One of life’s great pleasures is to cook for others and to share a meal around the table. When family and friends gather around the table to share lunch, afternoon tea, a barbeque, or dinner is a natural, welcome and satisfying event. It is a joy and an occasion I eagerly look forward to. Entertaining as it was once called, has always been part of my life. The preparing and planning of a bountiful table from savoured recipes of the past or new ideas builds tradition and creates cherished memories.
“I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.”Madame Benoit
My first attempts at cooking for others was when I was quite young and I would visit the local library for recipes to find out how to make cuisines from around the world. Ever since those early days, I have spent many years deep in the family and workplace kitchens lovingly preparing food for my family, friends or clients. The day to day meals, special occasions, parties, Christmas, picnics, celebrations and more.
Cooking for others is a relaxing pastime, one I have always found inspiring and fun. No matter how much you love cooking it is far nicer cooking for others than just for oneself. Taste is all-important naturally, but also I like to focus particularly on eye appeal and the colour in cooking. It is a balancing act to combine the flavour, aroma, texture and the sight of the foods we cook with the appeal of the chosen setting.
Cooking is like Love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.Harriet Van Horne
The key is to buy the best quality and freshest ingredients, that you can afford then, aim to do as little as possible to them. Focus on eye appeal and present the food so it looks colourful and appealing. The outcome will be a stunning, delicious and healthy laden table.
“…no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”Julia Child
This also applies to the charms of Afternoon Tea. To create an elegant, simple but decorative table; consider fresh flowers, clean shiny silverware, an eclectic mix of fine china, delicate vintage lace clothes and napkins and of course a fine looking Teapot. Use good quality ingredients, keep it simple yet abundant so the table is inviting and lavish. Ensure the Tea is piping hot, the table looks beautiful and there are always fresh flowers.
Hosting an Elegant Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea is a great way to become accustomed to entertaining because once prepared before the guests arrive there is only Tea to be made and you can all sit down together.Decide on the date and whether you want a casual, fun or a more formal event. Choose a theme for the Tea party and where it will be held. Garden or terrace, Tearoom, conservatory, lounge or picnic Tea for example? Send out your invitations and let guests know what you would like them to wear.
Make decisions on the table setting, simple but elegant with fresh flowers, the best silver, china and linen, a three-tiered stand, candles, fairy lights and don’t forget the Teapots. Allow plenty of room on the table for display and have low vases of flowers or a centrepiece so your guests can still see each other to talk.
An Afternoon Tea implies you are serving hot tea, fresh scones with jam and whipped cream, dainty sandwiches and petite cakes. Also perhaps canapes, macaroons, petit fours, mini éclairs, mille-feuilles, tarts, and biscuits. Use your imagination and try an assortment of sweet and savoury items or larger cakes cut into tiny slivers. All the food should be bite-sized and easy to pick up in the fingers.
Always use fine china cups and saucers that are shiny, clean and not chipped. China cups and saucers today do not have to match perfectly. An eclectic mix of china adds a vintage appeal to Afternoon tea. If you are in a garden setting or picnic add baskets for that extra flair.
You will need Teapots ( one per type of Tea and extra for Hot water), Tea strainers, jugs for milk, sugar bowls and tongs, a plate of finely sliced lemon, Champagne glasses, serviettes or napkins, small plates and serving platters or three-tiered stands and bowls for jam and cream plus linen and cutlery. See How to make the Perfect Tea for more tips.
Champagne is a must and should be in a clear or silver ice bucket. Fresh strawberries add colour and you will need milk, sugar, extra hot water and lemon slices to serve with the Teas. I would also have honey for herbal Tisanes.
The most important aspect is, of course, the Tea It is best to offer a fresh, high-quality selection of Teas like; Lady Grey or Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast or other Black tea such as Twinings Afternoon Tea, Orange Pekoe, Lapsang souchong ( smoky aroma and flavour) Green Tea, White Tea and herbal tisanes. There are so many Teas to choose from so allow a selection of fruity or floral-herbal tisanes and various black teas.
Remember first impressions count so have everything well prepared and you can sit, enjoy and relax.
Content Di Baker 2020
Images courtesy of Chic and Antique and Di Baker