Today’s occasion had been planned for some time and took a few goes to find a mutually convenient date what with lack of availability due to shift work for some of the guests on certain weekends, travels abroad for others and my ever burgeoning diary to fit in other requests for afternoon teas. The occasion? A couple (who are returning guests I hasten to add) was treating one set of their parents to afternoon tea. Said parents had actually been given a voucher for afternoon tea by the couple for last year’s Christmas present and today was redemption day. It’s almost time for this Christmas I hear you say! Indeed it is but there’s nothing like stringing things out to build the anticipation is there?
Without further ado, here is the full menu …
To get things going, the sandwich fillings comprised:
- Cream cheese with pickled beetroot – the creaminess of the cheese worked wonderfully with the tangy beetroot.
- Salt beef and horseradish – a classic combination that needs no introduction.
- Prawn marie rose – this ‘retro cocktail’ may have been the height of 70s fashion but I hope I paid it due service keeping it simple and letting the plump, juicy prawns speak for themselves without drowning them in copious amounts of the pink stuff!
Warm savouries included:
- Filo parcels stuffed with a mix of sundried tomatoes, olives, roasted pine nuts and basil.
- Muffins flavoured with smoked chicken, mushrooms and wild rice with an accompaniment of anchovy butter. The wild rice added a wonderful nuttiness and texture to the muffin and gave them an unusual look too.
The sweet delicacies on offer:
- My buttermilk scones with homemade jam and clotted cream – fresh from the oven, these always go down a treat.
- Billionaire’s salted caramel shortbread. What’s the difference between millionaire’s and billionaire’s shortbread I hear you ask? I asked myself the same question. To get things straight first of all, millionaire’s shortbread or simply caramel shortbread, I’ve always known as comprising three layers: shortbread, caramel and topped with chocolate. However, I couldn’t find a definitive answer on the old ‘tinternet. Some were saying the caramel layer included peanut butter while others say the shortbread features cookie dough in it. Or there’s a white chocolate topping instead of milk chocolate. I liked the version of the addition of gold leaf to decorate the shortbread. I also added some patterning with gold food paint for extra effect and frivolity – does that make it trillionaire’s shortbread?
The recipe was actually that of Choc Amor, available in their Coffee Rooms at Tarleton and was recently published in the local paper. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try it. It worked a treat and I really liked the variation of the salted caramel as it offset the extreme sweetness that comes with this rich delicacy. Let it be known, I shall certainly be making this again!
- Lemon Meringue pies – regular readers will have seen previous reference to my all-consuming recipe book of the moment ‘Pâtisserie’ and these little numbers were straight out of there. Ever in search of perfection, I have to say, they weren’t quite so on the final meringue decoration (in my humble opinion) but for a first go, not too bad. Suffice to say, while they looked pretty good, they tasted even better!
- Blackberry & apple cake. This was influenced by what’s in season at the moment – blackberries and very local, home-grown English apples from a very generous friend. I had romantic ideas of foraging for the blackberries myself but alas, there are only 24 & ¼ hours in my day and I simply didn’t have the time in the end. My other excuse was I really needed lovely plump, high quality fruit and my local hedgerows unfortunately would have been sadly bereft of such jewels.
The cake itself was a simple sponge with a bit of ‘crumble’ added in to the middle layer of the blackberry and apple fruit to provide some crunchiness and cinnamon sweetness. To finish it off, I made twirls and a meshed ‘cigar’ roll in white chocolate and placed these around the pile of fresh blackberries along with a couple of snips of my garden mint.