Afternoon Tea Saturday 7 March 2015

I have a very small select group of ‘regulars’ amongst my guests and today’s visitors were some of those lucky ones – not because people don’t want to come back I hasten to add. On the contrary. The challenge is my ever growing waiting list and the need to give those that have not yet graced these halls priority over those that already have; a nice problem to have you might say. My ‘regulars’ are a bit of a rarity if truth be told!

There were a number of birthdays occurring close together in this group and I had been asked for a private booking so they could celebrate the occasions. It was a squeeze in my diary but managed I did, to fit them in and it was a very jolly occasion.

With guests arrived and exchanging birthday gifts, it was time to get the kettle on and start the festivities …

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Finger sandwich fillings:

  • Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese with a carrot salad – a break from tradition where I might have used Wensleydale cheese (being in Yorkshire and all that!). However, for a very delicious change, this cheese is gorgeous. Creamy with a lovely tang. The carrot salad is simply grated carrot with a few raisins, roasted seeds and combined with a touch of white wine vinegar and olive oil.
  • Tuna in lemon mayonnaise – simply where ‘less is more’. A bit of mayo with plenty of lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Cucumber – rather than buttering the bread, I made up a ‘butter’ of cream cheese with chopped fresh parsley which added the extra dimension needed to bring the cucumber to life a bit more.

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Savouries:

  • Potato & Jerusalem artichoke pithiviers – this was inspired by a Yottam Ottolenghi recipe. The puff pastry, all my own handy work, was filled with a delightful mixture of potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes. Instead of the anchovies in his recipe I used capers as there were some non-fish eaters in the party. I also made small individual ‘pies’ rather than one large one as indicated in the recipe. This did make filling them a little tricky to ensure there was enough filling to the amount of pastry but I think I got that about right. The trick was ensuring the vegetable filling was cut up very finely.

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  • Cheese sablés – these really are a taste sensation. The ingredients all pack a punch – mature cheese with cumin, cayenne pepper and mustard providing the ‘heat’. These are all mingled with the nigella and sesame seeds that are neatly roasted on the outside of the biscuit. They are very moreish!

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Time for dessert …

  • Buttermilk scones with clotted cream and my homemade strawberry jam. These need no introduction and always go down with much appreciation.

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  • Macarons – the shells were filled by a simple bilberry mousse for the purple ones, and an orange curd for the orange ones.

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  • Dark chocolate, hazelnut & Grand Marnier cheesecake – there’s no scrimping on the calories in this but they are all worth it, I promise! The base of the cheesecakes are a chocolate génoise sponge.   The filling a surprisingly light, creamy, very chocolatey filling laced with Grand Marnier to add a little orange into the mix. Roasted hazelnuts provided a great contrast to the smoothness of the filling. The chocolate decoration, again my handy work, using tempered dark chocolate and a transfer sheet to obtain the patterned finish.

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  • Rhurbarb Angel Cake – I strayed across the border into neighbouring Lancashire with the cheese above, but at this time of year, Yorkshire forced rhubarb is in season and at its finest. So no self-respecting, Yorkshire menu would be seen without it.

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The cake is extremely light and airy with only eggs, sugar and flour to speak of (yes, no fat in sight!). The frosting was rhubarb curd mixed with some whipped cream and decorated with ribbons of rhubarb. To achieve the finish, I had cut thin strips of rhubarb using a vegetable peeler and then blanched them in a simple syrup for about 30-45 seconds. Anymore and they start to disintegrate. I also added rhubarb ‘bows’ made from rhubarb tuile. The finishing touch was a few sprigs of mint. It did look very pretty.

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And no sooner had the day begun, that it was all over. Guests were wished a fond farewell with goody bags in hand, and heard them saying ‘same time next year then?’!

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