I love tea parties! When I think of tea parties, I think of: warm lazy summer afternoons, garden settings, white wrought-iron tables and chairs, exquisite linen, antique tea pots and cups, pink and white peony center pieces, crumbly vanilla scones accompanied by homemade strawberry jam and English cream, dainty tea sandwiches, lemon cake loaves and delicate pastries, chocolate covered strawberries, an assortment of hot and cold fine aromatic teas, champagne, flowery frilly dresses, elongated white gloves, eccentric hats, delicate summer umbrellas, and long “refined” conversation.
I love them so much that I even started them at work; they are so much less committal than potlucks. Tea parties don’t have to be pretentious, nor frivolous. Many important issues have been discussed over tea. Our very own Parliament Hill commemorates a very historic event for Canadians, in which a famous tea party (and its significance) is prominently depicted.
I was sick like a dog that weekend, but did not cancel my tea party. Coordinating three busy schedules was not easy, so my husband got the house in presentable order and I slowly took care of the modest spread. Everything had to be perfect. These weren’t ordinary ladies coming over, but the vibrant, strong, independent women, forever friends, and former colleagues I worked with five years ago in my previous life. They were my mentors in an environment that was less than hospitable. I can’t tell you how much I learned from them.
For me, every tea party needs something sweet, something savoury and something in between. I served vanilla scones (the in between) with my homemade strawberry jam. I used Trish Magwood’s apple and cheddar tea sandwiches (the savoury) recipe, but of course, had to embellish it. In this case, the extra tartness from the green apple and the depth of the old, white cheddar easily surpass the classic apple and cheddar combination. Nonetheless, I felt this combo needed something a little green to liven it up. Between the apple and cheddar layers, I added generous sprigs of chives and whole basil leaves. That sweet burst of basil is like biting into a doughnut and discovering the jam filling smack-dab in the middle! The sweet basil balances the tartness of the green apple and together they mellow the sharpness of the old cheddar. You’ll notice that I don’t cut off the crusts; they contain too much flavour, nutrients and texture.
I reduced the amount of honey added to the Dijon preferring to build on the sweetness from the fig and walnut loaf instead (Trish used a raisin and walnut loaf). You should recognize the blueberry lemon loaf (the sweet); it is the muffin recipe I posted earlier. Instead of chocolate covered strawberries, I chose to serve green figs because they are second only to strawberries, they happen to be in season right now, and when ripe, ooze a fig-like goodness, which pairs beautifully with scones. It was a hot day, so I opted for an iced tea, Greenbush Passion fruit, a caffeine-free, organic tea from South Africa, with fruity-floral overtones, which I purchased from Nectar: Fine Teas, one of my favourite tea shops in the city, and served in my most elegant wine glasses, completely unnecessary, but very pretty! The flowers on my table were big, bright sunflowers, which always remind me of my father. I love their smiley faces.
What a lovely way to spend an afternoon, at a tea party that, without notice, goes on longer than expected because you’re having too much fun. We laughed. We disagreed (of course). We remembered. We got caught up.
This sandwich combination works well for a fast lunch during the week!! I thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Serves 3 (with accompaniments, makes 20 miniature tea sandwiches)
|Loaf, fig & walnut, thinly sliced||1 (10 slices)|
|Mustard, Dijon||2 tbsp|
|Cheddar, old, white, slices||5|
|Chives, sprigs||15 (3 per sandwich)|
|Basil, leaves||15 (3 per sandwich)|
|Apple, green, thinly sliced||1|
- Slice large loaf into 10 thin slices (to make 5 sandwiches).
- In a tiny bowl, mix mustard and honey; set aside.
- Thinly slice apple with a mandolin or a sharp knife. Remove core.
- Generously spread one of two slices per sandwich with honey mustard.
- Top with a single layer each of cheese, chives, basil leaves, and apple slices.
- Top with second slice of bread.
- Cut each sandwich length-wise and then cross-wise into four pieces to make a total of 20 miniature sandwiches.