Published in New Hampshire Seasons Holidays 2000
"You are cordially invited to join us for Afternoon Tea on Boxing Day"
Tea, and particularly Afternoon Tea, is a longstanding English tradition and never more so than during the Christmas Season. Many parts of Europe start celebrating the holiday season beginning with December 6th when St. Nicholas visits the children of the Netherlands and so it continues until the Feast of the Epiphany (the visit of the Magi or Three Wise Men) on January 6th which is also the last day of the official twelve days of Christmas that started on Christmas Eve.
In England we also celebrate the day after Christmas Day as Boxing Day, a day when horse racing reigns supreme, or a visit to the Pantomime for the children or perhaps a get-together with friends for a Christmas Tea. We are all so careful about calories but Christmas is the time to indulge and what better way to do that than by tempting ourselves with a delectable selection of goodies, many of which can be made in advance.
The centerpiece of a Tea Table - the pièce de resistance- has to be a cake. Of course, at Christmas, this has to be truly spectacular and indulgent and what else fits the bill but chocolate. In England we have the Yule Log, known in France as Bûche de Noel. This is a very old tradition dating back to the time of the Druids when a log would be dragged into the home on what is now Christmas Eve and left to burn slowly throughout the twelve days of Christmas. This was meant to keep away evil spirits, burning away bad luck. A small piece of the log was kept in the home until the following year when it would be used to light the new log. Since so few homes have a fireplace capable of a log of such a size we make a chocolate version. In France it is usual to fill it with a chestnut filling since it is possible to buy sweetened chestnut purée ready made.
Easy Mousse au Chocolat
The Art of Tea
There are many teas easily available in America. My personal favorite is Earl Grey so named for Charles, the second Earl Grey. I drink this constantly, always made in a teapot, not with a tea bag in a mug. Other choices are Orange Pekoe, Darjeeling, and English Breakfast Tea. It is possible to buy boxes with a variety of different teas to explore. This time of the year, there are many gift sets available. For those of you new to tea, tea does contain caffeine and will also produce withdrawal symptoms the same as coffee.
We would also serve a selection of small cakes or pastries as part of the tea. Imagine the days when the ladies would gather together in the afternoon with beautiful big picture hats, gloves and pretty dresses. Choose pastries that would evoke this atmosphere. Nut breads and donuts have no place here.
My web site, www.Geocities.com/CookingwithOonagh, has recipes for the following, which would be suitable:
English Scones with jam and cream
- these are an absolute necessity!
Then we would still need to add in some savory items to round out the tea party. Make sandwiches from white or whole meal bread. Choose thin bread lightly spread with butter or mayo and filled with slices of cheese and cucumber, cut off the crusts and cut into triangles.. You can also cut the sandwiches into decorative shapes with metal cookie cutters, stack white and whole meal together and cut in fingers, or make into pinwheel sandwiches. Everything should be dainty and last for only two mouthfuls. No doorstep sandwiches allowed.
Other fillings could be:
Then finally, to turn this into a really special Afternoon Tea since it is Christmas after all, we could have some Champagne. It doesn't have to be the most expensive bottle available. Ballatore make an acceptable bottle of champagne for about $6 and there are good non-alcoholic champagnes available. To make the champagne go further and be less intoxicating, mix it with orange juice to make what we call 'Bucks Fizz' which sounds so much more mysterious than mimosa. Was this drink named for Buckingham Palace also known as Buck House or was it named for the aristocratic young males also called Bucks who would drink champagne they way we drink juice or soda?
To finish, have fun getting out your prettiest china. It doesn't matter if you don't have matching cups and saucers. Encourage your friends to bring their own cup and saucer and a story to go with it. Set the table with a tablecloth, small plates, forks and real napkins and prepare to enjoy yourself.
For your own printer friendly copy, go to my web site at http://www.Geocities.com/CookingWithOonagh
Oonagh Williams has a Culinary Arts Degree, is a qualified teacher, a frequent guest on WMUR ABC channel 9's Cooks Corner, teaches a variety of International Cooking Classes and offers a catering and Personal Chef service. Contact Oonagh on 424-6412 or visit her web site at www.Geocities.com/CookingwithOonagh.