I’m very happy to be a lifelong expat – I was an expat child and China is my second expat posting as an adult, but I think the longer I’m away from my home country of England, the more English I become! And there is nothing so quintessentially English as an afternoon tea – it has to be my favourite meal. I dream of tiered cake stands groaning with delicate sandwiches, pretty fairy cakes and puffy scones served with raspberry jam and clotted cream.
English Afternoon Tea Favorite: Scones And Lemon Curd
I’m very happy to be a lifelong expat – I was an expat child and China is my second expat posting as an adult, but I think the longer I’m away from my home country of England, the more English I become! And there is nothing so quintessentially English as an afternoon tea – it has to be my favourite meal. I dream of tiered cake stands groaning with delicate sandwiches, pretty fairy cakes and puffy scones served with raspberry jam and clotted cream. If my husband ever offers to treat me to a weekend away at a nice hotel, you can bet I’ll be straight onto their website to see what they offer in the way of afternoon refreshments. And don’t get me started on friends’ weddings in country hotels – I could happily forego the breakfast, the champagne and the full wedding dinner, as long as there’s a slice of cake and a pot of tea somewhere in the schedule where I can pretend I’m a Jane Austen heroine in an empire line dress! It’s an addiction I’ll admit but as addictions go, I think it’s a pretty good one!
I’ve yet to find a good afternoon tea in Shanghai – although I’m sure they exist (but that’s a subject for another week…. And an excuse for some research!) so since I’ve moved here I’ve been feeding my addiction from the kitchen.
The cornerstone of a good afternoon tea is the scone (whether you rhyme it with “gone” or “stone”!) and something to spread thickly on it. One of my favourites is another very English thing, lemon curd. This thick unctuous spread is made from lemons, butter and eggs and is surprisingly easy and totally addictive. It can also be used as the filling for a lemon tart or lemon meringue pie.
110g caster sugar
2 lemons – grated rind and juice
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, beaten
• Melt the butter, sugar, lemon juice and rind together over a low heat
• Make sure that the pan is not too hot (you should be able to put your hands on it comfortably) before adding the eggs
• Stir continuously over a low heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and not slide off.
• Pour into sterilised jars and close.
• Will keep for about a month in the fridge if it isn’t eaten before then! (should be eaten within 24 hours if you don’t store it in the fridge. )
I recently discovered a wonderful variation that is particularly popular with kids (I know a very inventive 10 year old cook who spreads it on pizza dough for a naughty sweet pizza!)
4 large, ripe bananas
340g caster sugar
1 lemon (juice and grated rind)
4 eggs, beaten
• Mash the bananas
• Melt the butter slowly then add sugar, bananas, lemon rind and juice and cook for 10 minutes over a medium hat stirring occasionally. Then take off the heat
• Put 3 tablespoons of the banana mix into the beaten eggs and mix (this cools the mixture).
• Pour the egg mix onto the remaining banana mix and stir constantly over a low heat until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and not slide off.
• Pour into sterilised jars and close.
• Will keep for about a month in the fridge if it isn’t eaten before then! (Should be eaten immediately if you don’t store it in the fridge. )
• If you’re feeling confident, you can make an even more intense banana flavour by cooking for longer than 10 mins at the first cook. Keep a close eye on it and watch until it turns a caramelized colour. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes then continue as above. (Unfortunately this doesn’t work for lemon curd.)
• Jars can be sterilized by washing carefully and putting into an oven at a low temperature (100degreesC, 215degrees F) for 20 mins. Remove from the oven when you need them using a oven glove or tea towel and fill while still hot.
Scones are wonderfully quick to make (20 minutes from inspiration to result) and this recipe can be halved to make a batch small enough for a small Chinese toaster oven.
Darina Allen’s Sweet White Scones
(makes about 10 scones)
450g plain white flour
small pinch of salt
25g caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 small eggs
egg and sugar for topping
• Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C/475 degrees F (or as hot as your oven will go)
• Put the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl. Cut the butter into pieces and rub into the flour mixture. Add the sultanas
• Whisk the eggs together with the milk and pour into a well in the centre of the flour. Mix with your hands or a spoon to make a soft dough.
• Turn out onto a floured board and shape lightly so you can roll it out.
• Roll out to about 2.5cm thick and cut into shapes with a cutter.
• To get crunchy tops, brush the tops with an egg mixed with a little water then dip each scone into sugar before putting, sugar side up, onto a baking sheet
• Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden-brown on top
• Cool then enjoy with Jam, lemon curd or sliced fruit