Here’s another delicious afternoon tea menu. My little herb box in my humble back yard has done me proud supplying all the featured herbs in the cream cheese sandwich filling and the rosemary in the palmiers; no food miles here! Enjoy.
Christmas is certainly one of my favourite times of the year and putting on a festive themed afternoon tea is always great fun. Items on the menu this year featured interpretations of some of the more traditional items one might find on offer. Look for them in the macaron and millefeuille. Other seasonal flavours are dotted about in the savouries and other sweet items. Enjoy.
Savoury choux filled with mushroom & port – the choux were baked with a savoury craquelin topping to add texture and flavour to the creamy port & mushroom filling
Smoked salmon blinis – served with crème fraiche and garnished with dill.
The sweet stuff
Eggnog millefeuille – the crème pâtissière here takes on all the eggnog flavours.
Christmas cake macaron – the macaron shell was flavoured with a light dusting of mixed spice and then filled with a ganache containing Xmas Cake that I’d puréed in brandy. It really did work at treat.
Bramley apple bavarois & hazelnut sablé – bramley apples being in season this brought something lighter and more delicate to the table.
Chocolate, orange & tiramisu cheesecake – chocolate and orange are such a classic combination and not out of place on any Christmas table.
Mince pie – unadulterated and no disguise!
Buttermilk scones with jam & clotted cream
2016 was an extremely busy year and as you can tell by the date of when this afternoon tea took place, I’m very behind posting this blog. Nevertheless, I remember it well! Autumn was a significant influence in what to include on the menu along with wanting to continue practicing new skills. This required stretching my capabilities significantly, particularly for the pâtisserie items, to attain the quality and intricacy of product I wanted. My guests were a combination of first timers and ‘repeat offenders’ and were an extremely genial and happy bunch. So, better late than never, here is the menu.
Beetroot hummus – the beetroot is not of the pickled kind but simply baked in its skin in a foil parcel. It’s then peeled and whizzed together with toasted walnuts, plenty of lemon juice, tahini & secret seasoning. It’s delicious and a fantastic colour to have in the centre of a sandwich.
Goat’s cheese & preserved figs – these figs, a South African delicacy, are sweet and marry up to goat’s cheese very well. I like to use a combination of soft and rind goat’s cheese; the soft acting as the butter layer on the bread.
Ham, egg & sundried tomatoes – while I am a lover of tomatoes, when sliced fresh in sandwiches they can be a disastrously soggy affair. Therefore the sundried option offers a flavoursome and ‘safe’ alternative here.
Steak & ale pie – small pies with crisp, shortcrust pastry (homemade no less!) encasing tender, ‘slow’ shin of beef braised in a local Yorkshire ale. And an absolute requirement, served warm!
Cheese & wholegrain mustard muffin – a punchy, mature cheddar provides the backdrop to these very light, morsels bursting with flavour. Wholegrain mustard provides a little crunch and hint of ‘heat’.
Cakes & scones
Buttermilk scones with jam & clotted cream – served warm with clotted cream and homemade jam.
Chocolate, hazelnut & ginger entremets – delectable domes of chocolate mousse with elements of ginger crème brulée and hazelnut.
Green tea & jasmine delice – these teas are delicate flavours and can be difficult to achieve enough taste without over doing it and ending up with a bitter tea taste. Tea can ‘stew’ if left too long in hot liquid and while the recipe instructed a warm infusion I chose the cold infusion option soaking the tea in the cream overnight. It’s a safer way of avoiding any bitterness in the flavours. I was happy with the results I must say. For the overall effect of the finish, it was important that the layers of the two tea mousses were even and the final decoration delicate and refined.
Carrot cake – this cake never fails to please and speaks for itself in my humble opinion. I have lovingly developed and refined this recipe of mine over the years. I think the carrot ribbons, for something so easy to make, create a great finish for the cake.
There’s a lot being said about ‘staycations’ these days; choosing to stay home rather than holiday further afield. A bank holiday weekend might be one of those occasions to take to the road and get away with the extra day on offer. As it turned out, a certain six people decided to stay close to home and treated themselves to one of my afternoon teas on this August bank holiday weekend.
Beside incorporating seasonal ingredients such as courgettes and mackerel, I designed the menu around implementing some of the techniques and recipes I’ve learnt over the past few months from Mark Tilling. He has been an inspiring teacher and great encouragement to me on my pâtisserie and chocolate learning journey for which I am very grateful. The entremets, macarons and chocolate flower decoration on the cake below are evidence of putting my learnings into practice!
I hope you will enjoy the menu as much as I did in putting it altogether.
Smoked mackerel paté – plenty of lemon juice, fresh dill, crème fraiche and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper make up this delicious paté.
Egg ‘n cress –the key to making this a good sandwich is to use only the freshest, free range eggs, a very good mayonnaise followed by confident seasoning and a healthy helping of cress.
Cucumber & herbed cream cheese – cucumber all on its own can be a bit disappointing despite its fresh, crispy texture. I like to ‘butter’ the bread with a cream cheese mixed with a variety of fresh herbs that happen to be available in my little herb patch such as parsley, mint and a little tarragon.
Stuffed pesto potatoes – these are so easy to make yet so delicious. An added bonus is they can be prepared ahead and simply warmed in the oven just before serving. I used broccoli to decorate the tops along with a basil leaf because of the vibrant green the both provided. The broccoli I simply steamed and then cut off the stalks and pulsed the remaining florets in a food processor to create a sort of couscous effect and then just sprinkled it on the top after they were baked and were ready to be served.
Cheese sablés – these are delightful. Crisp and light. The secret is to ensure you use a really strong flavoured hard cheese. I also add a little mustard for a little pepperiness. The poppy seeds on the outside add a nice effect and add some nuttiness to the overall flavour.
Buttermilk scones – these are always a crowd pleaser. Served fresh from the oven, they have a slight crunch on the outside and are exceptionally light in the centre. Clotted cream and homemade jam complete the experience.
Raspberry and mascarpone entremets – it wouldn’t be a summer without raspberries. For those that are interested, an entremet is a mousse type cake or dessert with multiple layers consisting of complimentary flavours and textures. The layers in these entremets include almond sponge, mascarpone and vanilla mousse and a raspberry cream.
Chocolate and hazelnut macarons – traditionally macarons are made with ground almonds but I’ve used ground hazelnuts for these. The filling is a chocolate ganache flavoured with toasted hazelnut.
Courgette and lime cake – this cake doesn’t taste of courgette before anyone turns their nose up. The courgettes act the same as carrots do in a carrot cake by providing moistness to the cake in addition to an attractive green fleck in the sponge. The presentation of the cake was finished off with a cream cheese frosting and a chocolate flower and petals.
So hopefully all that was worth ‘staying home’ for. If there were any major traffic jams on the way home, the goodie bags would have provided any sustenance required …