Posts Tagged 'drink'

Picnic in style at Royal Ascot

Whilst the last few days have seen us enjoying some early summer warmth and sunshine, our thoughts will be turning to the Season and the annual Royal Ascot Meeting in June.

For those who will arrive at the Racecourse by car and want to follow the traditions of this world famous fixture, a picnic, preferably in Number 1 car park, is a must!  But what to eat, let alone what to wear?

There is something very special about a picnic, although in this country the weather can put a serious dampener on the spirits.  Not many of us are lucky enough to have a Butler who will lay everything out, prepared by Cook in advance, but there is much one can do to tailor this to location, guests and budget.

I always advocate keeping it stylish but simple, and they key is always good organisation.  Prepare as much as possible in advance and look for the varied accessories to make the day – both stylish and practical.  John Lewis have some fabulous ideas, as do The White Company and Ikea.

The great thing about a picnic is the informality they impart.  Picnics were the first ‘rule-free’ meals remembered by generations of children.  A relief from constraint, but not entirely free from the essentials of table manners.

Whatever your budget, make sure your guests have plenty to eat and drink, but ensure what you have on offer is easy to eat too.  The last thing one wants to worry about with a pretty silk dress and floaty hat is drips of mayonnaise or squirting peach juice!

A rather nice summer menu could comprise of seasonal asparagus (just coming to the end but should still be nice in mid June) steamed and served at room temperature with a softly boiled shelled egg (quails eggs work too but are a nuisance to shell), snipped garden chives and a drizzle of vinaigrette, with shavings of good English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.  Serve with good unsalted butter and fabulous bread and you have a wonderful first course. An alternative might be roasted peaches or nectarines (easy to do in the oven with a little water and a dot of butter and sugar), served with slices of top quality prosciutto and slivers of creamy goats cheese.

For main course, you cannot beat a rare cold fillet of beef with horseradish mayonnaise, and a new potato red onion and flat leafed parsley salad, served with rocket leaves, pea shoots and seasonal lettuce.  For the vegetarian, perhaps a good frittata.

Try your hand at a vanilla pannacotta made with greek yoghurt, served with the freshest of English strawberries in individual moulds, or perhaps a timeless favourite, a flourless rich chocolate cake with crème fraiche or clotted cream.  All easy to transport, and serve – essential if you do not have a bank of staff to help you!

Ensure some lovely crisp napkins, tablecloths and comfortable cushions on folding chairs and tables, with perhaps a Bellini made with fresh peach puree and a good Prosecco to set the scene and you have the makings of a perfect day!

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner

Afternoon Tea: A Very British Past Time

In our busy, time-poor lives, what is nicer than momentarily stopping for a scone and a pot of tea? Afternoon tea gives us a break in the rush of modern life. It does so now, just like it did back in the nineteenth century, when it was invented.

In 1840, Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, asked for a tea tray and cakes at four o’clock, as she found she was hungry at this time and also had nothing to do. She found this new pastime hard to break and soon invited other ladies in society to join her. The Duchess’s guests went back to their houses and instigated the ritual, thus spreading the new custom.

Queen Victoria liked the idea so much she started Garden Parties – the first of which was in 1868 and are still held to this day.

In the 1880s, ladies began to wear tea-gowns, which were soft dresses with a lot of lace, which came in at the middle. Edwardian society altered the time that Afternoon tea was taken: it moved back an hour to five o’clock.

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

Afternoon Tea at The Ritz, London

The middle and lower classes soon heard about this new ‘meal’ in the day and so the teashop flourished, offering people the chance to break with their day for tea and cakes. For the first time, respectable women could eat out unaccompanied.

Actor and writer Noel Coward commented that it be “dreadful to live in a country without tea”. The Royal Family today will pause at five o’clock for their helping: they always drink Earl Grey Tea.

As with everything, there comes etiquette with Afternoon tea.

Scones are always broken; never cut. They should be served with jam and clotted cream, or butter. Crumpets should be buttered whole and then cut. Cakes and pastries should be made so the use of a pastry fork is not needed, although if that is not the case, the use of such an implement is perfectly acceptable.

If you take milk with your tea, then this is poured in after the tea itself. This is because in the Victorian era when Afternoon tea was introduced, the best households would have fine bone china cups, which could withstand high temperatures: milk could be poured in after the scalding water, whereas the lower echelons of the household would have pottery cups and mugs and milk poured in first would prevent the cups from cracking.

Afternoon tea continues to carry on in 2010 the world over, with The Ritz hotel and Claridges, both in London, offering one of the best.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

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