Thursday, 10 May 2012

Recipes For An Anniversary Tea

I promised that I would share the recipes for our anniversary tea with you - and here they are.

I am afraid there aren't any photographs (the one above is of a cake that I made on another occasion) because there just was not time, on our anniversary - using the webcam on the laptop makes it a little more awkward than just pointing and clicking as you would with a camera, and in all truth I did not even think of it until much later on - we were all so busy enjoying ourselves!  But I shall nevertheless endeavour to share the main recipes, and hope you will still be inspired to try some of them!

For the first course of our meal we had salad and sandwiches - the fillings were quite simple.  Smoked salmon may sound fancy, but in fact if you buy the packs of "trimmings" that all the major supermarkets sell, it is not at all expensive.  I normally serve it on wholegrain bread spread with plain cream cheese (we use the low fat "Philadelpia" brand) and thinly sliced cucumber (patted dry with kitchen paper first) and seasoned with just a little pepper.  The ham and English mustard sandwiches are very simple to make and again, I use the condiment to hold the filling together, rather than butter, which we don't find necessary in sandwiches.   English mustard is a little stronger than its American and continental counterparts, so if you choose to use this, go very sparingly!  Finally the egg and cress, a traditional English tea-time sandwich, which we have on mixed grain bread.  For this filling I hard-boil eggs (about 10 minutes) and then cool.  Once shelled, I add low fat mayonnaise and lots of home-grown cress!  We grow our cress from seed on our kitchen windowsill - even though we don't have a garden, we can still grow our own food!  When making sandwiches of any sort, I tend to use "bought" bread - the sliced kind - as this makes a neater, slimmer sandwich (you don't want "doorstops" for a tea party!) and I normally trim off the crusts too, to make them even more elegant!  Occasionally I will use a large cookie cutter to make sandwiches in novelty shapes - particularly at Christmas, or on St. Valentine's Day, when you can easily make heart shaped sandwiches to please your loved ones!

I have shared the scone and cheese straw recipes before - they are both from Taste of Home, as is the spinach and strawberry salad.  I normally make a double batch of the scones and cheese straws so that they can be eaten for lunches too!  They are best served warm however - straight out of the oven, if you can manage to time it that way.  They can sit happily on the baking trays before being baked for a while without coming to harm, so I normally prepare them a little in advance, and then get them into the oven just before I set the table and we are ready to eat.  The salad too tastes best if you let it sit for a while and allow the flavours to blend, but don't add the nuts until the last minute!

Now for the sponge cake!  A Victoria sponge (as pictured above, this one had lemon buttercream and a glace icing frosting made with lemon juice instead of milk) is simply a basic sandwich cake, made with 6 oz butter, 6 oz of caster sugar, 3 eggs and 6 oz flour.  In point of fact, it is named after our favourite monarch, Queen Victoria, and is an absolute standard at an English tea party - you can't have one without it! As we are big cake eaters in our family, I tend to make an 8/8/8/4 cake, but bake it in the same size tins as the recipe states for the smaller quantites.  This gives you a beautiful cake that looks like it rose really wonderfully - even if it didn't!  You might need to adjust the cooking times accordingly if you use this technique.  I like to vary the filling and frosting according to the occasion - sometimes in the summer using fresh fruit and whipped cream with nothing but a sprinkle of sugar on the top, other times I use vanilla buttercream with plain frosting tinted pink.  It makes a great birthday cake, especially for childrens' parties, as it is quite plain, but still very delicious!  The traditional treatment is to sandwich it with just strawberry or raspberry preserves, and not to frost it, but I think we like it best the way we had it on Friday last week for our anniversary - with cherry jam and vanilla buttercream, and a plain frosting decorated with pink heart sprinkles!

Now for the trifle.  An English trifle is quite different to an American trifle for one particular reason.  I have made, and we have all enjoyed, many American trifles, such as Taste of Home's caramel apple trifle.  But an English trifle has an altogether different texture and appearance.   In the main this is because the sponge cake - in England you can buy packs of sponge cakes specifically manufactured to put into trifles - (called, not surprisngly, "trifle sponges"!) is soaked with a liquid - usually sweet sherry or another type of alcohol, but in our case, the juice from 2 cans of raspberries.  This gives the trifle a softer, more puddingy texture than the American recipes we have eaten.  Normally the sponges are placed in the dish that the trifle is going to be eaten in, and then the liquid is poured over them and they are left to absorb it for at least 2 hours.  After this time, the next layer is added - usually fruit, and on top of this, a layer of vanilla custard.  Sometimes jelly (flavoured gelatine) is added before the custard, but we do not care for this so I have always omitted it.   Finally, a thick layer of whipped cream is put on top, and the surface sprinkled with flaked almonds and glace cherries.

A traditional English trifle recipe is as follows -

1 pint custard (I use canned - 2 14 oz cans are sufficient)
1 vanilla sponge cake, or 1 pack trifle sponges, broken into inch size cubes.  You can also use "ladyfinger" biscuits, but in this case reduce the liquid to 100 mls or they will become too soft.
150 mls liquid of your choice - sherry is the traditional choice, but we use raspberry juice or cherry juice
The drained contents of 2 14 oz cans of a fruit of your choice - mandarins, peaches or apricots are nice as well as raspberries, or you can use a mixture.  If using fresh fruit, I would advise you to stew it first for a few minutes and then cool before using (drain any liquid off beforehand).
300 mls heavy cream, whipped
40 g flaked almonds
50 g glace cherries

Start by placing the cake pieces in the base of the dish you are going to serve the trifle in.

Pour the liquid over this, and set aside for at least 2 hours so that the cake absorbs it all.

Add the fruit if using, spreading across the soaked cake pieces.

Pour over the custard and spread to cover the entire base of the trifle.

Cover this with the whipped cream - it may need loosening with a little milk to begin with until you have got a layer covering the custard.

Sprinkle with the almonds and cherries.

It is ready to eat now, but can be put aside in the fridge for a few hours without coming to harm.  The next day it will still taste just as good, but not look quite so pretty!

We like raspberry trifle best, and I often serve it in individual sundae glasses, so that you can see the pretty layers inside (we don't have a large, clear glass dish).  I also vary the flavour sometimes by using a chocolate Swiss (jelly) roll as the cake, chocolate custard, and canned black cherries instead to create a "Black Forest" version.  Yum!  I'm afraid to say that whenever I make a trifle, there are never any left overs, because everyone in our family loves it so much! 

We did have a delicious meal last week when we celebrated our wedding anniversary - but we weren't very hungry the next day!