Hosting an annual tea pushes me to search for and create new ways to serve and present the menu from year to year. I first challenged myself in this way a decade ago for my daughter’s baby shower. My goal was to serve food in an uncommon and new way. Spinach (green) filled with roasted pepper mayo (I blended jarred roasted peppers with mayo) and thinly sliced turkey and sun dried tomato (red) tortillas were filled with wasabi mayo and thinly sliced turkey – each were cut with a round cookie cutter (about 2 1/2 in) and skewered. While I want everything to be pretty and different for these events, I also want everything to be flavorful. Below is the first edition of tea menu options I have used in a prior year or created for this year’s Mother’s tea.
- 1/2 cup of Mascarpone (room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
- 1/4 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice (or cinnamon)
- pinch of kosher salt
- julienned carrots
- raisin bread
- thin carrot slices (on mandoline)
- carrot leaves or flat leaf parsley (to garnish)
Mix mascarpone, chopped nuts, spices and salt in a medium bowl with a fork or spatula. Spread mixture on to one side of two slices of raisin bread. Place julienned sticks of carrots over spread of the bottom slice and top with second slice of bread. (The spread on both slices help hold everything together.) Using a sharp knife (or electric knife), cut and trim to remove crust and form rectangle shaped sandwiches (2 to 3 per – depending on the width of bread slice.) Place a small dollop of mascarpone spread on the top of sandwich (acting as the glue), place a small piece of walnut, thin sliced carrot and leaf for garnish.
CORONATION CHICKEN SANDWICHES
This sandwich was adapted from Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation tea sandwiches in Tea Time Magazine. For garnish, remove the crust from the bread and cut diagonally. Spread apricot jam on one edge to adhere toasted slivered almonds. https://www.teatimemagazine.com/coronation-chicken-salad-sandwiches-recipe/
Cucumber sandwiches are not complicated, but often lack in flavor. This version was prepared with thin white bread, a herbed or dill cream cheese spread (room temperature), thinly sliced avocado inside the sandwiched bread and crust removed. Sandwich cut into 4 squares. Thin ribbon slices of English cucumber made with a mandoline or vegetable peeler, are stacked on top of the sandwich secured with a pretty pick. A little dill for garnish.
- German Dark Wheat (Pepperidge Farms) 8 slices yields 12 tea sandwiches (3 per 2 slices)
- Fresh basil (2 teaspoons) chopped and small cluster leaves or small whole leaf for garnish)
- Zest of a lemon and 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 24 half slices of cooked bacon (crispy) blot away grease
- 1 pint on the vine cherry tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes) -sliced into 1/8th inch disks; set aside in a bowl and drizzle with white balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with 2 pinches of salt, 1 pinch of black pepper.
- White balsamic vinegar (above)
- Spring mix lettuces, arugula or baby spinach
Lightly toast all slices of bread. Mix mayo, lemon zest, juice and chopped basil. Coat one side of all toasted bread slices crust to crust. Top one side of toast with the spread with 3 half slices of bacon. Next layer sliced tomatoes, then greens, slice of toast on top. Remove the crust from the edges and then cut sandwich into 3 equal rectangles. Top with tomato slice and small basil cluster of leaves or a single small leaf. Place a decorative pick through the garnish to hold sandwich together.
EGG SALAD OR DEVILED EGGS
These deviled eggs were so much prettier than an egg salad sandwich, I was able to use my chives and their blossoms from my garden. For a variety of beautiful deviled eggs I recommend the blog “She Keeps a Lovely Home”. You can also find images of her eggs on Pinterest. I made her Bloody Mary deviled eggs for a brunch and they were excellent.https://www.shekeepsalovelyhome.com/
SALMON CUCUMBER BITES
As an alternative to a cucumber sandwich (to omit some of the bread), I used an English cucumber slice (about 1/4th inch thick to hold the topping); mixed together chopped dill with creme fraiche ( or sour cream) dolloped on top of the cucumber, sprinkled with everything bagel seasoning (Trader Joe’s or make your own); flaked broiled or baked salmon; garnished with chopped chive and a sprig of dill -chive blossoms separated into smaller pieces.
In lieu of a sandwich, these mini puffed pastry tomato, goat cheese tarts. They are also a great picnic item.
For some reason my scone course never seems to get photographed. Part of the problem of being the cook, the host and the photographer – is that it’s very hard to do everything!
My favorite scone is a cranberry orange version on Martha Stewart’s website. I have also used the same recipe with fresh or frozen blueberries and lemon zest. Slight adjustments have to be made due to the liquid produced by the berries. I also created a lemon glaze to drizzle over the top.
For this year’s tea: When I told my friend that I was going to make these blackberry cream scones from Pink Piccadilly Pastries http://pinkpiccadillypastries.blogspot.com/2016/06/cream-tea-scones-with-blackberry.html – she said it was her mother’s favorite berry and that she and her sister used to help her pick blackberries. So without knowing, I had picked the perfect scone. For my own spin to the original recipe I added about a tsp. of lemon zest and vanilla paste in lieu of extract to the batter. For the filling I decided to use mascarpone & whipped cream due to the density of the scone from the test bake that I believe will hold up more firmly. A dusting of snowy powdered sugar over the final garnished scones might also add a nice touch.
While it may not be traditional, I like to serve a light soup at the beginning of my tea. For my first tea I made an asparagus soup with roasted asparagus and added a tablespoon of lump crabmeat to each bowl.
Each year I want fresh Spring vegetables, vibrant color and pure flavors. The first year the star was asparagus, last year it was corn (a fresh corn bisque) and this year I chose carrots and sweet peas.
CARROT, PEA AND MINT SOUP
- 6 to 8 servings
- FOR THE CARROT PORTION:
- 3 pounds orange carrots (farm fresh for the best flavor if available)
- 1 or 2 small to medium purple carrots (if unable to find an orange will do)
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1/2 cup of vegetable stock or water *
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- pinch of white pepper
- FOR THE MINT-PEA PORTION:
- 2 – 12 oz packages of frozen sweet peas (reserve 1/2 of whole peas on the side for garnish
- 6 mint leaves (additional mint for garnish)
- 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable stock or water*
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest & juice
Note: * If chicken stock is used the pure flavor of the vegetables will be altered.
Peel all carrots with a vegetable peeler and then slice into 1/4 inch disks. Place in a medium to large skillet with butter and liquid (*vegetable stock or water), salt and pepper. (If you do not have white pepper -black pepper is acceptable.) Simmer on medium heat covered until carrots are tender when pierced with a fork. Carefully transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. (Note that hot liquid in a blender can splash and burn you. Make sure to cover the top with a dish towel or allow mixture to slightly cool prior to blending). Add small quantifies of liquid until desired consistency is achieved. In order to create the two side by side or swirl affect, it will have to be the consistency of loose mashed potatoes or the line will not hold. It cannot be watery.
Frozen peas (remove 1/2 cup of whole peas and set aside to thaw to room temperature). Cook frozen peas in microwave according to package instructions. Transfer to a clean blender and add 1/2 cup of liquid (*vegetable stock or water)and mint leaves. Puree, again to desired consistency adding small quantities of liquid – with same note indicated above. Salt and pepper to taste, lemon zest and juice.
Both can be made one to two days in advance, refrigerated in an air tight container. Gently reheat prior to serving.
Garnish: Create thin slices of purple carrot with a vegetable peeler, from stem to end tip. Gently curl and place in ice water until ready to serve. Garnish soup with raw carrot slice, several whole peas, a mint leaf, and chive blossom or other edible flower.
I do enjoy making the items for my tea, but shortcuts taken in some areas are acceptable. After all, it’s a lot of work! Last year I made tiny raspberry tarts, chocolate dipped strawberries and purchased french macrons.
This year’s featured Mom loved chocolate covered raisins. I elevated the idea of her favorite creating a triple chocolate (Milk, Bittersweet & Semi-Sweet) truffle, with Chambord raspberry liquor and currants. The top is sprinkled with cocoa and a sugared violet.
My personal pastry plan is – one thing chocolate, one thing fruity, and one thing crispy so that there are different flavors and textures.
Another course that I serve that is not traditional is a refreshing sorbet. For the first tea I served a store bought raspberry sorbet. Last year I made a Sweet Basil Cantaloupe Sorbet with a slice of Prosciutto that I crisped in the oven. The sweet and salty combination was such a hit, that I re-created it for my wine club that summer. This year I’m considering a watermelon mint sorbet or a store bought Italian lemon ice.
Below are small “to-go” boxes I found at Joann’s for guests to take away some of the leftovers. Matching paper straws with floral runners for iced tea was also available.
If you are considering planning a tea for Mother’s Day, a bridal luncheon or simply to gather friends on a beautiful Spring or Summer day, I hope these ideas will inspire you to make it beautiful and memorable.