A simple tea
Thanks to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, I often enjoy ‘afternoon tea’ at our home for waifs and strays with friends and family.
You see, in the early 19th century, Anna often complained of having a sort of ‘sinking feeling’ around late afternoon. In those days, people usually ate just two main meals a day, breakfast and dinner. Before she completely sunk, Anna had a pot of tea and a snack, in mid afternoon.
So in the years that followed, the consumption of tea evolved dramatically and ‘at half past three, everything stops for tea!’ became well known around the world. White tea, black tea, green tea and oolong tea are just four different types of tea. It is all in the processing!
But sadly, afternoon tea seemed to disappear, but not in the home where I grew up. Living with my grandmother (afternoon tea or light tea as she called it) was a daily occurrence. I would enjoy a small sandwich and an equally small cake, whilst waiting for my father to join us for our evening meal.
Today, people tend to have afternoon tea as a special treat, but it is simple enough to do it yourself, on your own kitchen table. All you need are some neatly cut sandwiches, scones, clotted cream and jam. A few small cakes can be added if you fancy them. A pot of tea and small cups and saucers (can be picked up cheaply from most charity shops) do add to the occasion. As does a tablecloth and a bowl of in-season fruit.
The last afternoon tea, held at our home, was made all the more delightful, when someone kindly brought a bunch of ‘wild scented flowers and herbs’ from their garden. When putting them into a vase of fresh water, I noticed rosemary, bay, mint, blackberry and delightful pink roses. This was a wonderful touch to a table filled with simple things.
I have added below, a recipe for scones. You can adjust this by adding cheese instead of sugar, or keeping the scones plain by leaving out the dried fruit.
- 225g/2 cups self raising flour
- 55g/ 2 oz cold butter
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 150 ml /¼ pint milk
- 1 egg beaten with a little milk
- Heat the oven to 205°C/400°F/Gas 6
- Grease and flour a heavy baking sheet.
- Sieve the flour into a roomy baking bowl then add the butter, baking powder and salt. Quickly rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Make a well in the center and using a dinner knife, stir in enough milk to make a soft, pliable dough.
- Turn the mixture on to a floured board and knead very lightly until just smooth then lightly roll out to 2 cm / 3/4" thick.
- Cut rounds with a 7.5 cm / 3" cutter or cut into triangles with a sharp knife.
- Place on the baking tray and brush with the beaten egg and milk mixture. Bake near the top of the hot oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown and well risen.
- Cool on a wire rack before eating.
Serve with butter, or lashings of jam and clotted cream