Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour

It's time to think spring

Spring time is tea time and if you don't have an excuse for tea time entertaining, invent one. You must know someone who is graduating from high school or college, a bride-to-be, a friend or relative in a nursing home, a birthday girl, perhaps some children who would love to come to a tea party.

Giving a tea is so much fun that a dear friend and I used to give an Easter tea every year on the Saturday following Easter Sunday. It was a good excuse for everyone to don their new Easter bonnets and sample some fun bits and bites. Our friends looked forward to it and so did we. We had double the fun because we prepared the food ahead and then hired our friends' children to do the serving.

This was all brought to mind because my dear friend, Dolores Snyder, who is one of the best cooks I know, is an expert on teas and on tea themes menus. She became interested in tea time entertaining when she lived in England and she started working on the book when a British writer suggested that she take pen in hand as there was no good book on Teas in England.

Snyder's book is a lot of fun as it is beautifully decorated with many photos of tables set for tea parties of various kinds in her home. She prepared all of the food (her recipes never disappoint) and she includes well laid plans for a number of teas where you can do most of the preparation well ahead.

"Tea Time Entertaining," would make a welcome gift and is a good value at $35.00 plus shipping. You can send your order directly to: Dolores Snyder, 3409 Hidalgo, Irving, TX 75062.

She does, of course, tell us how to make a good "cuppa," as the Brit's say.

Rules of tea making

Dodie, has a full page on this alone. Here is an abbreviated version.

1. Never make tea in an aluminum pot as they quarrel and produce a dark tea with a foul flavor.

2. To remove tea stains from a teapot, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and fill the pot with boiling water. Let stand 3 hours and rinse well.

3. Always rinse a teakettle before filling it with fresh, cold water.

4. Always rinse a teapot before using with hot tap water.

5. Don't let the water in the teakettle continue to boil as the water will lose its oxygen and its flavor.

6. Empty the tap water from the teapot and add 1 teaspoon of loose tea per cup to the pot and maybe one extra for the pot if you are making a full pot (and why not?).

7. Place the lid on the teapot and let it stand 3 to 7 minutes. Roughly 3 minutes for green tea, 5 minutes for black tea and 7 minutes for oolong. They call this period "the agony of the leaves."

8. If using tea bags the tea will brew more quickly because the smallest grade of tealeaf, known as "dust," is used in the bags.

9. Stir the tea before serving. Dilute with hot water or milk if someone finds it too strong.

10. The longer the brewed tea sits on the leaves, the stronger it becomes and the more bitter.

Victoria Sponge Cake

Named for England's Queen, this was reputed to be her favorite cake. Equal amounts of butter, flour and eggs were the measurement in her day.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup raspberry jam
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and sugar 2 (8-inch) round cake pans whose bottoms have been lined with parchment paper. Cream the butter until light. Add sugar gradually and continue to cream until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly fold in sifted flour a third at time, alternating with the water. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Cool in pans for 5 minutes before turning out onto cooling rack. Remove parchment paper and cool completely. Sandwich layers with raspberry jam and dust top with confectioners sugar. Laying a paper doily over the cake top before shaking confectioners sugar over the cake makes a pretty pattern. Or, when raspberries are in season you can decorate the cake with whipped cream and fresh berries. Makes 10 slices.

Ham and Asparagus Rollups

Dodie says that men love this combination, inspired by the British potted ham. You can garnish each rollup with a slice of cornichon pickle, if you like. I do like.

1 pound smoked ham, rind and fat removed, cubed
1 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
48 pencil-thin asparagus
1 tablespoon salt
48 slices of extra-thin white bread

In food processor pulse together until fine: ham, butter, mustard and Worcestershire. Trim ends of asparagus. Bring large quantity of water to boil and add the salt. Add asparagus to the water and return to boil. Boil for 1 minute, only. Remove asparagus to a large bowl of cold water with ice. Shocking the asparagus in this way will keep it bright green and crunchy. Drain and dry well. De-crust bread with serrated bread knife and spread with ham mixture. Place an asparagus spear on each slice of bread and roll up tightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, unwrap rollups. Place spoke fashion on a cake plate and garnish. Makes 48 servings. Note: If you can't find extra thin slices, flatten regular slices with a rolling pin.

Daniel's Walnut Slices

These very thin cookies are a favorite in the southwest of France where walnuts are plentiful.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups ground walnuts
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
4 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 10 x 15-inch jellyroll pan. In food processor with steel blade, process flour, baking powder, sugar and ground walnuts until mixed. Incorporate butter and egg yolks. Add salt to egg whites and beat until stiff. Gently fold egg whites into flour mixture. Spread batter out to1/4-inch thickness. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Melt chocolate and butter in heavy pan over low heat. Spread over top with rubber scraper. Decorate with walnut halves if desired. Cut into 12 equal squares.

Strawberry Tea Punch

Earl Grey is a perfect match for strawberries. Make sugar syrup by boiling together until clear.

2 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups cold water. This simple syrup keeps forever refrigerated in a covered jar and is nice for sweetening any iced tea, any time.

3 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea
6 cups boiling water
3 lemons, juiced
1 cup sugar syrup
12 mint leaves
1 liter bottled carbonated water
Strawberries, halved

Brew tea 5 minutes, strain and chill. Pour over an ice ring* or ice cubes in punch bowl. Add lemon juice sugar syrup and bruised (to release the flavor and aroma) mint leaves. Add carbonated water just before serving in clear cups or glasses with a strawberry on the edge of the glass. Makes 25 servings, 4 oz. each. *Note: an ice ring is made by filling a ring mold with water and freezing.

What a civilized thing is a tea party!


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