High Tea with Mum

Ahlan! Group Editor Sarah Hedley Hymers shows us how to celebrate Mother’s Day at home
Tuesday , 13 March 2012
Sarah Hedley Hymers
Sarah Hedley Hymers
Heart-shaped bread, made using a cake cutter, adds a special touch to these open sandwiches
Heart-shaped bread, made using a cake cutter, adds a special touch to these open sandwiches
The key to the perfect high tea is in the details – think bite-sized portions and pretty porcelain serving dishes
The key to the perfect high tea is in the details – think bite-sized portions and pretty porcelain serving dishes
Miniature jam pots sit pretty on a cake stand – perfect for your scones
Miniature jam pots sit pretty on a cake stand – perfect for your scones

This month we celebrate Mother’s Day, and what better way to do that than with a ridiculously OTT afternoon tea? The height of culinary fashion, several leading hotels and restaurants now offer flamboyant variations of the classic high tea – while cucumber sandwiches prevail, added extras are increasingly inventive. From tent-shaped cupcakes celebrating festival season in London’s famous Met Bar to the voluptuary violet macaroons at At.Mosphere’s high tea in the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, the sky is literally the limit. Afternoon tea is no longer the preserve of pensioners – it’s had a makeover and the main ingredient is creativity. Better yet, despite being one of the most dramatic meals to adorn a table, very little skill is required in crafting an afternoon tea and much of the spread can be prepared in advance, which equates to an impressive, stress-free way to entertain at home.

This March, my folks were visiting from the UK, so I dusted off my three-tier cake stands and created a Mother’s Day high tea full of my step mum Wendy’s favourite treats: seafood, mocktails and macaroons. I hope my tips inspire you to create your own high tea while solving that yearly dilemma of what to get for mum this March!

Open Heart Sandwiches
Cucumber and cream cheese
4 slices of white bread
150g cream cheese
1 cucumber
Quail eggs to garnish
Smoked salmon and lemon
4 slices brown bread
2 tbsp lemon mayonnaise
100g smoked salmon
Chopped capers and pepper to garnish
Egg and beef bacon
2 hen eggs
2 tbsp mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
Beef bacon bites to garnish

Cucumber and Cream Cheese
1. Lay white bread slices on a chopping board; coat with a layer of cream cheese. Use a vegetable peeler to cut super-thin slices of cucumber and lay in neat stripes over the cheese.
2. Cut out a heart shape with a cake cutter (use a spoon to press down topping before lifting the cutter), then top with a small scoop of cream cheese and a quarter of quail egg.
Smoked salmon and lemon mayonnaise
1. Lay brown bread slices on a chopping board, then coat with a layer of lemon mayo and a thin layer of smoked salmon.
2. Cut out a heart shape with a cake cutter, then top with a small scoop of lemon mayo and chopped capers.
Egg and beef bacon
1. Boil eggs, allow to cool and then peel and put into a bowl with salt, pepper and mayo.
2. Finely mash eggs using the back of the fork, then spread on bread and top with beef bacon bites, made by frying rashers until crisp, then running through a blender once cool.
Homemade Mayonnaise
You can cheat with a shop-bought version if you’re short of time, but nothing beats the taste of fresh homemade mayo – here’s how it’s done...
2 egg yolks
250ml olive or groundnut oil
½ tsp powdered mustard
2 tsp white vinegar (or 2 tsp lemon juice for lemon mayo)
1 tsp salt

1. Mix egg yolks, mustard powder and salt.
2. Add just a splash of oil and thoroughly whisk with an electric mixer. Repeat until you have a thick paste, one drop at a time – do not rush this phase; it’s critical each splash of oil is fully blended. Mayo only curdles when you add the oil too quickly at the beginning.
3. When the paste is thick, add vinegar to thin it, and then slowly pour in the remainder of the oil as you whisk.

Sarah’s Top Tip
As an alternative to hot tea, I served chilled tea-based mocktails in bang-on-trend pretty porcelain tea cups – a favourite accessory of pop sensation Lady Gaga. Try chilled ginger tea with freshly squeezed lime juice for a variation of the classic Moscow mule cocktail.

Fast Flourless Flan
Beat some eggs, drop in your favourite flan ingredients – salmon, mushroom, tomatoes, cottage cheese, peppers, whatever suits – then pour the mix into individual silicon baking cups and place in the oven on a medium heat for 10 minutes, or until top browns. You can test by piercing the centre with a cocktail stick – if it comes out clean, the egg has cooked through.

Sarah’s top tip
Use photo holders to present napkins. I found these cupcakestyle photo holders at Cottage Chic on The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai.

Salad Spoons and Forks
Avocado Crab Salad
1 avocado
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp ketchup (or 1 tsp of horseradish for spicy sauce)
150g shredded crab meat
Smoked paprika
Cherry tomato to garnish
Egg and cucumber salad
4 quail eggs
1 hen egg
1 tbsp mayonnaise
Cucumber to garnish
Serves 4
Avocado Crab Salad
1. Dress the shredded crab with 1 tbsp of mayo and ketchup or horseradish. Set aside. Mash the avocado, 1 tbsp of mayo and the lemon juice in a bowl until smooth and then spoon into a fresh serving spoon. Top with crab mix. Garnish with tomato and smoked paprika.
Egg and cucumber salad
1. Use a teaspoon to scoop egg mayonnaise onto the fork, then skewer a quail egg on the prongs and garnish with cucumber.

Sarah’s top tip
‘Planting’ sweet treats in plastic grass is a cute way to serve dessert. I made these sweetie skewers with marshmallows, Turkish delight, macaroons and Flying Saucers (those sherbert-filled rice paper sweets from the Seventies).

Classic Cupcakes
110g unsalted butter, room temperature
130g granulated white sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large lemon (zest of)
195g flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
60ml milk
Buttercream frosting:
230g sifted icing sugar
110g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp light cream
Makes 12

1. Preheat oven to 350F (177C) and line a 12-cup tray with 12 paper liners.
2. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy with electric whisk, then add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl whisk flour, lemon zest, baking powder and salt.
4. With the mixer on slow, add half the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remainder of the flour mix.
5. Pour batter into muffin cups and bake for about 17 to 20 minutes. You can check they’re cooked by piercing the centre with a cocktail stick – if it comes out clean, they’re done.
6. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
7. Once cool, frost with icing. To make icing, blend butter and vanilla extract together, then gradually beat in the sugar on a slow setting, and then the milk on a fast setting – within 3 to 4 minutes you should have light, whipped frosting.

Sarah’s top tip
Shot glasses are great for quirky afternoon tea treats – fill them with ice cream and toppings for mini sundaes, or vintage sweets for a retro feel, or for more modern appeal, M&Ms.

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