Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy New Year from Chez Mrs. D!

I cannot believe that another new year is about to descend upon us in just over two hours time. I could have sworn we saw 2014 in last week! How has the year gone by so quickly? Mind you, I probably say that every year. Moreover how is it that Christmas has gone within the blink of an eye? We spend all year waiting for it, months preparing for it, days rushing around in a blind panic and then – it’s gone! My two week Christmas break has gone by so quickly and I’ll be back at work in a few days time. I’m sure I’ll be writing a post for 2016 tomorrow!

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I really can’t complain about this year. 2014 has been very good to us. Sure there have been some not so pleasant bits but that’s only to be expected. On the whole, life’s been pretty good. I truly hope that 2015 will be every bit as awesome not just for me but for all of us. I have so many plans for next year in terms of my personal and professional life, and there’s still plenty of things that I would like to do with this blog. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to fulfil everything I planned to do for Chez Mrs. D.  this year and I aim to complete these goals next year.

But I have to say I saw some pretty awesome things happen this year for Chez Mrs. D. From wondering if anyone would ever discover this blog to get tons of hits a day, a bunch of loyal followers and over a hundred fellow bloggers following this blog. And it’s all thanks to one blog post about Father Ray Kelly, the Catholic priest who sang a delightful rendition of Hallelujah. Thank you Fr. Kelly! I’ve seriously enjoyed every second of blogging this year and working on Chez Mrs. D. I’ve come across some fantastic blogs, interacted with some very talented bloggers, and of course as you all know, I met my first fellow blogger, Chitra from Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen just before Christmas. Definitely one of the highlights of this year. I’m really excited about what 2015 has in store for us all.

Now I’m going to enjoy what’s left of this year with a glass of something sparkling but before I do, I would just like to thank everyone for their support this year and wish you all a very peaceful and happy new year. I hope 2015 brings some fantastic things your way! xx

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Afternoon Tea Christmas Style!

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Christmas day may be over but that doesn’t mean that the fun times should stop!

I absolutely love Christmas. It’s my favourite time of year and I don’t care what anyone says – it’s not just for kids! One of the things I love about Christmas is the chance to eat, drink and be merry (is that three things?) It’s also great that you have the chance to catch up with people you might not see a great deal of throughout the year, and that you have time to relax. Furthermore, could there be a more aesthetically pleasing time of the year that Christmas?  This year I’m super lucky that I will have two glorious weeks off work. Yes, I know it’ll fly by but right now I’m just going to wallow in my super relaxed state of bliss!

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So I think that the Christmas break is the perfect opportunity to indulge in a festive themed afternoon tea party. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of afternoon tea. In fact, I’m a huge fan of anything that involves, food, drink, people and conversation. But there’s something extra special about having afternoon tea. I suppose that it’s because we don’t often find the time to have a real, proper afternoon tea so it’s become something of a treat.

And when you combine afternoon tea with my most favourite event of the whole year, Christmas, then you have a delightfully themed tea.

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Of course, I’m not suggesting you have a Christmas afternoon tea on Christmas Day itself. By the time you’ve devoured the turkey with all the trimmings followed by a helping of Christmas pudding, tea will be the last thing on your mind! But the good news is that you can hold your Christmas themed tea at any time during the Christmas holidays which generally last for twelve days beginning on Christmas Day.

The beauty of hosting a Christmas afternoon tea during the season is that many of your family and friends are likely to be in town in order to celebrate the holidays, so it will be a lovely way to spend more time with them before they go home. There’s also no need to buy decorations for your tea – because it’ll already be there: the tree and other decorations will still be up; you might have poinsettias on the table; your fancy Christmas table cloth is likely to be adorning the table, and you may have lots of accessories in traditional Christmas colours.

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Furthermore, it’s also a great way to use up any leftovers that you might have. Everyone knows that when it comes to Christmas, we really go town, buying/baking/cooking as though we’re facing the apocalypse. So there’s no need to prepare too much food, and in addition, any Christmas type food items that need to be bought are likely to be reduced in supermarkets after Christmas.

The list below gives food ideas of what you can include on your afternoon tea party menu which include typically Christmassy give festive flavours of Christmas:

SANDWICHES

Smoked salmon and cream cheese

Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce

Ham and chutney

Ham, brie and apple

Bacon and chipolata

Cream cheese and cranberry

Cheddar cheese and chutney

Ricotta and orange marmalade

SAVOURIES

Mini sausage rolls

Mini Yorkshire puddings with turkey, stuffing and gravy

Filo parcels with cheese and cranberry sauce

Pigs in blankets

Baked brie with cranberries

Cheese scones

Cheese and bacon vol-au-vents

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

Fruit loaf

Teacakes

English muffins

Slices of Panettone

Cranberry and dark chocolate scones

Orange and cranberry scones

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

Christmas cake

Rum cake

Ginger cake

Mince pies

Spiced apple pies

Stollen

Mini yule logs

Orange and walnut cake

Cranberry and orange jelly in shot glasses

Sherry trifle served in teacups

DRINKS:

Mulled wine

Spiced tea

Ginger and cinnamon tea

Apple and cranberry fruit tea

Eggnog

Hot apple toddy

Spiced pumpkin latte

Shot glasses of thick hot chocolate flavoured with rum or Bailey’s

Remember to serve butter and jams such as fig, mulled plum or orange curd to go with the toasted breads and scones, and you might need some clotted cream if you’re serving scones which you could flavour with spices, orange zest or brandy if you wish. You might also need some chutneys and sauces to go with the savouries.

I found a delightful recipe for chocolate and orange scones, by Ellie Simmonds, which I have tried before so  know it’s delicious and would be perfect as part of your Christmas tea.

CHOCOLATE AND ORANGE SCONES

Ingredients

  • 700g/1lb 9oz self-raising flour

  • 150g/5½oz butter

  • 150g/5½oz caster sugar

  • 2 large oranges, finely grated zest of both and juice of one orange

  • 150g/5½oz chocolate drops

  • 200ml/7fl oz whole milk, plus extra for brushing

To serve

  • clotted cream

  • 2 satsumas

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Lightly butter two baking trays.
  3. Sift the flour into a bowl.
  4. Rub in the butter using your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Stir in the sugar, chocolate drops and orange zest.
  6. In a measuring jug, mix the milk with the juice of one orange.
  7. Add to the flour mixture gradually until the dough just comes together.
  8. You may not need all the liquid. Be careful not to overwork the scone dough.
  9. Roll out the dough to approximately 2cm/1in thickness and cut out scones using a 5-6cm/2-2½in cutter.
  10. Transfer the scones to the buttered baking trays, brush the tops with milk and bake in the centre of the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.
  11. Remove from the oven and cool on wire rack.
  12. Serve with clotted cream and satsumas.

 

Enjoy!

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Merry Christmas From Mrs. D

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Christmas is almost over. After all those weeks of planning and running around, driving ourselves crazy, and getting ourselves into near debt, Christmas is drawing to a close. But it’s been so worth it!

Christmas for us began at midnight when  managed to drag Mr. D. out for mass. I  love midnight mass – have done ever since my parents took us to our first midnight mass service when we were kids. There’s nothing wrong with going to mass on Christmas morning but for me it’s always been a midnight thing!

However Mr. D. and I woke up mega late today. Under normal circumstances, I would have got myself into a bit of a tizz but not  was determined to relax and enjoy the day. And we did. We had a late breakfast; opened a mountain of presents; got started on dinner, and cuddled up while watching a movie with a box of chocs. Bliss!

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I then watched Eastenders even though I no longer watch the soap. But Christmas Eastenders has always been a family tradition so I couldn’t not watch it. And what an explosive episode it was! I’ll definitely be tuning in tomorrow.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, we had dinner very, very late but then that’s pretty much a tradition in this household. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are always served later than most people would sit down to eat, but that’s always been our thing and I’m guessing that’s how it’s going to stay.

So I hope you’ve all had a really fun time with all your loved ones and that you’re celebrating in a way that suits you.

Merry Christmas everyone xx

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Bloggers Unite: Meeting My First Fellow Blogger

imagesCAAMXIQQ Last weekend was a very special weekend and a first for me. It was the first time I had met one of my fellow bloggers!

The lovely Chitra who blogs at the fantastic Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen follows many of my blogs and she has always been extremely supportive; showing a genuine interest in many of the posts she reads and leaving kind and helpful comments. She’s basically every blogger’s dream follower!

By chance, Chitra and I discovered that we lived practically around the corner from each other. That was a pleasant surprise and it goes without saying that a meet-up was in the works! However real life kept getting in the way as it has a habit of doing, and the tasks of our day-to-day lives meant that despite living so close by, we had to wait until a less hectic period in our lives for that natter over cake and coffee – although with Chitra being a huge fan of healthy eating – as the title of her blog suggests – I figured that I’d be gorging on the cake and coffee while Chitra would be the one doing most of the nattering!

But meet we finally did on Saturday, and not only did I get to meet the great lady herself, but also her family. And what a lovely bunch of people they were. Obviously our discussion turned to blogging, and I asked Chitra about how she got started with Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen. I was amazed to discover that she’d only been working on her blog since the beginning of this year, as it seems to have been around forever and has become quite huge for something that’s still only a baby. Chitra then went on to talk about all the planning, hard work and effort that goes into  Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – not to mention the huge weekly shop and the last minute changes that sometimes need to be made. She cooks a dish every single day before writing about it; listing the recipe; taking photographs, and editing the post. In the past, Chitra did two posts a day but because of the amount of work that went into each post, she limited it to a reasonable one a day, which to be honest is more than most of us do, even though we have good intentions to blog every day.

One of Chitra's fabulous dishes. Image from Chitra's Healthy Kitchen

One of Chitra’s fabulous dishes. Image from Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen

One of the best things about Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen – aside from the fact that it’s focused on achieving a healthier diet and lifestyle – is that it really is a family affair, with Chitra getting a great deal of help and support from her family, who assist with the shopping, photography, editing, and of course, the tasting! I was astounded by the amount of work that went into Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen, and how dedicated Chitra is to maintaining the blog. Every recipe that features on Chitra’s Healthy Kitchen is her own creation – there’s nothing that’s come straight out of a recipe book. Could she be the hardest working blogger in the blogosphere????

All too soon, it was time to leave. But I left knowing that not only had I just met my first fellow blogger but that I’d also made a new real-world friend. As talented a blogger as she is, Chitra is also a lovely, down to earth lady and it was lovely getting to know her and her family. And yes, another meet up is being planned. It also got me thinking about the other bloggers I interact with. They come across as genuinely lovely people and I hope that one day in the not so distant future, I’ll be able to meet them in person too!

And if you haven’t checked out Chitra’s awesome blog, what are you waiting for? You can check it out here. imagesCAHZOS9O

My Anti-Bucket List

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Kick the Bucket.”

In the last few years, the world has gone bucket list mad – including me! There’s tons of things we all hope to do before we ‘kick the bucket’.

I’ve always been a bit of a bucket list girl and I’ve already managed to tick quite a few things off my list including being front row at a concert; visiting certain countries; going to a New Kids On The Block concert; finding my dream job, and marrying the love of my life.

But there’s still plenty of things that I haven’t done and am still waiting to tick more off my list, such as spending NYE in Time’s Square; writing a book; becoming a really good baker and confectioner; reading the entire Bible, and becoming fluent in another language… and many, many more! In fact I don’t think I’ll ever have a completely crossed-off list as I keep adding to it.

But the thought of an anti-bucket list had never occurred to me until I saw The Daily Post’s writing prompt, and it got me thinking about things I would never in a million years want to do, want to have, or want to go to!

So here’s my selection of twenty (that’s right, twenty) things – in no particular order – that complete my anti- bucket list!

1. LEARN TO MAKE QUICHE

image from bbcfood.com

image from bbcfood.com

I absolutely hate quiche with a passion. If you came to my house for lunch, you can be sure that you won’t be served with this vile savoury tart/flan/whatever you want to call it. Why the rest of the world is quiche crazy, I’ll never know. Even though I want to hone my baking skills, this is one area of baking I don’t feel I need to even bother trying to learn let alone improve upon.

2. BECOME A BIGOT

Obviously no one goes through life intent on becoming a bigot. And even when most people do have an extreme intolerance towards others, they naturally won’t admit to it or even realise how offensive their views are- though you will get a few who don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with having such prejudicial views and will defend these views to the hilt. What they don’t seem to understand is how ignorant they sound.

Going through life with an open mind is so important on many different levels and for so many reasons- at the very least it makes the world a far better place.

3. APPEAR ON THE APPRENTICE

 

Don’t get me wrong – I love watching The Apprentice and tune in every year to find out who will be Lord Sugar’s new business partner. It’s addictive, and as someone who’s keen to go into business, it is of great interest to me.

There are times I think, fleetingly, about applying to go on the show but I know I never would. The other contestants show way too much arrogance, ruthlessness and attitude, and many of them are nowhere near as good as they claim to be. I really don’t think I could handle so many huge egos under one roof.

I’ll still continue to watch the show though!

4. VOTE UKIP

 

The media would have you believe that the whole country is full of UKIP supporters even though I know that that’s not necessarily the case. I can see why a lot of people have fallen under the spell of Farage and co. but those who can look at things objectively can see that they clearly lack credibility, so whether they are the flavour of the month or not, I will not be jumping on the bandwagon and be voting UKIP.

And is it just me, or does their logo resemble something similar to a budget supermarket chain?

5. READ FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

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It’s meant to have enhanced activity in the boudoir and had women buying the E.L. James novel in droves. Nothing wrong with that of course. However, unlike Christian Grey, I am a hearts and flowers kind of person, so this isn’t a book that will be gracing my bookshelf, and I prefer old-fashioned though slightly corny romance rather than raunchy in your face erotica. Give me Mills and Boon any day!

6. WATCH WHAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE HOT ON  BRITISH TV RIGHT NOW

 

The Only Way Is Essex, Made In Chelsea, Big Brother, The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celebrity… these might constitute compulsive viewing at the moment but quite frankly I find it all quite boring.  I used to watch shows like these a long time ago but then it started to lose a bit of its gloss and I just gave up. However, I can’t escape these shows entirely because the ‘stars’ are always in the media. Even though I can’t profess to be a National Geographic kind of girl, this sort of telly really isn’t for me either.

7. BABYSIT A SPOILT CHILD

I like children as much as the next person but when it comes to children who lack discipline, don’t know the meaning of the word no, and think that all adults should do as they’re told (by them)… forget it! I once had the misfortune of babysitting a child (and not just any child, but a relative!)  who was a complete and utter nightmare but clearly thought that his behaviour was cute. And when his mum was told about his behaviour, she clearly couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to handle a spoilt child. I’m obviously not one of them.

8. BECOME ADDICTED TO TECHNOLOGY

There’s no denying that we’re in the digital age and we all use technology to some degree. But to become addicted to gadgets to the point where it overrides common sense and courtesy is unacceptable. I really don’t wish to be that kind of person.

9. APPEAR ON MASTERCHEF USA

 

Once again, Masterchef USA is a show Mr. D and I tune into religiously every year, and we’ve actually picked up a few tips from this cooking competition. However, I would never want to be a contestant on this show, even if I did live in The States, because Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich could very easily reduce me to tears and turn me into a nervous wreck. No thank you!

10. ATTEMPT TIGHTROPE WALKING

 

 

There are a lot of adrenaline junkies out there but I’m not one of them and heights are not my thing, so you won’t see me on a tightrope anytime soon.

11. SWIM IN SHARK INFESTED WATERS

 

As I’ve said I’m not an adrenaline junkie and clearly do not have a sense of adventure, so once again not for me.

12. RETURN TO WORKING IN RETAIL

 

Before anyone accuses me of putting down people who work in the retail sector, let me explain. I spent more years than I care to think about working in retail, so I have a lot of respect for those who work in retail because I know how tough it can be – especially at this time of the year.

In theory, it should all go swimmingly. After all it’s not the worst job in the world; you get to meet people every day; and there are some exceptionally enjoyable perks i.e.- going to trade shows, generous staff discounts etc.

However in practice I’ve found it incredibly draining. Dealing with the general public is not easy. Dealing with those in head office is even harder. Sometimes your colleagues don’t understand the importance of working as part of a team. And let’s not forget with more and more stores open for longer hours and seven days a week, it leaves you with little time for yourself, family and friends. I still like the idea of owning a shop of some kind but I doubt I’ll ever do it as I found it incredibly draining.

13. WORK FOR A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER

 

It was my childhood ambition – until a careers officer said after a consultation that I lacked the ruthlessness and forceful character to be a journo. That and the fact that I didn’t like to pry into other people’s business!

Yep, I think I’m better suited to teaching English!

14. HAVE BOTOX

 

I know I’m getting older and I can see the signs. I don’t look or feel twenty one any more. However, I don’t believe that Botox is the answer – why would I want to inject poison into myself? I don’t believe in putting anything into my body that really shouldn’t be there, so I will fight aging with happy and healthy living.

15. BUY SUPER EXPENSIVE CLOTHES

 

When I was a teenager I was into labels and brand names as most of my peers were. That didn’t always mean I’d get them though and fast forward several years, I’m very grateful that my parents didn’t give into my every whim. I still love clothes and probably have more than I need but I don’t spend a fortune on each item and love spotting a bargain. I’d hate to spend a grand on a coat and then feel I’d need to wear it for the rest of my natural life and then be buried in it just to get my money’s worth!

16. BECOME A POLITICIAN

 

Where do I begin???

17. BE PART OF THE IN-CROWD

 

During the course of my life, I’ve met some exceptionally interesting people who seemed to have it all. They said all the right things, had all the right things, looked the right way, surrounded themselves with all the right people and were seen in all the right places. In a nutshell, they were the in-crowd.

The only thing is that their hearts weren’t often in the right place and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised what’s important.

18. TO WATCH ANY MOVIE THAT’S BOUND TO LEAVE ME TRAUMATIZED

 

Twelve Years A Slave and The Passion Of The Christ are out as interesting and as fascinating as they are, when I watch a film, I want to be entertained not left feeling depressed.

19. OWN A FLASHY CAR

We’d all like a flashy car parked on our drive but I can’t help thinking what a waste of money it is. Unlike houses, the value of a car generally tends to go down not up. So I think I’ll invest my money in bricks and mortar, thank you.

20. RIDE A BIKE AROUND LONDON

I am most definitely not hot on two wheels at the best of times but riding around London with its super busy streets which I don’t believe is really ideal for cyclists… I’ll give it a miss. I’ve heard a great deal about accidents on our roads and even been at the scene of one, and my heart really goes out to those who have been hurt or worse. And I take my hat of to those who are far braver than me and are willing to have a go.

What’s on your anti-bucket list?

 

The Vintage Tea Party Book: A Must For Tea Party Fanatics

 

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I bought a book today which is absolutely, fantastically, smack-you-in-the-face awesome! It’s called The Vintage Tea Party Book and it’s by – I just love her name – Angel Adoree.

I’m a huge fan of books about tea parties, dinner parties and home entertaining because it’s based on something I love to do – have a house full of people eating, drinking and having a bloody good time! Angel says in her book that her parents ‘ have always been motivated by feeding people’s souls with food laughter and cocktails,’ – and that pretty much sums up the story of my life! And like Angel, I think my own parents played a big part in my love of home entertaining as it wasn’t unusual for them to have dinner parties and gatherings at home when I was growing up. I was allowed to join in even though I should have been tucked up in bed. But I grew up with memories  of Dad’s awful jokes; raucous laughter; happy people, and empty dishes as everyone loved Mum’s cooking. So it’s no surprise that when I grew up I had an overwhelming desire to recreate those fabulous evenings.

Angel Adoree

Angel Adoree

The first thing you notice about the cover of The Vintage Tea Party Book is the shades of red, white and blue, and the images of top hats, monocles, pocket watches, Union Jacks, pipes, a cake stand, china teacups and teapots, pearls, butterflies and rose buds. What you get is a cross between a quintessential British vibe with full-on vintage glamour – two themes which feature heavily in this book. This suits The Vintage Tea Party Book down to a, well, tea!

The cover also explains that The Vintage Tea Party Book is ‘a complete guide to hosting the perfect tea party,’ but in reality it is so much more than that. What you essentially get is Angel Adoree between a hardback cover. We get a glimpse into the author’s life with pictures of her family, friends, and some childhood snaps. There are also quite a few pics of the present day Angel; a buxom lady with cherry red lips, and hair the exact same colour worn in a victory roll.

We hear about her childhood, work, entrance into the world of business, appearance on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, and her business venture, The Vintage Patisserie. And as if her appearance wasn’t enough of an indicator, the reader also learns about Angel’s lifelong love affair with all things vintage.

The Vintage Tea Party Book

The Vintage Tea Party Book

 

The Vintage Tea Party Book contains more than just recipes for a good tea party. There are ideas about how to host a party; helpful hints about sourcing vintage items; fashion and beauty advice for those who want to look 1940s; grooming advice for men; a little about the history of the Union Jack, and suggestions for games to play. There’s also arts and crafts with instructions for sewing aprons; drying edible flowers; making a butterfly display, and more. And let’s not forget templates for invitation and thank you cards. All this before we even get to the recipes.

And you won’t be disappointed with the recipes. They’re divided into three parts: brunch, afternoon tea, and evening tea.

The usual tea time treats are still there but they’ve been elevated to a more sophisticated level. So instead of your usual cucumber finger sandwiches, you’ve got cream cheese and cucumber heart-shaped, open sandwiches, and there are lemon scones with lavender cream instead of your usual run-of-the-mill (but nonetheless delicious) scones with clotted cream. There are some really unusual and delicious sounding treats such as hot baked grapefruit; chilled raspberry soup; crab choux, and pork and lemon quail scotch eggs. I especially liked the sound of the romantic sounding rose panna cotta, and the very unusual rose petal sandwich. There are also recipes for a selection of drinks including iced teas, smoothies, cocktails and hot drinks. I particularly want to try the white chocolate mocha and the bourbon slush.

Cream cheese and cucumber hearts

Cream cheese and cucumber hearts

The Vintage Tea Party Book is most definitely going to be one of the most inspiring books I own, and I can’t wait to try out the recipes and put the other suggestions to good use.

And just to give you a hint of how awesome this book is, I’ve posted Angel’s  recipe for the divine sounding cherry and dark chocolate trifle shots. Yum!

Angel Adoree, we adore thee!

CHERRY AND DARK CHOCOLATE TRIFLE SHOTS

INGREDIENTS:

6 sponge fingers, broken into small pieces

100ml cherry brandy or chocolate liqueur

50g dark chocolate, grated

1 pack of dark cherry jelly, made up according to instructions, then chopped up

jar of morello cherries

100ml custard

100ml whipped cream

METHOD:

  1. Arrange sponge finger pieces at the bottom of 6 shot glasses.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of chosen liqueur to each one.
  3. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon chocolate.
  4. Once the sponge fingers have absorbed the liqueur, add a heaped tablespoon of prepared jelly to each shot.
  5. Top with a few cherries and more grated chocolate.
  6. To serve, top each shot with a heaped tablespoon of custard, and a tablespoon of whipped cream.
  7. Finish with decorative sprinkle of grated chocolate.

The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

Mitchell Beazley

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