Sunday, 3 March 2013

English tea party

The Gentleman can be a bit, well,  special. And not always terribly, well, romantic.

But when he wants to, he can be. He hates football, yet flew me to see my first ever Manchester United live game at Old Trafford. Without complaints he drives me to Puerto Banus (50 kilometres there and another 50 back) because of a coconut ice cream I love. And he is my biggest fan and supporter. This blog is every bit as much a love letter to him as it is to food and Andalusia.

Recently upon his return from England The Gentleman totally surprised me with his gift. He had brought me Michael Winner's books - wait for it! - signed by the man himself.

For those of you not in the know, Mr. Winner was a Sunday Times restaurant critic who recently departed from the feasts of this world. A very special character, him too, and sure, especially during these financially bleak times it is difficult to sympathise with someone who gets sick from a bad oyster at a $6000 a night luxury resort in Barbados.

But sometime before that he managed to find time to sign these (Michael Winner was also probably the only man in the world whose long-suffering girlfriend had to wait for her proposal longer than me - Geraldine didn't get hers until about half a century after the beginning of their affair...!)

When I lived in London, Michael Winner was (in addition to the equally glorious company of A.A. Gill and Jeremy Clarkson) the only man I'd ever share my bed with on Sundays as I was trawling through the  massive Sunday edition of the said newspaper. Now his legacy will forever live on in my bookshelf.

The man was an institution so respect had to  be paid. And what could possibly be more befitting way than an English tea party!

Serving all this little fingery food is also a brilliant way to get rid of all the leftovers lurking at the cupboards in a somewhat elegant way!

The menu featured that home-made crispbread with cream cheese flavoured with lemon zest, chopped spring onions, salt and pepper and topped with cold-smoked salmon.

All things English were paid a homage to (in the most retro way possible) through cucumber sandwiches and prawn cocktail.

The cucumber sandwiches are an easy classic. Cut the crusts off a white loaf, butter the slices, sprinkle some lemon zest on one half and some dill on the other. Slice the cucumber thinly, place on both halves, season with salt and pepper and press the halves together. Cut diagonally into either two or four (depending on the desired size).

Prawn cocktail's Marie Rose sauce consisting of mayonnaise and ketchup was updated to the 21st century. I mixed it with Turkish yoghurt and ketchup (for the sweetness) and spiced it with fresh chillies, ginger, coriander and lime juice. A spoonful was placed on a pile of lettuce leaves and topped with 2 cooked king prawns each.

Sliced bread was also recycled to little bread baskets, which is a convenient way of sparing oneself from the hassle of actually baking little tartalette shells. Flatten the slices thin with a rolling pin, cut round shapes, brush the edges with butter and place the rounds in the bottom of a muffin tin or a glass. Bake in 200° until crisp and golden brown and fill with a topping of your choice. Today they were filled with Coronation chicken, celebrating the flavours and spices of the Empire - India in particular.

I heated some oil in a pan, fried curry, chilli, ginger and allspice in it and then added a chicken fillet cut into small chunks. After cooking and cooling the chicken I tossed it together with some chopped spring onions, Turkish yoghurt, peas, corn, red pepper and coriander.

The sweet tooth was seen to in the form of brownies, where nuts were substituted with chunks of Walker's all butter shortbread biscuits (how very English!). I cut them into dainty cubes and decorated them with the cream cheese used in cannoli, too, this time sprinkled with some cocoa and topped with little stars I piped out of melted dark chocolate.

And this being an English affair- of course we needed to have some strawberries! Sure the traditional way would have been to serve them with cream, but today we dipped them in dark chocolate and covered in coconut flakes. Simply because we like them this way. And not because the cream had gone moldy...

And tea was naturally not just any old tea - The Gentleman's souvenirs for the Union Jack- mad yours truly make sure of that. It was the Harrods blend! With the Royal Warrant! Hyacinth Bucket herself would have approved!

Though... without a doubt the tea service would have raised some equally disapproving eyebrows: Where were the Royal Dultons? With their hand-painted periwinkles?

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