Last weekend we served up our last afternoon tea of the year, a warming event full of Middle Eastern flavours to bring some spice to a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon. Anne Shooter’s wonderful book Sesame and Spice was our tome for the afternoon, serving up an array of sweet and savoury delights for our guests
To kick off proceedings, guests were welcomed with a welcome drink, our pomegranate fizz. Pomegranate juice and cava, with a dash of grenadine. Think of it as a take on a Kir Royale!
Up first were the savoury dishes – this included a beautiful aubergine tart, which had aubergine 3-ways at the core of it! Puff pastry was topped with baba ganoush, griddled aubergine slices and roasted aubergine wedges. This was baked before being topped with halloumi and a tasty drizzle of honey, pomegranate molasses, mint, chilli and peppery oil. Also on offer were fluffy little flatbreads topped with a salty and piquant black olive tapenade, air dried tomatoes and feta cheese.
These were accompanied with mini bagels filled with lox and a schmear (or smoked salmon and cream cheese!) and garnished with red onion and capers. A very traditional sandwich, but one everyone has got to love! Another pastry element came in the form of spinach and cheese filo parcels. Wilted spinach, feta and egg, spiced with nutmeg. A cheesy spiced delight indeed.
A short respite later, we moved onto sweet treats. As a nice lead up to the cakes, Dan made some wonderfully short, halva and sumac biscuits. This is essentially a shortbread recipe spiked with nutty halva, sour sumac and fragrant rose sugar – a new taste sensation. Dan tested these out on his colleagues who had no idea what sumac or halva was!
Swiftly after this was my fig and frangipane tart – buttery shortcrust and soft juicy figs surrounded by nutty frangipane and topped off with a honey and orange blossom drizzle and creme fraiche.
Now it was onto the cakes. Firstly spiced pumpkin cake, which was almost like a set custard! The base of this cake was pumpkin puree, lots of sugar and almonds. It came spiked with fruity raisins and festive spices. It was surprisingly light but took an age to bake!
An afternoon tea isn’t an afternoon tea without chocolate and our offering did not disappoint. The chocolate mousse cake consisted of two layers of mousse, firstly baked at the bottom and then a cool, chilled layer on top. Rich, bitter and satisfying this was an extremely light cake but very naughty!
Finally, Dan’s pretty mini saffron, almond and orange cakes were another interesting take on the traditional afternoon tea. These little, moist cakes were heavy with saffron fragrance, almond nuttiness and zesty orange. They came filled with homemade orange marmalade and an extremely naughty saffron buttercream – the leftovers of which Dan is still eating now!
All in all, this was a very enjoyable afternoon. Food wise, Anne Shooter’s book is so full of flavourful, interesting bakes that will (and have) become firm favourites and I think our guests felt the same way. It was once again great to see an array of old faces and new, a couple of our guests last dined with us over three years ago! Speaking of time, in less than a fortnight we’ll be hosting our last event of the year, based on Ottolenghi and Scully’s stunning book Nopi. We’ve already started testing recipes and the menu will be shared in a couple of days, can’t wait!