Food: Quick and easy afternoon tea

So I wanted to post this last week in time for Mother's Day - but then I was in bed unwell with the stomach bug that had made its merry way through the house (boring). I hope you won't mind reading it now, I really wanted to share it with you so here it is - still perfectly useful, quick and easy

And if you didn't get to see your Mum, or maybe you've decided the present you bought her was really rubbish, or maybe it's her birthday (or yours) or maybe you just fancy doing some baking -  then this little afternoon tea takes just an hour and a half to make. All the recipes are easy enough for kids to make (with a little supervision on the oven bits of course) and it looks impressive and tastes delicious.

If you wanted to make a more substantial meal you could add some little sandwiches - smoked salmon and cream cheese, cucumber, cheese and pickle, brie and cranberry. Or even some prawn vol-au-vent - who doesn't love those?

I've listed each recipe separately here, but I've also listed at the end which order I did things in to make the best use of my time. So to make your own afternoon tea you will need:

For the fruit tarts
(I've actually made these before using homemade creme patisserie, but I wanted this to be super simple so here I've used shop bought fresh custard)

12 vol-au-vents (I use the packs of Just Rol frozen ones)
1 pot fresh shop bought custard
Fresh berries


Bake the vol-au-vents as per the packet instructions. Leave to cool. Press down the centres and fill with the custard until level with the top (a heaped tsp). Top with fresh berries - I quartered my strawberries, but left the stems on for a bit of greenery.

For the ginger biscuits with lemon cream

50g (2oz) butter
50g (2oz) golden syrup
40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar
115g (4 1/4oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
For the lemon cream
70g (2 1/2oz) butter - softened
140g (5oz) icing sugar
Zest of a lemon
Juice of half a lemon


Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/Gas Mark 4 and lightly grease a baking tray. Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together in a pan until just melted. Do not let it boil. Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients, stir until you have a smooth dough that you can roll into balls. Scoop teaspoon sized pieces and roll into balls. Space evenly on the trays  leaving plenty of space in between for spreading. Press lightly with a fork. Bake for 8 minutes or until just golden. They will be very soft when you get them out of the oven so leave them to cool and crisp up on the tray before removing to a cooling rack.

Whip up the butter and add the icing sugar to make a soft butter cream. Add the lemon zest and gradually add the lemon juice, tasting as you go until you like the flavour - it should be slightly tart, but sweet. 

Once the biscuits are cool put a heaped teaspoon of butter cream on the underside of one biscuit and sandwich another on top.

For the scones
Now I know a little about scones - my sister and I made 120 of them on the morning of my wedding. This is the recipe I always use and it never fails. I thank Nigella for this,

250g (9oz) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
35g (1 1/4oz) butter (room temp)
150ml (5floz) milk


Pre heat the oven to 220c/425F/Gas Mark 7. Lightly oil a baking tray. Sift together the flour, bicarb and cream of tartar. Rub in the butter until the flour resembles breadcrumbs, Add the milk and stir briefly with a knife to bring the dough together. Knead lightly on a floured surface to bring it all together.

Roll or press out to about 2 cm/3/4in and using a small cutter stamp out your scones - you should get about 16 scones with a couple of re-rollings.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until risen and golden. Leave to cool.

Serve with clotted cream and jam.

The plan

When I cook several things at once I try to think about the best use of time and oven space. This is what I did here:

Bake the vol-au-vents, leave to cool.
Make the biscuit dough while the vol-au-vents are baking, bake and cool.
Make the scone dough while the biscuits are baking, bake and cool.
Make the butter cream while the scones are baking.
Fill the vol-au-vents and top with berries.
Sandwich the biscuits with the butter cream>
Make it all look pretty.