so was born the very British tradition of afternoon tea……
Hurrah! Thank goodness that the 7th Duchess of Bedford was so ravenous, she was bold enough to order bread and cakes to eat mid afternoon, unable to wait for dinner that was served very late in the evening in the 1840s! After the idea caught on with her friends, so started the regular gatherings, and over time, the tradition of British Afternoon tea.
The glory of British afternoon tea is that it declares time to stop!
I heard rumour that it is now becoming so popular that it may even replace the power lunch. A shudder passes over me at mention of this – perish the thought that close by my tea table there would be an open lap top that is competing with a gorgeous stand of goodies beautifully presented – the whole occasion would be ruined frankly if there was just one mobile phone trilling, or even worse, a blackberry going off at random intervals to interrupt the conviviality and sociability of the occasion.
Most will immediately think of scones, jam and cream at the mention of afternoon tea, but I’d like to suggest a glorious alternative – Welsh inspiration for afternoon tea
Now, the traditional Welsh costumes are not obligatory but could be interesting! What is though are some ancient recipes that have been handed down through the generations in Wales.
Welsh cakes or Picau ar y maen are quintessentially Welsh
There’s no excuse for not making these amazing creations as I include quite marvellous instructions for making welsh cakes. Their alternative name is bakestones if you’re from South Wales.
A good griddle is the way to achieve a gorgeous Welsh cake.
But there is a skill here, an art to waiting just long enough from when they originally landed on the hot griddle stone to rise before they need to be turned, very carefully for their other side to cook. Now, I could say that a thick based sauce pan would be sufficient, as many do, but in the spirit of honesty I will need to declare that my view is that a good griddle is the way to achieve a gorgeous Welsh cake. I treasure my griddle, lovingly hand crafted from mild steel, the legacy of a steel works in South Wales.
Another critical Welsh cake ingredient is mixed spice
Bakestones are fine without it but unbelievably morish with this magic ingredient. Sprinkle with sugar when they are still warm – the smell of a freshly baked Welsh cake is home, warm fruit and moist spiced cake, no wonder many never reach the stage of actually being cool.
Bara Birth or Speckled bread is almost as famous
The recipe is simple, the bread delicious, spread with butter and enjoy.
E Smith Twiddy’s book has these, and many more wonderful Welsh recipes, I can highly recommend a copy.
Wonderful Welsh Tea, home grown in Pembrokeshire is the perfect accompaniment
I made a fantastic discovery earlier this year, that tea was actually being grown in Wales by The Pembrokeshire Tea company. You can even adopt your own tea plant, the company’s aim is to be 100% home grown by 2015.
The essence of afternoon tea is that it is an indulgence, a time to relax, to catch up with friends and enjoy some gorgeous things to eat.
My wish for this post is that it has inspired you to gather your friends to create a wonderful Welsh Afternoon tea. Keep the occasion special, a sanctuary from our usual all too busy lives.