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tea time at Downton

Welcome to Downton.  Howzit. BBC in South Africa premiered the first episode of Downton Abbey this past Sunday.  Yesterday, we spoke about America’s sadness at the last viewing of the last of the produced episodes.  Now imagine the cultivation for a whole new crop of Downton fans.  They have that lovely accent which reminds you of the British.  Lovely.  Let’s have them all over for tea, shall we, and make them feel welcome.

Taking Tea, South African style

Canada is a land of multiple cultures, so we have the opportunity to develop friendships with those who have immigrated from countries all over the world.   We have wonderful South African friends in our church community, and God has particularly blessed us with fellowship with one particular family.  Jeanette is a  talented trained pattisier who designs cakes and offers cake decorating parties to kids and adults alike. We recently had tea at their home and Jeanette served a lovely assortment of desserts.   Heavenly.   If you live in the Toronto Area and have need for a special cake (who doesn’t?), or want to take a decorating lesson, try South African.  She will be holding a clinic on how to decorate the lovely little cake pictured above (those are edible flowers) for Mother’s Day.  Check out her website: www.jeanettescakes.com.  I hope someday she will share a recipe or cake decorating tips with us here.

Tea Basics: A recap

I offer a new recipe each week, so check out and bookmark Online Guide to Afternoon Tea to keep up to date:

  • In 1662 Catherine of Braganza of Portugal married Charles II and brought with her the preference for tea over alcohol to Court.
  • 1830/40’s.  Anne, Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting “invented” the Afternoon Tea, having food brought to her room in the afternoon; some ladies were invited, others set about gathering their own friends together.
  • Afternoon Tea is likely what you are going want to book.  It is the tea service served with the little sandwiches, scones and tea.
  • Cream Tea is a tea service with just scones, cakes, clotted cream and tea.  No lovely little crustless sandwiches, I’m afraid.
  • Think of High Tea as supper, not time for scones.
  • When building your tea tray, the preferred order is scones on top, sweets and fruit in the middle, and the savories–wee tarts and sandwiches–on the bottom layer.
  • Your freezer (or your local grocer) is your friend when preparing your tea party.  Sandwiches need to be made fresh, but you can freeze much of your baked goods.
  • Allow 5 savory items per person, 3 or 4 different types of sweets.

What we have Prepared thus far

I offer a new recipe each week, so check out and bookmark Online Guide to Afternoon Tea to keep up to date.  Here is a sample of what we have prepared:

    1. Rock Cakes: in our first installment we made Harry Porter’s favorite tea time treat.  These are what are sometimes referred to as a type of  “drop scones” Easy to make and don’t require any rolling.
    2. Guilt Free Scones: we then picked it up a notch to look at how to brew tea, identified types of sandwiches to make, and tried our hand at making scones.
      1. The Best Tips for Scone Making.  My foodie friend Eva recently introduced me to Sawsan, a lovely cook from Jordan who provides great advice on making perfect scones. She is an orthodonist, and I know from visits to my own dentist that this is a profession that is meticulous (“anal” might be another term) so she is the perfect person to demystify the process.  Only a wee bit of butter in her versions, so not a diet breaker.
    3. Truffles: Last Tuesday was Valentine’s Day so we didn’t spend much time on Tea, but I offered truffles as a sweet to add to your tea tray.  The latest trend in Afternoon teas is a facelift to attract a younger audience with “hipper” foods:  they include cupcakes, cake balls and whoopie pies. We may cover these additions in later posts, but let’s finish on the basics.

Types of Sandwiches Served at Afternoon Tea

Those lovely little sandwiches

If you have kids, you are probably  already a pro at making little crustless sandwiches.  Here are few variations (all crustless, of course) which you can prepare to plate on their own, or to add to the bottom level of your three tried tray:

    • cucumber
    • egg mayonnaise with cress*
    • smoked salmon with cream cheese
    • Coronation chicken (poached chicken with dried fruit, curry)
    • Ham and mustard


  • Tea sandwiches are traditionally light, delicate sandwiches sliced small enough to be picked up with the fingers or those little sandwich tongs.
  • Teas sandwiches can be cut into triangles or, using cookie cutters, shapes for special occasions.
  • Prepare your fillings ahead of time to let the flavours settle and to help save you time in your final assembly.
  • Your sandwiches don’t all have to be on white bread.  You can also use whole wheat which gives a nice contrast in color, but I would have the multi-grain and heavier breads for another purpose.  This is dainty food experience.
  • You may make these lower in fat by using lower fat mayo.
  • Be frugal and dry out the crusts to use bread crumbs or your croutons (invented by Count Rumsford who also invented the soup kitchen)

Here are a few modern interpretations of Victorian tea fare, which were posted by fellow marketer Cameron Freeman.


the lovely cucumber sandwich

  1. After cutting off the crusts of the bread and cutting the bread into triangles or shapes, butter both sides of the bread.
  2. Cut seedless cucumber (look for the ones wrapped in cellophane) into very thin slices, and place between bread slices.
  3. Garnish if desired.


  1. Mix one can of tuna (drained) with tuna seasoning and enough mayonaise to make a thick spread.
  2. Spread on prepared slices of bread. You may add thin slices of cucumber if desired along with garnish.


  1. Spread cream cheese on prepared slices of bread.
  2. Place thin slices of smoked salmon between slices of bread.

Cucumber and Smoked Salmon

  1. Slice english (seedless) cucumber as thinly as possible and pat dry on paper towels.  Peel the cucumber if you wish.
  2. Spread softened unsalted butter on white or whole wheat bread, layer with smoked salmon.  If using hot smoked salmon, crumble and press into the bread.
  3. layer with cucumber slices and top. Cut into desired shape, trimming the crusts.


  1. Mix sectioned boiled egg and mayonnaise (or use store bought egg salad) and season as desired.
  2. Spread on slices of prepared bread.
  3. Add thin slices of cucumber if desired, along with garnish.


*watercress provides a bit of crunch.

  1. Spread cream cheese on prepared slices of bread.
  2. Rinse and dry watercress and lay between slices of bread.
  3. Garnish if desired.

Coronation Chicken Sandwich

Coronation chicken: God Save the Queen

Coronation Chicken is not period specific to Downton, but you may hear about it this year as Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jublilee.   It is actually a recipe that was created in 1953, for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth.  Coronation chicken may have been inspired by jubilee chicken, a dish prepared for the silver jubilee of George V in 1935.  This is a lighter version.

  • 2 chicken breasts (you can used cooked chicken to speed up the process)
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, light/lite or fat-free
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • ¼ – 1/3 cup mango chutney
  • slices of bread, white or wheat


  1. Use left over chicken or poach the chicken breasts by boiling them in a saucepan until cooked through. Cool then chop up or grate the chicken coarsely. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with sour cream or yogurt.
  2. In a small cup, make a paste with the curry powder and water. Stir the curry into the chicken mixture. Add the mango chutney to taste.
  3. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.
  4. Spread the mixture between slices of bread. Cut off the crusts (optional) and slice into triangles or rectangles.