‘M’ is for May Showers. This means mothers-to-be, not to mention brides-to-be, will have a celebration in their honour during the month of May. As the hostess, you want to make sure the guest of honour feels like a queen for the day. A festive afternoon tea meets with huge approval. It requires a prettily set table with fresh linens, your best china and bouquets of flowers that complement the room, not to mention a selection of delicious foods (menu suggestions are listed below) and a choice of teas. You are guaranteed hugs and an even bigger thank you!
Afternoon Tea Menu
• Cucumber sandwiches (Montmartre Bakery, 105 Midwest, Midland and Lawrence, 416-757-7771, makes excellent bread and slices it extra thin or horizontally for party sandwiches).
• Open-faced smoked salmon sandwiches on rye with lemon, dill and finely sliced green onions (Kristapsons Inc., 1095 Queen Street East, 416-466-5152, carry the best cold smoked salmon).
• Devilled eggs (yes, they are old-fashioned but people love them) or Scotch eggs (see recipe below). People love these too and they are a little more unusual.
• Any other tasty sandwich on good bread cut into fingers with crusts cut off – these are guaranteed to please. One of the most popular sandwiches is the banana and peanut butter roll done on bread cut horizontally. However, make sure there are no peanut allergies.
• Something chocolate, in this case, my mother’s recipe for oatmeal squares are designed to WOW! Not to mention freshly made scones served piping hot with whipped cream and strawberry or raspberry jam.
If you make this selection accompanied with a huge pot or pots of tea, you will make all your guests feel like queens for the day!
Although this sounds like a humble item, the simple ingredients when combined and cooked produce the most decadent treat imaginable! It was always my Mother’s emergency recipe because it was simple to prepare and only needed one bowl to wash (under 20 minutes preparation time) and everyone loved them.
1/2 cup (125 ml) melted butter
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup (125 ml) sweetened flake coconut
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 tsp (1 ml) salt
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) semi-sweet pure chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line nine inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
In glass bowl, melt butter, then stir in oatmeal, coconut, brown sugar, vanilla and salt until well combined. Spoon mixture into prepared pan, spreading evenly and pressing lightly (including corners). Bake 15-20 minutes or until deep golden brown and bubbly.
Remove from oven. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Allow to melt. Spread melted chips with a knife and make decorative swirls with the tines of a fork. Allow to cool. Cut into 24 squares.
This version is simple to make and sure to please. Cut each egg in half or in quarters to serve with Dijon mustard.
6 hard-cooked eggs
1 lb (450 g) sausage meat from Schneider’s skinless sausages
2 cups (500 ml) fresh bread crumbs made in a blender or food processor, about four slices of bread (do not use commercial bread crumbs)
To hard cook eggs: this also works well for devilled eggs and egg salad sandwiches, always a popular item for tea. Place eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water one inch above eggs. Bring water to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and allow to boil gently for 10 minutes. Immediately drain and plunge into ice-cold water. Peel shells. To easily peel, crack around the circumference and the shell should come away in two neat parts. Rinse eggs to remove any shell and pat dry.
To make Scotch Eggs:
Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Divide the sausage meat into six equal portions, about two and a half sausages per egg. Mash in your hand and put the egg on top of the sausage meat, pressing the meat around the egg to completely coat. Dip into a bowl of fresh breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Bake on prepared baking sheet 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on rack. Can be made several hours or a day ahead. Slice and serve.
I know this sounds like a terrible name, but it is truly delicious and has a multitude of uses. One chief one for an afternoon tea is as a filling for tiny tarts. The intense lemon flavour is addictive and nicely complimented with a thin slice of strawberry on top.
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated lemon rind
Whisk together sugar, eggs, lemon juice and grated lemon rind until smooth in a stainless steel saucepan, then heat over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Nothing will happen for the first two minutes, but do not move away; the sauce heats up quickly then thickens rapidly. Once this happens, it can burn. Watch it carefully. Once the sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat and whisk continually for about one minute. Remove from heat. Spoon lemon curd into a mixing bowl to cool and thicken. Makes about 1 cup / 250 mL. May be kept in the refrigerator covered for up to one week, but it also freezes well for up to two months.
Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer: firstname.lastname@example.org