Whenever I'm in England (which isn't often enough), I spend half my time looking for out -of-the- way tearooms. Because of this minor obsession, I came up with a tea party that I can throw together in 15-minutes. So, when I start pining for Double Devonshire cream, I don't have to fly across the pond. I just drive to Publix.
True, my tea party involves store-bought goodies and minimal fuss--and bakery scones are simply not as ambrosial as homemade, but when your bones are aching and the days are short, there's nothing like a bracing cup of hot tea and a scone with double cream to revive your spirits.
The most time consuming part of the tea is assembling the dishes (joy, joy, joy) and serving pieces--this is most definitely NOT part of the 15-minute preparation. The night before the "party," I set the table, and Dr. Gollum and I "tested" the tea; but idea was so abhorrent to Little Gollum, he fled to the basement with a bag of Reeses Cups.
I'd planned to make scones (from a mix), but bursitis put a crimp in my plans, so the next day, my sweet husband stopped by Publix for the goodies.
While he drove down to the barn, I put two cake plates together. The fruit went on the top, the pastries on the bottom, along with a few berries and the chocolate mice.
While I've never seen a petit four in a British tearoom (and a Scottish High Tea is even more savory--robust, smokey, and masculine--without prissy food), I dearly love them.
Then I poured the tea--Dr. G calls this "The March of the Teacups."
The pottery is "Desert Rose," mixed with Johnson Brother's British Castles, and odd little pieces that make me smile.
My husband found the scones at Publix--two blueberry, two cranberry.
I made the finger sandwiches at warp speed (actually, I stacked the bread and cut off the crusts--and Dr. Gollum took them to the chickens).
I spread the bread with a thin layer of *real* butter, then I cut the bread into squares. Next, I put a little Dukes Mayonnaise on each square. I peeled a cucumber and sliced a Roma--then I divided the slices evenly among the bread. Finally, I seasoned them with sea salt, pepper, a bit of Hungarian paprika, and chopped dill, chives, and Italian parsley.
I cut up a miniature mushroom pizza from the bakery and sprinkled it with parsley.
Raspberry jam was scooped into a little jam pot and Devonshire double cream went into a glass hen. I'd never heard of "double cream" until I went to England--and I was instantly hooked. It is far thicker than whipped cream--the consistency is about like mashed potatoes. The Brits have several types of cream--and it's far, far richer that what's available in the U.S. This is because the cattle graze on a delicious type of grass and clover that flourishes in Devonshire, and it contributes to the complex flavor. Double cream is light and savory, not sweet--and the spreading consistency is perfect for scones. Just look at that spoon standing at attention.
By the time Dr. G returned from the barn, tea was ready.
I love to put mismatched flatware in glass candy jars...
but they also look beautiful in iced tea glasses.
We had to push back the chairs to prevent Mister from leaping onto the table and making off with the goodies. Last year, Dr. G. got up from the table to answer the phone, and when he returned, his steak was missing. And so was Mister.
Since Yorkies are from the UK, I can only assume that Mister is Highly Miffed about this High Tea. If you look closely, you will see a green McCoy frog planter, which I've piled with grapes. (It was just too cold and foggy to go cut pine boughs.)
Now may I have a biscuit? Mister asks.
Dr. G bought the double cream and the tea biscuits at Publix. (Kathy, this is for you, my dear!)
So, it only took 15 minutes, and that includes washing the fruit and peeling the cucumber.
Here's Dr. G. coming back for more sandwiches.
I'm repeating this menu for Christmas Day, adding smoked salmon and blinis, along with a salad, homemade croutons, and Tabasco Garlic Pecans. When I sat down with my plate, Dr. G said, "Is that all you're eating?"
"Mmmhum," I said, deciding on the spot not to mention the petit fours I'd scarfed down earlier. But that will be our little secret. ::wink::
- The New York Book of Tea by Bo Niles & Veronica McNiff
- Biscuits and Scones by Elizabeth Alston
- The Perfect Afternoon Tea Book published by Lorenz Books
- The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea: The Art & Pleasures of Taking Tea by Helen Simpson