One of life’s great pleasures is to cook for others and to share a meal around the table. Family and friends gathering around the table to share lunch, afternoon tea, a barbeque, or dinner is a welcome and satisfying event that 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 favourite or new inspirational recipes 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 learn how to make cuisines from around the world. Ever since those early days, I have spent many years 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 always something that invigorates me and despite the work involves gives me great joy. I love to plan and try out new ideas and recipes dependant on the seasonal produce available at any given time and who is going to be sharing the food around the table. The lists, the planning, organising, the shopping and then the cooking rather than hard work, is inspiring and fun.
No matter how much you love cooking, it is always far more satisfying and enjoyable to cook for others. Taste is all-important naturally, but I also like to focus on eye appeal and cooking with colour. It is a balancing act to combine the flavour, aroma, texture, and sight of the foods we cook with the setting’s overall ambience.
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 maintains freshness, looks colourful, and appealing and smells appetising. The outcome will be a stunning, delicious and healthy laden table that creates memorable moments for guests and for you as host.
“...no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”Julia Child
This also applies to serving an Afternoon Tea. To create an charming, elegant, table; consider fresh flowers, clean shiny silverware, an eclectic mix of fine china, 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 the food abundant.
Hosting an Afternoon Tea
The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose.George Gissing
Afternoon Tea is a great way to become accustomed to entertaining because once prepared; the only thing left to do is make the Tea. Once the guests arrive, you are free to 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 your venue; garden or terrace, tearoom, conservatory, lounge or a picnic. Send out your invitations and let guests know what you would like them to wear.
Make decisions on the table setting; simplicity is the key in creating an elegant table 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 choose a selection of canapes, macaroons, petit fours, mini éclairs, mille-feuilles, tarts, or 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. Today it’s quite fun and whimsical to have an eclectic unmatched group of cups and saucers. They don’t have to match perfectly and adds a vintage appeal to Afternoon tea. If you are in a garden setting or picnic add baskets, vintage pieces of furniture, old boxes and textiles like throws and blankets 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, 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), Assam, 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.
Content Di Baker 2020
Images courtesy of Chic and Antique and Di Baker