Thursday, 31 March 2016

Creating the Best Al Fresco Afternoon Tea

The garden: that extra room you’ve had in your house that you haven’t been using. Why? Well, probably because it isn’t the blazing hot two weeks we get every summer (lucky us) but you could be missing out on some excellent outdoors fun by waiting until then. Plus, it can involve some mouth-watering food…

Afternoon tea should be year-round so here’s a few tips to getting the whole family involved in your posh garden soiree.

Creating the perfect al fresco afternoon tea
How about a selection of different and curious teas? Green and mint may a a familiar flavour, but rose tea may be a pleasant surprise

The setting

If your garden is in need of some serious attention, make sure you have enough time to enlist everyone you know (kids included) to get it into shape before the intended afternoon tea. You don’t need manicured lawns or a garden in bloom but little style touches here and there will help to create the setting.
For this you can use some bunting - notonthehighstreet have some great options - to dress the area you will be eating in, buy some colourful flowers for the centrepiece of your table and invest in some lovely crockery to dine on. A crisp white table cloth looks great but the little ones will surely ruin the effect immediately with grubby hands. Instead, opt for a floral table cloth so that little spills and smudges are not immediately obvious.

An afternoon tea without a tiered cake stand is not an afternoon tea. If you don’t already possess one then hit the charity shops for a vintage stand. If you get stuck then try your local supermarket, they’re sure to have one and if you decide to have an afternoon tea for the kids, decorative cardboard tiered stands are ideal.
Things don’t need to match to look lovely, some of best laid afternoon tables involve a combination of mismatched antique china cups and saucers.

Keeping things toasty

As you will be dining outside in less than warm conditions, you will need to make your setting as cosy and warm as possible. Without the promise of a sunny day, you’ll have your work cut out to keep the guests from seeking the warmer climes of the living room. Grab all the cushions you have to offer a comfortable seat to your guests, any throws you have to put over cold legs and, as the sun begins to set, light a few candles to create a toasty warm atmosphere. A patio heater or a fire pit could prove to be worthwhile investments. As well as creating a welcoming warm focal point, fire pits and outdoor heaters create a place to huddle around to keep chatting whilst the evening draws in

Using the garden as an area to get the family together differentiates from the norm of eating in the kitchen/dining/living room. It’s an excellent way to get the extended family round as well as entertaining the little ones.
Also, if you have a kitchen that leads out into the garden, having external folding doors gives you the option of opening up the two ‘rooms’ into one. The kitchen can then become an extension of the afternoon tea party and can be there as a backup if it rains/snows/blows a gale.

Warming recipes

The classic selection of tea sandwiches cannot be missed as they are yummy, posh and an afternoon tea staple. BBC Food has a great selection of sandwich creations including smoked salmon, caper and cream cheese sandwiches. Many of which can be made in advance and frozen, perfect for impromptu afternoon teas.

With the above sorted, you can now focus on some hot options. Your food does not have to perch nicely on a tiered cake stand; you can serve up dinner table grub on posh plates to still stick to the theme. Lasagne is a great option, especially if you’re cooking for a lot of people. Mary Berry has a great recipe to get those tummies full and your guests feeling warm. Then for the vegetarians, Jamie Oliver has a tasty recipe for corn and chickpea burgers that, if you’re feeling creative, you could make into little sliders…

The perfect teas

Afternoon tea would not be afternoon tea, without... afternoon tea.

A few staple options for the adults include a lovely Earl Grey, some Darjeeling (which Twinings calls the champagne of the tea world!) and a green tea – the ginger and lemon option tastes great and the ginger warms the insides nicely.

For the children, you can use the same style of vintage tea pot but fill it with fruit juice or squash so they feel part of the action. Etsy have a wide selection of tea pots to fit the occasion, going from retro to pretty and floral. I know Lily and Alexander would take delight in pouring homemade elderflower cordial for themselves, their friends and of course their cuddly toy guests.

What would make your afternoon tea perfect?
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