English Tea

In case you didn’t know, the season premiere of Downton Abby was on Sunday night.  You should probably start watching it if you don’t already.  I love it all: costumes, scenery, great story and saucy lines delivered from Dame Maggie Smith.  Don’t worry though, I’m not going to use this post to give any spoilers.  This is about what I ate for the premiere. As it’s a proper English show, I wanted to make a proper English tea.

scones and cream

The first thing that came to mind was cucumber sandwiches without the crusts.  The recipe is as simple as it sounds.  I referenced several English recipes online and they all said the same thing: soft white bread, lots of butter and thin sliced cucumber.  I peeled the cucumbers before slicing.  To draw out moisture, I also let the slices sit with a few pinches of salt.  After sitting for about 10 minutes, I rinsed and dried the slices on a few sheets of paper towel. It keeps the cucumbers from turning the bread soggy and let’s be honest, no one likes a soggy sammy.

I also made scones and clotted cream.  This was more of a process.  The scones turned out ok but I’m not going to share the recipe.  The one I used had the ratio of dry to wet ingredients off somehow and I had something that looked more like cake batter than pastry dough.  I ended up having to do a lot of fudging: adding in tablespoon after tablespoon of flour and estimating on additional sugar and baking powder to get the right consistency.  If I make them again I’ll be using a different source.

The clotted cream was ridiculously easy but very time consuming.  You take 2 pints of heavy cream and pour them into an oven safe pan or bowl so you end up with around 3 inches of standing cream.  Pre-heat your oven to 180, cover the cream and cook at that low heat for 8-12 hours. Yes. Hours.  Once it turns a bit yellow and thick on the top you let it cool on the counter for an hour or so and then pop it in the fridge overnight.  The next day you collect all the thick cream off the top and use it to spread on your scones or any other pastry you like.  You can use the leftover cream in the bottom for baking. I liked the recipe because it was something you could start right away in the morning and then let yourself forget about it for the day.  There’s no stirring or checking necessary until you timer goes off. Just don’t plan on leaving the house either.  Since it’s not very sweet, I served it with some of the raspberry jam we canned this summer. It made it just the right amount of sweet and tart and kept it from becoming to rich.  I’m curious to see how it would pair with some more savory ingredients as well. Any suggestions? I’m sure Carson or Mrs. Patmore would have just the thing.