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30 Dec 2015

A Christmas Tea Party

This is a special blog post because it is a partnership between myself and one of my very best friends, Lizzie. Or, as I call her, Lizbuff.

Since I was 9 years old, I have been lucky enough to have a group of girlfriends to go through life with me. We grew, and continue to grow, up together. Sure we've had our differences, and sometimes we drive each other mad but I know, whatever happens in life, the girls have got my back.

These days, we all lead very busy lives and live in different parts of the country but we try and see each other when possible, particularly at Christmas. I always think it's important to get together at Christmas and enjoy some general merriment with your favourite people.

We usually try and go out for a meal at some point over the festive period, but this year, Lizzie offered to host a Christmas tea party. Now, this was EXCITING.  By day, Liz does complicated actuary stuff that I try, and fail, to understand. By night, she does a whole host of creative stuff that causes the group to generally think of her as a domestic goddess. In summer last year, she hosted a tea party in her back garden which out-trumped any professional afternoon tea I'd ever had. Let's have a peak at some photos from last year to give you a flavour:

After the success of last time, we were immediately excited when Liz suggested the idea of a Christmas-themed tea-party!

This time round, I wanted to know more about the efforts Lizbuff has to go to to create all the amazing food she makes for us, so I asked her to give me an insight which eventually turned into this blog post. Over various texts and emails sent as we rushed through our busy lives, Liz answered my questions and shared recipes/tips to accompany the many photos I took on the day. So without further ado...
Welcome to a Christmas tea party 

The Menu 

Christmas tree cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches
Brie and cranberry sandwiches
Chicken and stuffing sandwiches
Pigs in blankets
Mini goat's cheese and olive tarts
Cream cheese and smoked salmon roulade 

Christmas cake
Mince pies
Chocolate Yule Log 

To take home:
Biscoff fudge
Rudolph shortbread 

To drink:
Mulled wine


Christmas tree cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches 

Ingredients: White bread, cream cheese with chopped chives and cucumber.
Method: Spread the cream cheese on the bread and then use a Christmas tree shaped cutter to cut out the Christmas tree shapes. Note that, even if your cutter is sharp, bread is too springy/soft so you will need to cut round the edges of the tree with a knife to make a smoother shape. Then slice the cucumber into disks and cut each disk into quarters. Arrange them on top of your Christmas trees, starting at the bottom of each tree.

Top tip: Slice the cucumber really thin; if it's too thick then it's harder to layer on top of the trees.

Brie and cranberry sandwiches

Chicken and stuffing sandwiches

Pigs in blankets 

Mini goat's cheese and olive tarts

Ingredients: Puff pastry, goat's cheese, black olives and fresh thyme.

Method: Layer your small puff pastry circles with a small amount of goat's cheese, half an olive and some thyme. Bake for 10 minutes at 180c.

Top tip: Use a hard goat's cheese for a more sweet and nutty flavour.

Cream cheese and smoked salmon roulade 


Christmas cake

: Nigella's easy-action Christmas cake. 

Method: Nigella's recipe is relatively easy to make and doesn't need time to mature. Cook in a square pan and then cut into pieces and cover in marzipan. Royal icing on Christmas cake creates a nice crunch against the softness of the marzipan and cake. It is traditionally made with egg whites and icing sugar, but if you want to save some time, use Silver Spoon's Royal Icing Sugar. Follow the instructions on the back of the packet and then slowly add more water and beat until you have a spreadable consistency.

Top tip: For the 'peaks' finish, once you have spread the icing over the cake, use a spoon or palette knife (a knife with a flat edge) and press gently into the icing and pull away quickly. The icing will come with you and form a peak. 

Mince pies

Chocolate Yule log

Recipe: Delia Smith's Chestnut Yule Log from her Happy Christmas cook book.

Method: The sponge in this recipe is pretty easy but it involves a lot of whipping egg whites and there's no flour so make sure you have an electric whisk! The recipe uses a layer of chocolate mousse (made with eggs), a layer of chestnut spread (comes in a tin and surprisingly easy to find in supermarkets) and a layer of whipped cream as the filling.

Top tip: If you're worried about the presentation of your log after 'the roll', double the amount of chocolate mousse and spread over the cake as an icing. Then double the amount of whipped cream to go inside, along with the chestnut spread.

For the roll: 

Recipe: Mary Berry gives a master class on rolling here.

Method: Leave to cool for a few minutes after taking out of the oven. When completely cool, and when your fillings are ready, lay out a clean piece of baking parchment on the work surface and smother it in icing sugar! Then very quickly (be bold!), tip your cake out of the tin and onto the baking parchment covered in icing sugar, peeling off the baking parchment it cooked in. Use a sharp knife to score the cake about one inch from the edge so the first roll is easier - but don't cut too deep or it will just crack. Spread your filling about three quarters of the way across (as you roll, you will push some of the filling out as you go). Use the baking parchment underneath to roll it, and then slide onto a plate. Now roll!

Top tip: Once the cake has cooled, after taking out the oven, spritz a clean tea towel with water, lay over the cake inside the tin it cooked in. Put the whole thing inside a plastic bag and then put in the fridge to cool completely. This makes sure the cake doesn't dry as it cools down, making it more moist and therefore easier to roll!

To take home

Biscoff cookie fudge, recipe here

Rudolph shortbread (by yours truly), recipe here. 

To drink

Mulled wine

Tea (obviously)

And some more pictures!

True friendship = cheese-related Christmas-cracker jokes!

Thanks to my lovely Lizzie for your marvellous contribution to this post, and for your incredible tea-party hosting skills. 

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