Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/8/2018 (1050 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When my kids were small, we used to have tea parties — fairly often — with real china, herbal or decaf tea and all the fixins. Candles, cloth napkins, a table cloth, a fancy sugar bowl, a dish of honey and a pretty plate with something to nibble on were set on the table. They loved seeing and handling beautiful things and that fun bit of practise meant we could take our kids to any restaurant and they always behaved well. (Except for that one time we went straight from the airplane to the HoJo’s in Toronto... probably our fault.)
There have been lots of tea party cookbooks, but I do wish I’d had one like A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh (Skyhorse Publishing / Thomas Allen & Son, $29.99). It’s a book after my own heart and it would have been fun to go through it together to plan our little soirées and connect them to the books we loved.
Alison Walsh is food blogger who specializes in recipes inspired by favourite books (and some pop culture). She can be found at Alison’s Wonderland Recipes (wonderlandrecipes.com), a really delightful website worth a look. Some of her recipes have also been featured on MuggleNet, a Harry Potter fan website.
Walsh’s recipes are simple, imaginative and accessible to cooks of any skill level. They will set you up for elegant little tea parties suitable for a book club, bridal or baby showers, birthdays or any other little get together where you’d like to be seated and sipping tea.
Recipes include both savouries and sweets, tea pairings and add-ins to perk up plain cups, basic brewing instructions and some non-tea sipping alternatives. You’ll find her pantry list and some cooking tips. For book club members, there’s a reference list at the back. The illustrations are lovely.
The one thing missing is a list of tea-time accoutrements which, in the scheme of things, would be nice to have for planning, as well as notes on table settings. To help you out, there are lists of these things on line, just google: tea party checklist. Here’s a rather nice site with a diagram and a free printable checklist from Canadian blogger Lu Ann Pannunzio at The Cup of Life.
Choose your occasion and set your tea table with these three recipes excerpted from A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh, copyright © 2018, with permission from Skyhorse Publishing.
Apple of Life Bites
from The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis:
"He knew which was the right tree at once, partly because it stood in the very center and partly because the great silvery apples with which it was loaded shone so and cast a light of their own down on the shadowy places where the sunlight did not reach."
This easy snack brings together sweet-tart apples, salty bacon, savory pecans and smooth crème de brie for a fun twist on apple slices.
Makes 8 apple disks
4 slices bacon
1 Granny Smith apple
125 ml (1/2 cup) (approximately 70 g or 2.5 oz) crème de Brie
15 ml (3 tsp) pecan chips, toasted if desired
Fry the bacon and allow it to drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Chop the bacon into bits.
Core and slice the apple into 1/4-inch-thick disks.
Spread each disk with 15 ml (1 tbsp) of crème de Brie. Sprinkle on the pecan chips and chopped bacon. Serve at a magnificent Narnian feast!
Bread and Butterflies
from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll:
"Its wings are thin slices of Bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar."
The key to a good cucumber sandwich is delicacy and quality ingredients. Things like slicing the cucumbers thin and splurging on fancy butter (such as Kerrygold) go a long way here!
Makes 10 bite-size sandwiches
50 ml (1/4 cup) softened butter
15 ml (1 tbsp) snipped fresh chives
10 slices white bread*
1-2 mini cucumbers, cut into 20 thin disks
10 7.5-cm (3-inch) lengths fresh chives
10 small sprigs fresh dill**
A 2 1/2-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter
In a small bowl, mix the butter with the snipped fresh chives and set aside.
Cut your bread into 20 hearts (you should get 2 hearts from each slice). Thinly spread the chive butter onto the hearts.
Cut 10 of your cucumber disks in half to make half-moon shapes. On 10 of your hearts, place 1 full disk near the bottom of each heart and a half-moon piece in each of the two curves near the top. It should look like the image below.
Place your remaining hearts on top, butter side down. Place a 7.5-cm (3-inch) length of chive down the centre of each sandwich and 2 tufts of dill on each "wing." Serve at a Mad Tea Party!
* Breads that come in wider loaves like oatmeal bread work well for this recipe, since it will be easier to cut two hearts from each slice.
** Use enough to put 4 tiny tufts of dill on each sandwich.
Miss Marple’s "Pocket Full of Rye" Tea Sandwiches
from A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie:
"She may have accused Crump, you know. And then he lost his head and perhaps managed to put something in the sandwiches and Gladys saw him do it... " — Mrs. Percival
These delicious rye sandwiches come in three classic teatime varieties: cucumber with herbed butter, homemade egg salad, and smoked salmon with caper-onion cream cheese.
They’re traditional enough for Miss Marple’s tastes but substantial enough to revitalize you after a hard day’s sleuthing.
Makes 9 small sandwiches
1 mini cucumber
3 ml (3/4 tsp) nonpareil capers
15 ml (1 tbsp) red onion, finely chopped
125 g (4 oz) softened cream cheese
15 slices rye bread
60 ml (4 tbsp) herbed butter*
125 ml (1/2 cup) egg salad (your recipe)
2-3 slices smoked salmon
Slice the cucumber into thin disks and set aside. Mix the capers and onion into the cream cheese until well combined. Set aside.
Trim the crust from the bread. Cut 6 of the slices into squares, 6 into circles, and the final 3 into rectangles. Then cut the 3 rectangles into 6 triangles by slicing them in half diagonally.
This will leave you with enough triangles, circles, and squares to make 3 sandwiches of each shape.
Spread the herbed butter on the triangles and cream cheese mix on the squares. Top half the triangles with cucumber slices and half the squares with pieces of salmon, trimmed to fit. Spoon egg salad onto half of the circles.
Place the remaining bread shapes on top. Serve for afternoon tea after a thrilling murder investigation!
* To make herbed butter, mix 5 ml (1 tsp) fresh or dried herb of your choice into softened butter until combined.