They say the British brought tea to India. So that afternoon cup of chai you are addicted to is actually not that old a tradition.
Like most Indian kids at the time, I grew up reading Enid Blyton and Jane Austen. Actually, back then we were called ‘children’. The whole American slang thing was not unknown, but it had not pervaded our world as much as it has now. When journalists start talking about ‘across the aisle’ politics with reference to the Indian Parliament, you can safely say there is a linguistic takeover of sorts.
So anyway, I had glorified potted meat sandwiches and jam tarts when I didn’t even know what they were. P G Wodehouse explains the ritual of English tea very well in many of his books. The ‘inmates’ of your typical country estate are in a lazy stupor. Flies buzz on the green grass. Everything is blessedly still and quiet. Then the butler appears, stoic in his bearing, followed by a procession of footmen. They set up the table and the china. Then the tea items are carried in. ‘Shall I be mother?’ asks a pretty debutante. And then proceeds to pour a nice strong cup of English tea.
All these things play out in my mind many a time. The English tea, cream tea, high tea or any other name you want to call it, is a sacred ritual. One of my travel dreams is to partake of the famous cream tea at The Ritz in London. I wrote about this kind of tea in a story I wrote about Melbourne. So yes, it has been on my mind.
When LocalBanya offered to make me #BloggerBanya for the month of June, they asked for two recipes. I was allowed to shop at their store to try it out. As I short listed my recipe for eggless mango pancakes and chocolate chip scones, I thought, why not go all the way? Why not use Banya ingredients to create a lavish full English tea or Cream tea? Was it even possible?
Well, once I think of a challenge, I just have to give it a shot. So I took the plunge. Some back breaking work ensued, literally. After spending time in the kitchen for almost two days, and then taking dozens of photos, I really had to nurse my poor back. I wonder how the people like Mrs. Patmore did it every day of their lives. We ate this stuff for 3-4 days so I wonder how this is just one meal in the day for some people :).
But here it is – this is my sincere attempt at producing an English tea. I have only just read about it in books, so I look forward to learning from you whether I did right or wrong.
One thing it definitely was? FUN!
Let us start with some food talk. From what I understand, the cream tea generally consists of scones, cookies, cakes and sandwiches. The scones are served with jam and clotted cream. The sandwiches are finger sandwiches, and the most famous among them are the cucumber and watercress, the smoked salmon, the chicken salad and so on. The cookies can be shortbread cookies or any kind. The cake can be a jam sponge or a seed cake. Then there are the warm savories which could be meat pies and so on.
I actually came across Indian themed Afternoon Teas where they served samosas. I did not want to do that. And o course, my menu had to be completely vegetarian!
So this is the menu I came up with –
Afternoon Tea Menu
Finger Sandwiches or Cold Savories – Cucumber and cheese sandwich, Curried Chicken(less) Salad sandwich
Warm Savory – Pizza!
Cake – White Cake layered with fresh mango jam
Tea – Darjeeling Tea
I served the sandwiches and cookies on this pretty cake stand I got off Amazon. It was actually a gift I cherish a lot.
All of this was made from ingredients I ordered off LocalBanya.com.
This is such a great party theme. Just lay it all out and commence chatting with your friends. People can pick up what they want and pour their own tea.
I had planned to make a mocktail also with this but frankly, I was EXHAUSTED!
And yes, everything right from the cake to the preserves is homemade – made from scratch!
English Afternoon Tea Recipes
The cucumber sandwich is very simple – just use some nice cheese spread on bread of your choice. Add thinly sliced cucumber and some fresh cracked black pepper. Cut away the crust and cut in small pieces.
The pizza – I used a pizza base which is available everywhere. Layer with marinara sauce, load up with nice mozzarella cheese, add your favorite toppings and bake for 10 minutes until cheese melts.
I baked the cake using a Pillsbury cake Mix with instructions from the box.
I have already blogged about the mango preserves and the chocolate chip scones. I used my cookie recipe from here and just varied the ingredients. I kept the chocolate out and put dry roasted coconut in half the recipe, and Gems or M&Ms in the other.
The Curried Chicken(less) salad recipe I will leave for another time.
So come on, have you drooled enough?
Planning an English Afternoon Tea Party
As you can imagine, putting on this whole spread took some planning and lots of effort. Yes, don’t worry about the calories because you will burn many before you get to eat these goodies.
- Plan the menu taking care that you cover your guest’s likes and dislikes, diet restrictions, allergies etc.
- Try to offer variety – if you are using chocolate in one thing, use fruit in another and so on. I used a wide choice of chocolate for my scones, fruit flavor in the cookies and also coconut. I went with mango jam because it was in season. And then with the berries, some people like the seeds, some don’t.
- Try to cover all age groups – the reason I chose pizza is it will please young guests and older ones too.
- With the cold sandwiches – mix in the mild, medium and spicy. The cucumber cheese sandwiches are mild and very traditional, the curried salad is slightly bolder and unconventional.
- Use different types of bread – this again covers a wide variety of tastes of your guests, plus it looks pretty. White, Brown, Rye, marbled – they all look different and create interest.
- Cut sandwiches in different shapes but keep them small. They should be maximum two bites.
- No matter how buttery and flaky your scone, offer butter on the side :). Or Devonshire clotted cream if you can get it!
- Even though this is tea, you can offer coffee or champagne too..your call.
- Do part of the baking a day ahead. You can make the preserves, bake the cake and cookies a day earlier. You can even make the salad filling a day earlier.
- Get the bread on the day of the party so it is fresh.
- Use your best china and a nice lace table cloth.
Please let me know what you think about this afternoon tea spread? Have you ever tried setting one out?
And have I inspired you to try making one of your own? I leave you with one last pic. Hopefully you enjoyed these photos!