Afternoon Tea – at home

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few weeks ago we were on our way to a very rare treat of ‘afternoon tea’ at a family cafe, when it all went wrong and we didn’t make it (I won’t go in to detail, but let’s just say that tensions were high).

Anyway, not to ruin the whole day, we decided to have afternoon tea at home, which turned out to be more fun than I reckon it would have been at the cafe.  The point of afternoon tea at home is to enjoy yourself and momentarily forget about having a balanced meal.  You don’t have to make anything from scratch as it is the experience that is most important.  You could get everything from the shop, make one thing yourself or go crazy if you feel like it.

Since we don’t have those fancy three layer cake stand thingies we constructed them out of an upside-down cup and two plates.  And my son helped me decorate kitchen roll sheets to use as napkins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids decorated the table with some bizarre things like an egg timer and a dice (!)  I made two sweet treats that I knew were pretty simple: a damp lemon and almond cake (the first cake I ever made a few years ago) and banoffee pie, plus we had some leftover digestive biscuits in the biscuit tin.  I also made some simple parmesan and poppy seed lollipops (see below for recipes) and got creative with the contents of the fridge – egg mayo sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and cheese and chorizo sandwiches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids had a carton of juice each and I used my gran’s dusty teapot to serve tea, but a jug of squash or even water with sliced fruit or cucumber is a great alternative.  If you have sweet lollipops handy you could put them in a cup for people to help themselves, or if you have fruit you could cut and thread them on to a straw or skewer.  Sausage rolls, cheese biscuits, cheese and pineapple, crisps, any sweet biscuits and scones and jam would work great too.  Absolutely anything goes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are the recipes I used:

Damp lemon and almond cake: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/damp-lemon-and-almond-cake-20-mins-prep1-hour-cooking/

Cheats banoffee pie: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/cheats-banoffee-pie-ready-in-30-mins/

Parmesan and poppy seed biscuits: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/snazzy-yet-simple-party-food/

And a few that would also work well:

Instant cheesecakes https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/instant-cheesecakes-for-the-party-season/

Veggie mince cups (feel free to fill with other ingredients as long as not too wet): https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/veggie-mince-cups/

Sausage rolls: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/stilton-crust-veggie-or-meat-sausage-rolls-20-mins-prep30-mins-cooking/

Choc peanut butter cups: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/chocolate-and-peanut-butter-cups-4-minutes-of-effort/

Pad Thai (ready in 20 mins)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This delicious Pad Thai recipe (a classic Thai street food dish) is based on one in Asda magazine.  My lovely mother-in-law always keeps their free magazines for me as supermarkets always seem to have great recipe ideas.

This is a vegetarian dish full of texture, flavour, interestingly chopped veg and noodles, and is topped off wonderfully with lime juice, coriander and peanuts.  I am sure chicken and prawns would be great additions too.  To make it family-friendly, sweet chilli sauce or fresh/dried chilli can be added at the table.  I hope one day my kids take the plunge and add a bit of chilli to their meal!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My youngest son wasn’t sure about this dish, but my oldest wolfed it down.  Three out of four of us liking it is pretty good though.  Allow about 20 minutes prep time.  And chop and freeze any leftover coriander in freezer bags, then it can be used instantly when needed!

Pad Thai (serves 4)

1 tbsp oil (e.g. vegetable/olive)
1 garlic clove, crushed
Thumb-sized piece ginger, finely grated/chopped
400g broccoli, roughly chopped
½ cabbage, finely sliced

Tofu or cooked prawns (I like Cauldron marinated tofu)

1 red pepper, descended and sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into ribbons
100g beansprouts
1 tbsp soy sauce
325g noodles (any is fine – I used medium egg noodles)
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced
Peanuts, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the garlic and ginger for 2 mins then add the broccoli, cabbage and pepper (and toy or prawns if using) and fry for 3-5mins until beginning to soften.  Toss in the carrots, beansprouts and soy sauce and fry for another 3 mins.

Separately cook the noodles and put them in bowls, then add the vegetable mixture, and top with the lime juice, coriander and peanuts.  Add sweet chilli sauce or fresh or dried chilli at the table if you fancy.

Veggie sausage and bean cobbler

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This dish is genius because it is healthy, wonderfully warming on a winter’s day and many of the ingredients can be used instantly from your freezer or cupboard.

Baked beans and frozen veg are mixed with cooked sausages and stock to make a tasty stew and then topped with homemade cheesy scones to transform the stew in to a cobbler! The scones are really simple – you just mix the ingredients and then dollop the mixture in messy mounds on top and let the oven turn them golden. The whole dish is a real treat and shows how convenience food can be healthy if you choose wisely.  I have adapted the recipe from Netmums (www.netmums.com), who have lots of family friendly recipes.

Allow about 25 mins prep plus 40 mins cooking time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Veggie sausage and bean cobbler (serves approx 6)

For the stew

1 onion, roughly chopped

6-8 sausages (could be meat or veggie. To save time further buy frankfurters then probably no need to pre-cook)

2 cans baked beans

500g frozen veg (could be anything – I used a bag of mixed veg – peas, sweetcorn and carrots)
1 vegetable stock cube (I like OXO)
2 tbsp hot water

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

For the cheesy scone (cobbler) topping

125g self-raising flour

75g cheddar cheese

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp oil (e.g. olive/vegetable oil)

60ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  Grill/bake the sausages until browned, leave to cool slightly then chop in to bite sized chunks.  Meanwhile fry the onions in a little oil for approx 5 mins, until softened.  In a casserole dish mix the onion with the baked beans, frozen veg (straight from the freezer) and chopped sausages.  Crumble in the stock cube, water and dried herbs and mix really well.

To make the cheesy scone topping mix the flour and cheese together in a bowl with a fork.  Add the egg, oil and milk and mix again.  Using your hands take out smallish mounds of the mixture and dollop it all over the veg and sausage mixture until fairly evenly covered.  The scone topping may be a little sticky so keep a glass of warm water next to you to keep rinsing your fingers.

Bake in the oven for 25-40 minutes (this depends on your oven!), until the scones have puffed up a bit and gone golden brown (it is fine if they sink in to the stew a bit).  Devour and feel warmed up.

Anzac biscuits (an Australian classic!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anzac biscuits are an Australian classic, believed to have been sent to the ANZAC’s (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) during World War I. Everyone seems to love this crunchy biscuit made from oats, desiccated coconut, flour, butter, sugar and syrup. They are super easy to make, taking about 8 mins prep plus 10-20 mins baking, and are great warm or cold. If you have kids they could help out – once mixed they are just dolloped on to a baking tray so don’t have to look perfect, as you can see!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recipe is from Annabel Karmel’s rather excellent ‘The Fussy Eaters Recipe Book’. The biscuits will keep for a few days in an airtight container and can be frozen.  Just look at my son tucking in…
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anzac biscuits (makes approx 18)

85g porridge oats
85g desiccated coconut
100g caster or brown sugar
100g plain flour
Pinch of salt
100g butter/marge, melted
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Grease a couple of baking trays with butter or marge and preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.

Mix the oats, coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, then stir into the golden syrup and butter mixture. Pour the wet ingredients in to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Put dessertspoons of the mixture on to the baking trays, flatten the tops slightly and place slightly apart to allow room for spreading.

Bake for 10-20 mins, turning them over halfway through once the bottom is cooked. They should be golden brown on each side. The exact time will depend a bit on your oven. If your oven is not great like mine then swap the shelves around halfway through too. Leave 10 mins to firm up before eating!

Build-your-own-burgers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As a parent of young children I really rate letting them choose and put their food together once in a while.  So for this ‘build your own burger’ meal I set out the buns, burgers, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, sliced cheese, ketchup, mayo and sweet chilli sauce on the table.  Then we chose what we wanted and built our burgers ourselves!  I didn’t pressure the kids to include the vegetables, as they are more likely to enjoy vegetables in the long-term if it is not a battle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I made some tasty and quick bean burgers, which can be prepared in advance of frying (simple recipe below).  The idea is that this is a fun meal and the kids are getting involved, so if you don’t have time to make burgers then using shop-bought burgers is fine too!  Everyone enjoyed filing their buns and squirting the sauces on.  And 3 out of 4 of us liked the bean burgers.  Only thing that was missing was the gherkins!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thank you to the highly recommended Tiny Budget Cooking free online cookbook (www.tinybudgetcooking.com) for the bean burger recipe inspiration!  Their book is full of delicious and cheap recipes.

Bean burgers (makes approx 8 medium sized burgers)

2 tins black eyed beans, drained, rinsed and shaken dry

1/2 onion, chopped small

1 clove garlic, crushed/chopped small

Small handful olives, chopped small

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

2 tsp plain flour

Put the beans in a big bowl. Add the onion, garlic, olives, herbs, flour and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Thoroughly mix and mash the ingredients together using your clean hands to break up most of the beans (this works really well) and form in to approx 8 patties.

Carefully fry the burgers in a little oil in a pan in batches of 3 or 4, for around 4 minutes per side, until browned.  Eat in a burger bun with lettuce, tomato, cheese slices and ketchup or mayo.  Sweet chilli sauce works great too!

Speedy Hot Chocolate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This creamy, silky hot chocolate recipe is a big treat and takes the edge off the suddenly very cold weather!  It only takes a few minutes to make and can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

To make it extra special top with marshmallows or whipped cream; for an extra kick go Mexican and add a pinch of chilli powder; for a boozy drink add brandy; and for alternative flavours try substituting the cinnamon with ground nutmeg or ground cardamom.

Speedy hot chocolate (serves 2)

600ml semi-skimmed milk
142ml tub double cream
100g chocolate, broken up (use milk chocolate or dark chocolate, depending on your taste)
Optional – 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pour the milk, double cream and broken chocolate into a pan. Bring gently to the boil, whisking or stirring until smooth. Pour in to a flask or mug and drink!

Very Mediterranean Pasta (20 mins)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Please excuse the ridiculous name of this Very Mediterranean Pasta recipe.  But it is the most Mediterranean tasting dish I have ever eaten and that is what makes it so flavoursome and wonderful.  The pasta is mixed with a sauce of sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, artichokes (tinned for ease), garlic, parsley, chilli and anchovies.  Don’t be put off by the anchovies – they add rich and salty flavour to many dishes without a fishy taste, and are excellent seasoning.  They are also great added to tomato sauces and creamy sauces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thank you to my friend Cynthia for this recipe.  She is married to an Italian man so I knew this would be a winner.  Allow about 20 minutes to make the dish, and if you arn’t keen on chilli or have spice fearing kids then leave it out or add it separately at the table.

Very Mediterranean Pasta (serves 2 hungry people)

200g pasta (any is fine)

3 artichoke hearts from a tin, drained and chopped small

4 sundried tomatoes, chopped small

12 black olives, chopped smallish

2 tsp capers

4-6 anchovies, chopped small

2 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped

1/2 red chilli, chopped or 1/3 tsp chilli flakes

Optional – 125ml any white wine (or use water)

Small handful parsley, roughly chopped

Pepper (as in salt and pepper)

Grated parmesan for topping

Do all the chopping first!  Then start cooking the pasta as per the packet instructions.  Separately gently fry the garlic and chilli in oil for 1 minute.  Add the sundried tomatoes and artichokes.  When softened, after a couple of minutes, add the capers, anchovies, olives and some parsley.  Add the wine or water. Simmer for a few minutes so the liquid reduces down, and keep stirring.  Taste and if necessary add pepper (you probably won’t need salt).

When cooked mix the pasta with the sauce.  If it looks a bit dry, add a splash of oil.   To serve sprinkle with a bit more parsley, and grated parmesan if you fancy.