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Throw a tea party fit for the Queen

By Brentwood Gazette  |  Posted: May 30, 2012

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A lready whetted by the Royal Wedding, our appetite for street parties is back with a bang this year as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee approaches.

And there is no more fitting way to mark Her Majesty's 60 years on the throne than the quintessentially British culinary experience of afternoon tea.

When she's at Buckingham Palace, the Queen likes to be in her suite by 5pm to be served a spread of scones, sandwiches and cakes – with the corgis often tucking into the crumbs.

Her ordinary subjects may not always have time to do the same, but the tea party tradition that swept into fashion in the 19th century is making a comeback.

Ruth Bond, chairman of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, says: "As the economy continues to change, people are reassessing what is it important in their lives and making time to appreciate things they previously might not have had time for.

"Good food and good company seem to be at the top of most people's lists.

"With the extra Bank Holiday, the Diamond Jubilee is the perfect time to enjoy a leisurely afternoon tea with the people closest to you – and perhaps meet some of your neighbours and build community links over some delicious cake and tea."

Think you know how to make the perfect cuppa? Think again!

Fortnum & Mason's assistant buyer for tea and coffee, Margot Cooper, gives her top tips....

Use a giant teapot if you're making tea for lots of people. Warm the pot first. Boil the kettle, rinse the pot with the boiled water, and then throw that water away.

Use loose tea rather than teabags to get a cleaner, clearer flavour. If you can get eight cups from your pot, use around eight teaspoons. But a practice run before your party will help you decide how light or dark you like your tea.

Add freshly boiled water to the pot, pop the lid on and let it brew for between three and five minutes. On average, people brew tea from a teabag for 19 seconds, but proper tea needs more time.

Once it's brewed, give it a stir and use a strainer to pour the tea into teacups. You can add milk first or last, depending on taste.

Fortnum's Margot Cooper recommends these classic brews, along with tasty treats to complement each one...

Classic Breakfast Tea: "This goes brilliantly with milk, but goes equally well with a slice of lemon if you brew it lightly. Serve this with a rich, strong chocolate cake," says Cooper.

Earl Grey: "This is great for those who like their tea a bit flavoured. Because of the bergamot in Earl Grey, it goes well with a lemon tart. It's also good served with a Victoria sponge."

Jasmine Tea: "A flowering tea, such as a jasmine one, is best brewed in a glass teapot for the visual effect. Try it with a delicately flavoured snack, like a pavlova."

Try these classics from the Women's Institute to make a feast fit for royalty...

Makes 6

Ingredients

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

A pinch of salt

25g (1oz) ground almonds

125g (4 1/2oz) butter

60g (2oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1 egg yolk

To decorate:

150ml (10fl.oz) double cream

1tbsp caster sugar

250g (9oz) strawberries, 3 reserved and the remainder sliced

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Lightly grease a baking tray. Sift the flour and salt together and mix in the ground almonds.

Cream the butter and sugar together and the egg yolk. Work in the flour and almond mixture using your fingers to make a fine dough.

Roll the mixture out on a lightly floured surface to about 4mm (1/4 inch) thick and cut out 12 x 7cm (23/4 inch) rounds using a fluted cutter and re-rolling as needed.

Place on the prepared tray, sprinkle with a little caster sugar and bake for 8-10 minutes. Leave to go cold.

Whip the cream, adding the sugar, and pipe a rosette on top of six of the biscuits.

Fold the sliced strawberries into the remaining cream and spoon on top of the remaining biscuits. Add the rosette-topped biscuits and decorate each with half a strawberry.

Makes 10-12

Ingredients

110g (4oz) soft margarine

110g (4oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 eggs, beaten

110g (4oz) self-raising flour, sieved

A little milk, if necessary

60g (2oz) dried fruit

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350ÅF/Gas Mark 4.

Grease a 12-hole bun or mini bundt tin.

Cream the margarine and sugar together.

Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well.

Fold the flour into the mixture with a little milk, if necessary, to give a soft dropping consistency. Add the fruit and mix well.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch and golden brown. Turn out on a wire rack to cool and sprinkle with a little extra caster sugar.

Variations:

Use 60g (2oz) of washed, chopped glace cherries instead of the dried fruit, or replace 1 tablespoon of flour with 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder.

Serves 6

Ingredients

110g (4oz) soft margarine

110g (4oz) caster sugar, plus extra for decorating

2 eggs

110g (4oz) self-raising flour

Raspberry jam, for filling

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Grease two 15cm (6 inch) sandwich tins and line with non-stick baking parchment or greased greaseproof paper.

Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and creamy in texture.

Add the eggs a little at a time and beat well.

Sift the flour and gently fold into the mixture.

Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until well risen and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip.

When cold, fill with jam and sprinkle the top with caster sugar.

Makes 18

Ingredients

For the base:

110g (4oz) butter or margarine

140g (5oz) plain flour a pinch of salt

60g (2oz) caster sugar

For the filling:

110g (4oz) margarine

2tbsp golden syrup

110g (4oz) light brown soft sugar

1 small tin condensed milk

A few drops of vanilla extract

For the topping:

110g (4oz) plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces

Method

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Grease an 18 cm (7 inch) square loose-bottomed tin.

For the base, rub the butter or margarine into the flour, salt and sugar. Knead into a ball and then press out evenly into the prepared tin. Bake for 25 minutes. Leave to cool before adding the filling and topping.

For the filling, slowly melt the margarine, syrup, sugar and condensed milk together, stirring continuously. Bring to the boil and, still stirring, simmer gently for exactly 7 minutes. Add the vanilla extract, pour on to the base and leave to cool.

For the topping, melt the chocolate gently in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Beat until it is smooth.

Spread the chocolate evenly over the filling. When set, cut into nine squares and then cut each square in half again to make 18 slices.

Tips:

If you don't have a loose-bottomed tin, line the tin with non-stick baking parchment, snipping into the corners of the paper so it lines the bottom and sides. This makes it easier to remove the slices.

It is easier to cut this into slices if you make it the day before and chill in the fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

A little salt

A little cayenne pepper

2tsp anchovy essence

2tbsp mayonnaise

8 small slices brown bread

Butter

2 tomatoes, each cut into

4 slices, discarding the ends

A little fresh parsley, to garnish

Method

Halve the eggs and remove the yolks. Place the yolks in a bowl with a little salt and cayenne pepper, the anchovy essence and mayonnaise and mix it all together to create a moist paste.

Spoon the paste into a piping bag and pipe it back into the egg whites. Alternatively, spoon the mixture straight into the cavities.

Butter the bread and cut into small rounds. Place a thin round of tomato on each round and half an egg on top. Garnish with a little fresh parsley.

The Women's Institute Vintage Teatime compiled by Jessica Simmons is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £9.99. Available now

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