Tea at the shelbourne scaled

Tea and the Easter Rising

The Shelbourne Hotel.

Recipes | By Margaret M. Johnson

The Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green has been the social center of Dublin since it opened its doors in 1824. This historic building has always been an integral part of the city’s literary, social, culinary, and artistic traditions, including serving as the venue for the drafting of the Irish Constitution in 1922. The Lord Mayor’s Lounge, where afternoon tea is served daily, is a place where the ritual is so fiercely followed that not even the Easter Rising (Easter Monday, April 24 to Saturday, April 29, 1916) could keep the fine ladies of Dublin from their tea and cakes. While researching afternoon tea rituals for my new cookbook “Teatime in Ireland,” I was amazed to find this historical note recently added to the afternoon tea menu:

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“In her book ‘The Shelbourne,’ Irish author Elizabeth Bowen described how the unruffled gentlewomen arrived at the hotel that fateful Easter Monday, dressed in their best and sporting their new Easter bonnets:

. . .bobbling millinery and smiling faces

appeared on the farther side of the barricades;

and scrambling nimbly round the obstruction,

the tea-time parties began to come surging in.

While there was some question of whether tea might be more safely served in the library than in the “sunny and splendid” drawing room, there was never any question of cancelling the event. Tea must and would be served and whatever was happening outside the walls of the Shelbourne could wait. The pots of tea and pastries were brought out, spirits were high and civilized conversation flowed. When a stray bullet flew through the window and clipped one petal of a rose in a lady’s hat, the guests finally agreed to move to another room, but they took their tea with them” and probably their scones, a staple on the menu for decades.

The Shelbourne (27 St. Stephen’s Green) is now a member of Marriott’s “Autograph Collection” (www.theshelbourne.com).

The Lord Mayor’s Lounge.


MAKES 16 to 18

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 ounce cold butter, cut into pieces

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 large egg, beaten

Softened butter and jam, for serving

Clotted cream and lemon curd, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; stir in sugar. With a pastry blender, two forks, or your fingers, cut or work in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center, and with a wooden spoon, stir in buttermilk and egg until mixture forms soft dough.

3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll out or pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round. With a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut into rounds; reroll scraps and cut out additional rounds.

4. Transfer scones to prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until risen and browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve with butter, jam, clotted cream, and lemon curd.


It’s impossible to think of eating a scone without butter or jam — strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant, or orange marmalade among the most popular — and nearly impossible to think of eating one without clotted cream and lemon curd, too. If you’d like to make your own rather than buy any of these tea time essential, you’ll love these recipes.


MAKES 4 (1/2-pint) jars

2 1/4 pounds strawberries, rinsed and hulled

2 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1. Sterilize four 1/2-pint canning jars and lids (see Note).

2. In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine strawberries and sugar; sprinkle lemon juice on top. Leave for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Turn heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring gently, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to boil, stirring frequently, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until mixture thickens and temperature registers 220°F on a candy thermometer; skim off any foam that develops.

4. Ladle mixture into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with a dampened cloth and seal with lids.

Note: To sterilize jars and lids, run them through a high heat or sanitize cycle of your dishwasher, or put them in a large pot of water, bring to a boil, and let water boil for about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to simmer and leave jars and lids in water until ready to fill. Dry thoroughly just before filling.


MAKES 1 3/4 cups

Lemon curd is a rich, tart, thick spread that has been associated with afternoon tea since the eighteenth century. It‘s delicious spread on scones, toast, English muffins, or crumpets.

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1. In top of double boiler set over simmering water, whisk eggs until frothy. Stir in sugar until blended; add butter, lemon zest and juice.

2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until mixture thickens and coats back of a spoon. Pour into two small jars; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.


MAKES 1 cup

Traditionally made by gently simmering large vats of milk until a thick layer of cream can be skimmed off the top, authentic clotted cream has the consistency of soft butter. Also known as Devon, Cornish, or English clotted cream, it’s sold in small jars in most supermarkets.

2/3 cups heavy (whipping) cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine cream and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir gently until mixture simmers (do not let it boil). Cook, stirring constantly, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until mixture is reduced by half and starts to thicken.

2. Remove from heat, transfer to a shallow glass dish and let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Just before serving, whip cream until mixture is smooth and thick. Store unused clotted cream in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Margaret Johnson’s “Recipes” page now includes “Ireland Hopping: Adventures in Food, Drink, and Travel.” For further details on her work, including how to order her cookbooks, visit www.irishcook.com