Downton-Inspired English Afternoon Tea

Saturday, December 9, 2017

I have been rewatching Downton Abbey lately, and boy have I been inspired.  Between being incredibly frustrated that my hair isn't long enough to style in Edwardian updos and obsessively searching Etsy for tea dresses, I have been craving elaborate dinners and teas.  Though, not all impressive meals have to be complicated and elaborate to make.  

But there are other influences for this particular meal.  When I was a kid my grandma would let my sister and I have tea parties using her best linens and china.  We were exceptionally careful children who would never break the fine china, and also probably a little spoiled.  She would order and pick up petite fours from the bakery and brew some tea, and we would serve ourselves and honestly I never felt so classy in my life.  Though it wasn't traditional, it was still super fancy (especially for a kid).

Maybe that's where it started, but my sister and I have been obsessed with English culture ever since.  We huddled around the TV for the Royal Wedding, love pub food, and make English countryside meals more often than we probably should.  Though I am proud of my Scandinavian influence, heritage, and mannerisms, we are first and foremost English (and equal parts Irish and Scottish) and do feel a deep connection to Mother England.  We visited England and Scotland when I was 14 and she was 18, and I don't know about her, but it felt like coming home for me. One day soon I'll return with Alex, and I'm sure I'll be a big ball of excited fast-talking spazz jello the whole time.

One thing that has always captivated me about English culture is the formality of their traditions.  Everything has a reason and a place, and it's something that English folks are born knowing it seems.  My grandmother is from the South, but is very English in many ways (her grandmother came to the States).  I learned from her how to set a table, which fork is for what, and what to do with your napkin when you get up from the table (hint: it does not go on the table!).  I'm sure she never told me these things outright, but I learned from her example.

I decided to recreate a traditional English Afternoon Tea, which is sometimes confused with High Tea, though it's important to note that they are not the same event.  High tea is eaten at "high chairs" at a set table.  Afternoon tea is had in a salon or lounge in armchairs.  The order of food that's eaten is also important.  Savories are eaten first, followed by scones, then sweets.  The hostess will pour the tea, unless you are having tea at a tea house, in which the person closest to the pot as it's set on the table will pour.  The spoon is never to remain in the cup while you're drinking, and the cup should be picked up with both hands (please don't put your pinkie up...). Royale tea is even different still, and my favorite, with Champagne served at the beginning and Sherry at the end.  The food is really the best part of the tea, and I wouldn't be too troubled about which tea to serve.  Just remember that milk goes in before sugar.

The menu is simple, and easy to recreate with various dietary differences.

Coronation Chick'n Sandwiches:

These recipes were inspired by Edwardian fare, but Coronation Chicken wasn't "invented" until 1953, for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Before that, a similar recipe was called "Jubilee Chicken" which was made to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.  There was most likely a similar cold curried chicken dish available in the Edwardian Kitchen, as curry became popular in Britain during the Victorian period. Food was now able to be chilled, with refrigerators entering homes during this time. Similarly, curried eggs are an Edwardian staple.

1 bag Beyond Meat chicken strips (unflavored)
2 tbsp vegenaise
2 tbsp mango chutney
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 red onion
bread slices, your choice, crusts cut off and cut into triangles
(measurements are approximate, as always)

Heat oil in a medium pan, and lightly sear the chicken strips with 1/2 tbsp of the curry powder.  Just enough to heat the chicken through. Remove from heat, chop.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped cooked chicken with the rest of the ingredients. Mix until everything is distributed evenly and chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.

Spoon mixture onto bread slices and serve immediately while still cold.

Vegan Rosemary Scones:

2 1/2 cups flour
6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
about 3/4 tbsp salt
about 4 sprigs rosemary, minced
6 tbsp vegan butter
1 cup soymilk, vanilla

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking power, salt, nutmeg and rosemary.  Add in butter and mix until course.   Stir in the soy milk until dough consistency.  Wrap dough in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 450.

Remove dough from freezer and knead on floured surface.  Flatten into a disk and cut into wedges.  Transfer wedges to a parchment or aluminum lined baking sheet or dish and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Serve alongside strong Earl Grey tea.

1 comment on "Downton-Inspired English Afternoon Tea"
  1. It’s nice of you to share this amazing recipe in your post. I’ll be celebrating my birthday next week at one of the best NYC venues and I’m throwing a party for friends and family on the occasion. Will be preparing most of the food items for the party myself, so I’ve been browsing online for some good recipe ideas.