your culinary art. After all, afternoon tea is as much a treat for your eyes as it is for your taste buds!
British Tricolour sandwich – our version of Italy’s infamous tricolor salad, featuring mozzarella, basil and tomato
What we did: on one side of your sandwich, spread a thin layer of cream cheese and place a handful of rocket leaves, finish with slices of Godminster organic vintage cheddar. On the other side, spread a generous amount of tomato, garlic and ginger chutney from Cottage Delight. Place the chutney slice of bread on top of the cheese slice and press gently.
Top tip: don’t scrimp on the bread. Try to get the best quality ingredients at every stage of your afternoon tea – never underestimate the difference freshly baked bread can make to your sandwich.
Smoked salmon English muffins
What we did: wholemeal English muffins with a base of crème fraiche, topped with a generous portion of H Forman & Sons Smoked Salmon and a spoonful of our tasty, flavoursome crème fraiche with a twist (crème fraiche, a finely diced red onion, some finely chopped capers, finely chopped chives and the zest and juice of half a lemon).
Top tip: use a small pastry cutter to create clean, consistent lines for your muffins. Finish with a delicate garnish as a pretty finishing touch. Afternoon tea requires many of the same, so try to get each piece looking identical.
Cucumber and mint sandwich
What we did: we used a vegetable peeler to peel half a cucumber as thinly as possible. Then we spread thin layers of cream cheese (or your choice of substitute), added a layer of the thinly-sliced cucumber, and placed a few fresh mint leaves on top.
Top tip: before you starting cutting up your sandwiches, make sure you use a sharp knife for a neat edge. Then cut the sandwich into finger slices, turn them on their sides, and serve with the edges facing up.
Now that your savoury courses are done and dusted, the proof is in the pudding.
If you’re aiming to create dainty petit four, here are my two top tips:
- Source natural food colouring by using ingredients such as beetroot, berries, and nuts (we topped our profiteroles with freeze-dried raspberries and pistachios)
- Don’t shy away from ready-made pastry from your local supermarket. Our mini cherry tarts were quick, and easy, simply filling ready-made cups with a classic butter cream and topped with thinly-sliced cherries
Now for some recipes, my orange and sultana scones and tea-infused fruit cake are light, sweet treats to complement your cuppa.
Orange and sultana scones
- 50g butter
- 225g self-raising flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 30g sugar
- 50g sultanas
- Zest of 1 orange
- 150ml milk (plus a little extra for brushing before baking)
Time – 25 minutes
Skill – easy
Serves – 4 to 6
- In a food processor’s mixing bowl, add the butter, flour, salt and sugar and combine until it resembles bread crumbs
- Add the sultanas and orange zest, stir to combine. Add the milk a little at a time, until the dough comes together
- Place the dough on to a floured surface and mould into a ball, roll the dough out until it is about an inch thick, turning the dough in a circle to make sure it hasn’t stuck to the surface
- Using any sized pastry cutter, cut up the dough and place on to a lined baking tray. Brush the top of the scone with a little extra milk and place in the oven
- Cook in a preheated oven at 200C for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on to a cooling rack to cool before serving
Light, tea-infused fruit cake
- 2 tsp Whittard of Chelsea Turkish apple fruit infusion
- 1 tsp Whittard of Chelsea Piccadilly blend loose tea
- 400ml boiling water
- 150g sultanas
- 100g currants
- 50g dried cranberries
- 50g chopped dried apricots
- 175g softened butter
- 175g light brown sugar
- 175g plain flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp marmalade
- 3 eggs
- 100g diced dried apple
Time – 1 hour 30 minutes plus soaking and cooling time
Skill – easy
Serves – 6 to 8
- In a jug, add the Turkish Apple Infusion, the Picadilly loose tea leaves and pour over the boiling water. Leave to brew for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain the leaves over a second jug, ensuring you retain the now-infused liquid while discarding the leaves
- In a bowl, add all of the fruit – apart from the dried apple – and pour over the infused liquid. Allow to soak for a few hours, or overnight if possible
- Place all of the other ingredients in a food mixer bowl and combine slowly, until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Drain any remaining liquid from the soaked fruit and add to the cake batter. Stir slowly to combine, and pour into a lined cake tin
- Cook at 140C for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer or sharp knife comes away clean when inserted. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for an hour or so in the tin, before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely
- Wrap in a double layer of grease proof paper and follow with a layer of foil on the outside, or store in an air tight container
Head to our afternoon tea page online to find sweet and savoury treats, along with stylish homeware