The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.
I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously, who am I trying to kid?
SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?
There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:
- 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
- 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
- 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
- 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
- 2 plums or kiwi fruit
- 1⁄2 a grapefruit
- 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
- 1/2 an avocado
- 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
- 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
- 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
- 3 dried apricots
- 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
- 1 small bowl of salad
With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.
But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!
To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?
I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!
USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS
I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.
Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!
2. GET SPIRALIZING!
Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being blanched and added to salads or eaten in place of pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.
3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!
When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.
I don’t really think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!
4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS
I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.
5. ICE ICE BABY
Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.
6. GO BANANAS!
Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!
7. DREAM TOPPING
Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.
I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.
9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS
Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.
10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD
There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!
11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!
It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!
12. CHIPS AND DIPS
Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.
13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!
These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?
14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD
Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!
15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???
When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.
As everyone knows, I really like the cooler months of the year rather than the blazing hot ones ( I don’t need to be told I’m strange – I already know that!) So I didn’t mind when it was pelting down with rain last Friday. I didn’t mind at all. I just wished I could have been at home watching the rain come down from the comfort of my own home rather than be outside in the rain, freezing in my lightweight summer clothes while carrying three times my weight in groceries!
Thankfully Mr. D. was on hand to give me a, um, hand with the shopping but even that couldn’t take away from the discomfort I felt as the rainwater slowly began to seep into my totally inappropriate ballet-style pumps. Just then an image of a steaming hot mug of chocolaty goodness with enough cream and marshmallows to concern Jamie Oliver flashed into my head.
“You know what?” I began as I turned to Mr.D. who makes carrying a multitude of grocery bags look so effortless, “this is perfect hot chocolate weather.” All I wanted to do was get home, change out of my damp clothes and into comfy pjs, and sit by the fireplace, sipping gloriously thick hot chocolate and munching on toasted goodies. OK, so I don’t have a fireplace but the radiator with a few candles around it would do! Then I realised – we didn’t have any hot chocolate. And we hadn’t thought to pick any up. But then again why would we? Summertime’s all about the Pimm’s and cider. Or perhaps I should say, it should be all about the Pimm’s and cider. But at that exact moment all I wanted was hot chocolate and I could very easily have kicked myself for not buying any, if it wasn’t for the fact that I felt as though I had a swimming pool at the end of each foot!
It seems strange to be writing a post that’s better suited to the Autumn months than in what should be a blazing hot July, but it did get me thinking about cosy and warming suppers; the kind that’d be a real treat after a trip out in the cold, wind, rain, and possibly even snow. Or when you’re indoors, all snug and cosy while it’s chucking down buckets outside. Or perhaps you’re just in need of some good old-fashioned comfort food. There’s no special occasion for this supper; you can prepare this when you need something warm and comforting. None of the following should be served cold; everything should be either piping hot, warm or lightly toasted. You could serve all the following courses as a kind of high tea if you really wanted to go to town, especially if you are having friends over. But the main idea here is to keep it simple (who wants to do a whole lot of cooking when you’re looking for some much needed comfort food?) so I would pick one or two of the food items and serve it with a hot drink. Furthermore, unless you’re going for your own brand of comfort food, a lot of the foods listed here are deliciously stodgy and high in carbs, so I would choose carefully! Oh, and a lot of it will most probably be dripping in butter…
The good thing about this kind of supper is that even if you’ve invited your friends to come over and join you, there’s really no need to go to town on dressing up or creating an elaborately decorated table. The key here is simplicity, comfort and warmth. So comfy trackies, sweaters, pjs, robes and slippers are ideal. Oh and don’t forget the blankets!
Sandwiches should ideally be made with thick-sliced, soft bread and toasted:
Bacon and tomato
Sausage and mushroom
Chocolate and hazelnut spread
Cheese and tomato
Cheese and ham
Serve with warm crusty bread:
Chicken and sweetcorn
BREADS AND PASTRIES
Don’t forget the butter, jam, marmalade etc:
Oat and raisin cookies
Jacket potato with cheese and bacon bits
Kipper with poached egg
Egg on toast
Mushroom on toast
Spinach and cheese muffins
Apricot tea bread
Tea – of any kind
Hot chocolate – with a splash of your favourite liqueur for the adults
Hot apple toddy
Hot milk with honey
And I’m well aware that we’re not all fortunate enough to live in a house with a fabulous fireplace (I know I don’t!) so we’ll just have to crank up the heating a notch and dream of romantic, roaring log fires! And you can always create that cosy glow with dimmed lighting, candlelight, and if you really want to push the boat out, fairy lights.
Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!
In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition. Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.
When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is! The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Ham and English mustard
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Rare roast beef and horseradish
- Rose petals with honey
- Prawn mayonnaise
- Smoked salmon soufflés
- Mini sausage rolls
- Blinis with smoked salmon
- Mini Cornish pasties
- Parmesan thins
- Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
- Goats’ cheese rarebit
- Spinach and parmesan muffins
- Cheese straws
- Potted shrimp on melba toast
- Trout pate on melba toast
- Mini chicken and asparagus pie
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Tea loaf
- Tea cakes
- English muffins
- Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Victoria sponge cake
- Apple pie with cinnamon cream
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Lemon drizzle cake
- Cherry Cake
- Jam tartlets
- Battenburg cake
- Rose and raspberry or chocolate macaroons
- Fruit cake
- Mini Bakewell tarts
- Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
- Mini English trifles
- Pink and lilac iced buns
- Lavender shortbread
- Chocolate éclairs
- Strawberry shortcake
- Custard slices
- Frozen strawberry daiquiris
- Mixed berry tea
- White chocolate mocha
- Jasmine tea
- Pink lemonade
- Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
- Raspberry bellini
- Cava with nasturtiums
- Pomegranate Martini
- Chamomile tea
- Champagne with hibiscus
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.
Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree
ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES
60 dried organic rose petals
Few drops of rose essence
25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature
12 slices of soft white bread
6 tsp lavender honey
1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.
2. Drain and set aside.
3. Butter the bread.
4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.
5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.
6. Top with remaining slices.
7. Cut off crusts.
8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.
9. Serve immediately.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!
Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Chicken salad
- Chicken and pesto
- Ricotta and apricot jam
- Egg and asparagus
- Prawn cocktail
- Scotch eggs
- Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
- Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
- Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
- Bite-size lamb samosas
- Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
- Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
- Cheese and spring onion scones
- Broccoli and spinach mini quiche
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Hot cross buns
- Fruit loaf
- Apricot muffins
- English muffins
- White chocolate and raspberry scones
- Rosewater and vanilla scones
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Lemon cupcakes
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Carrot cake
- Simnel Cake
- Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
- Crème egg chocolate brownies
- Pastel coloured macaroons
- Chocolate whoopie pies
- Lavender shortbread
- Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
- Mini chocolate and cherry trifles
- Lemon tea
- Raspberry tea
- Vanilla latte
- Mint tea
- Elderflower cordial
- Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!
- 130g pure icing sugar
- 110g almond meal
- 2 egg whites
- 65g caster sugar
- 4-5 drops of pink food colouring
White chocolate and raspberry ganache:
- 50ml double cream
- 100g white chocolate
- 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 140C.
- Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
- Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
- Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
- Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
- Add food colouring.
- Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
- Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
- Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
- Stand until a crust begins to form which should take around 5 hours.
- Bake macarons until firm.
- Cool completely on trays.
- Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
- Remove from heat.
- Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
- Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
- Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
- Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
Yay! St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us – and I’m thrilled. Say whatever you like about this day but I do love everything it stands for. And what’s so great about this St. Valentine’s Day is that it falls on a Saturday so it’s more like St. Valentine’s Weekend. Even better! And I’ve definitely got into the spirit of it. Although we’d originally planned to go away this weekend, I’ve been a little under the weather so we’ll be staying at home but it most definitely won’t be boring. We’ve got the cards, the gifts, the choccies, the booze, the candles, the rom-coms, the Valentine’s Day treats and all the ingredients for a fabulous dinner. Because we were long-distance for a long time, we never got to spend St. Valentine’s Day together until after we were married, so it’s very special to us.
So seeing as you have the whole weekend to lounge around and be totally loved up, there’s no excuse not to have a long, leisurely Valentine’s Day breakfast. A piece of toast on the go just won’t do especially as (I hope) you won’t have to dash to the office. And there aren’t many things that scream romance quite like breakfast in bed which is the perfect way to start a lazy weekend. And let’s banish all thoughts of your usual fare – Valentine’s Day is a great time to try something different and indulge in heart-shaped delicacies and dainty little pastries.
So here’s some ideas to inspire you – and have you wishing every day was a breakfast in bed day!
First things first. When serving breakfast in bed you’ll need:
- A tray
- Napkins or kitchen roll
- Newspapers or magazines
- A bottle of Champers (it’s a special occasion!)
What To Serve:
- Porridge served with berries/chopped bananas, honey and cream
- Pancakes with a selection of fillings: jam, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, Nutella etc.
- Homemade croissants with butter and jam
- French toast with berry compote
- Scrambled egg and smoked salmon bagel
- Sausage, egg and cheese bagel (Mr. D’s favourite!)
- A fry up! How often do you get to have a full English? Be sure to serve on extra large plates.
- Fresh fruit salad
- Danish pastries
- Muffins – these can be made in advance to save you from getting up early to prepare them.
- Waffles with butter, syrup and strawberries
- Steak and eggs
- Fresh fruit smoothies (my fave!)
- Eggs Benedict
- Yogurt in a tall glass layered with fruit, cereal/oats and compote/honey
- Stuffed French toast with Nutella and raspberries or mascarpone and blueberries
- Crumpets with butter and jam
- Hot chocolate made from scratch with whipped cream
- If you’re going to serve toast, make sure you prepare that last so that it stays warm.
- Likewise if you’re going to serve yogurt, get that out of the fridge just before you go up so that it stays cold.
- Make sure you have all the things you need before you go up. It’ll be annoying to run back down because you’ve forgotten the cutlery.
- Napkins and kitchen roll are a must!
- If you’re going to serve Champagne/sparkling wine along with the breakfast, make sure you pop it in the fridge the night before.
- Don’t worry about crumbs or mess. This is quality time with your other half. Enjoy!
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!
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.
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.
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:
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
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 and bacon vol-au-vents
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
Slices of Panettone
Cranberry and dark chocolate scones
Orange and cranberry scones
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
Spiced apple pies
Mini yule logs
Orange and walnut cake
Cranberry and orange jelly in shot glasses
Sherry trifle served in teacups
Ginger and cinnamon tea
Apple and cranberry fruit tea
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.
700g/1lb 9oz self-raising flour
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
- Preheat the oven to 210C/400F/Gas 6.
- Lightly butter two baking trays.
- Sift the flour into a bowl.
- Rub in the butter using your hands until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar, chocolate drops and orange zest.
- In a measuring jug, mix the milk with the juice of one orange.
- Add to the flour mixture gradually until the dough just comes together.
- You may not need all the liquid. Be careful not to overwork the scone dough.
- Roll out the dough to approximately 2cm/1in thickness and cut out scones using a 5-6cm/2-2½in cutter.
- 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.
- Remove from the oven and cool on wire rack.
- Serve with clotted cream and satsumas.
As much as I’m a cappuccino and cake kind of girl, I do love a good tea party – especially if it’s done properly. I know in the States, an afternoon tea party is considered to be a quintessentially British pastime. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news guys, but most of us here in the ‘old country’ don’t even own a piece of fine bone China, never mind drink from it every day. And I really cannot remember the last time I used a saucer. On the rare occasions I do drink tea, it’s usually from a cardboard cup – just like my cappuccino!
But I do know a typically British afternoon tea party can be a fabulous occasional treat. We don’t have them every day or every week, but they are very popular for birthdays, bridal showers, little girls dressing-up tea parties, and just generally when you feel like being a little bit girly and going overboard with the hats, gloves, tea dresses and pearls. Told you it’s not an every day thing!
Tea parties can vary in terms of theme, style and food served, and there’ll be more about that in later posts. Although they are usually considered to be quite formal occasions, they don’t always have to be. They’re just great fun and a chance to have a cup of tea and a natter with a huge slice of cake. However formal or not, there are certain rules (for want of a better word) which need to be taken into account for a smooth running party.
So here’s the low-down on tea party etiquette.
TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE
IF YOU’RE THE HOSTESS:
1. Depending on how formal you want to be, you may want to send out invitations. Make sure you send these out in plenty of time.
2. Greet your guests as they come in. I don’t really think a handshake and a ‘how do you do?’ is necessary as one book suggested. Hello and a smile work just fine!
2. Show guests to the table and invite them to sit down. Whether you give them assigned seating or allow them to chose their own seats is up to you.
3. As the hostess, it’s your job to serve each of the courses and pour the tea. Make sure the conversation is flowing and your guests are eating and drinking.
4. It’s fine to arrange for someone else to do the serving if you wish so that you can concentrate on just having a good time with your guests.
5. If you are not able to get outside help and you have a fairly large number of guests, you can nominate a couple of friends to help serve – especially if you know that they are happy to do so!
IF YOU’RE THE GUEST:
1. It’s always nice to bring a small gift for the hostess.
2. Take your place at the table and wait to be served.
3. Keep your purse or handbag on your lap or behind your chair but not on the table.
4. When the party’s over, always send a handwritten note of thanks to your host – preferably within a week.
1. Place napkins on your lap. If you need to leave the table, leave the napkin on your chair and not on the table.
2. No reaching across the table for anything. If you’d like something, ask someone to pass it to you.
3. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat with your fingers – no one eats sandwiches with a knife and fork – but anything that has the potential to be messy should be eaten with a fork.
4. Remember that thick cream is for scones – not for tea.
5. Take small bites of the sandwiches no matter how tiny they are. Don’t cram a whole one into your mouth. Now is not the time for party pieces!
6. When eating scones or muffins, break off a bite-size piece, then put a small amount of butter and/or jam on it. If clotted cream is being served, a small amount can be dabbed on after the jam.
7. Don’t dip the sugar tong or sugar spoon into your tea if you are taking sugar.
8. Stir the tea with your teaspoon and then place the teaspoon on the saucer behind the cup.
9. If your tea is too hot, simply leave it on the table to cool. Don’t blow on it to cool the tea down.
10. Slurping is not acceptable!
11. And neither is dunking biscuits.
12. Whatever our American friends might say, nobody here sticks their little/pinky finger out when drinking tea from a teacup. Who does that???
This is of course a rough guide and rules are open to interpretation. The most important rules which go without saying is that everyone should be happy, comfy, well-fed and having fun!
I absolutely love the combination of chocolate and banana together. I think it’s a match made in dessert heaven so when I stumbled across this recipe for chocolate and banana cake bars – which contained all three types of chocolate – I knew I had to share it with you.
Guess who’ll be baking away this weekend?
Makes: 16 cake bars
250g plain flour
130g butter, softened
100g soft brown sugar
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs, beaten
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
60g dark chocolate
30g white chocolate
30g milk chocolate
- Preheat oven to 160ºC.
- Butter and line 2 22cm x 24cm cake tins.
- In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar.
- Mash bananas.
- Add to the butter mixture along with vanilla and eggs.
- Sieve flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl.
- Combine well.
- Add all the chocolate and milk.
- Stir well.
- Spoon mixture into tins.
- Bake in the middle shelf of oven for about 20mins.
- Insert a skewer or knife into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean it’s ready.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Slice into rectangles while in the tin.
- Remove from tin and serve.
- Instead of making cake bars, this mixture can be used to make muffins. Just substitute cake tins for muffin tray lined with muffin cases.
- Chocolate can either be broken into chunks or shop bought chocolate chips can also be used.