Merrion Tea in Garden.
By Margaret M. Johnson
In our new reality of curbside pick-up, front door delivery, drive-thru dining, and just about any method of food and drink “to go,” let’s not forget the idea of an old-fashioned picnic in the park, a lovely way to celebrate summer and the great outdoors. I was reminded of this when I saw that even the five-star Merrion Hotel in Dublin was offering its “Garden Afternoon Tea at Home,” a pick-up service “to savor in the comfort of your own home or garden” . . . a bottle of rosé Champagne is optional! I haven’t seen this tea service offered anywhere near where I live, but I love the idea of an elegant do-it-yourself picnic that you can enjoy in your own back yard or at your local park. The good news is that an afternoon tea menu— sandwiches, scones and tea cakes — is one of the easiest to prepare and pack, so keep this newest “to go” meal in mind for your next outdoor excursion. And don’t forget the tea!
You’ll find these and other delicious ideas for afternoon tea in my new cookbook Teatime in Ireland; signed copies available at irishcook.com.
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An old-fashioned tea party.
CHICKEN, BACON AND TOMATO TEA SANDWICHES
Many afternoon tea rooms subscribe to the theory that there’s no need for a sandwich recipe per se, as quality ingredients and good bread make a good sandwich: think slices of roast chicken, strips of crisp bacon, and sliced ripe tomatoes. For a great sandwich, top this with avocado mayonnaise (keep the mayonnaise in a small container and spread at serving time).
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Ground black pepper
12 slices wheat bread
6 slices roasted chicken
6 slices bacon
6 slices tomato
1. In a small bowl, mash avocado; whisk in mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for up 1 day.
2. With a serrated knife, trim bread slices and discard crusts. Spread a thick layer of avocado mayonnaise onto 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange slices of chicken, bacon, and tomato on top; cover with baby greens. Cover with remaining bread slices. With a serrated knife, cut sandwiches in half. Serve immediately or cover with a damp tea towel or paper towels and refrigerate until ready to serve.
This recipe diverts from the traditional shape as the scones are baked in a scone pan that produces perfectly shaped little wedges that are perfect for packing. Bring jars of clotted cream and lemon curd for topping.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon zest
4 ounces cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
3/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing tops
Softened butter, for serving
Clotted cream and lemon curd, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat oven 350º F. Spray a mini cast iron scone pan with cooking oil spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. With a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and buttermilk. Make a well in center, and with a wooden spoon, stir into flour mixture until mixture forms soft dough; fold in blueberries.
3. Spoon batter into prepared pan and brush tops with egg wash. Bake for 30 to 32 minutes, or until tops are golden. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve with butter.
Serves 10 to 12
This torte, served with a big bowl of whipped cream at Castlewood House in Dingle, Co. Kerry, is a beautiful balance of dark chocolate and whiskey. Finish your teatime picnic with a slice of this cake and a glass of Rosé Champagne!
4 ounces butter
8 ounces (70% cocoa solids) dark chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
Whipped cream, for serving (optional for a picnic)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan and dust with flour; tap out excess.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until sizzling. Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until smooth; let cool.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and salt; whisk in eggs and whiskey until smooth.
4. Stir brown sugar into cooled chocolate mixture and then stir into flour mixture.
5. Transfer to prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Release sides of pan and let cake cool completely before cutting into slices.
Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page also includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, or to order a signed copy of her new cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” visit www.irishcook.com