It’s afternoon tea week! One of our favourite weeks of the year as we get the opportunity to indulge ourselves in drinking copious amounts of delicious tea with sandwiches, cake and anything else that takes our fancy. If you are planning on hosting an afternoon tea party at home, we’ve got some great recipes and tea pairings for you.
We’ve teamed up with Eileen from Afternoon Tea London who has shared some top facts about cucumber sandwiches. She’s also shared a tried and tested recipe for non-soggy cucumber sandwiches.
Over to you Eileen:
A simple cucumber sandwich is an iconic part of a traditional afternoon tea menu. It was added to the afternoon tea menu during the Victorian times as it wouldn’t spoil someone’s appetite for dinner. Let’s face it, there are very few calories in a cucumber so it was the perfect sandwich for ladies of leisure who just needed a little pick-me-up in the afternoon!
The perfect tea pairing for cucumber sandwiches, has to be Ahmad Tea’s Earl Grey blend. It is a sophisticated and uplifting blend and the bergamot flavouring pairs perfectly with the delicate taste of the cucumber sandwiches.
Below is the recipe for cucumber sandwiches which appears very simple, however, the preparation is critical so you aren’t left with a soggy mess. Here are my top tips to prepare the perfect cucumber tea sandwich:
The Perfect Cucumber Tea Sandwich Recipe
1. Remove the skin
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the cucumber. It’s not needed, and your sandwiches will still look striking enough without it. Even though the skin will be removed, I still wash and dry my cucumber before hand to remove any pesticides.
2. Salt the cucumber
To ensure that you aren’t left with a bitter taste or a soggy sarnie, you should salt the cucumber and let it sit for around 20 minutes before making your creation. Cucumbers have a very high-water content, which can be lovely in a salad, but not so much in a sandwich. It will make all the difference to the taste. I usually let the cucumber sit on kitchen paper to absorb any excess water, then pat it off after to remove the excess salt. Once this is done you do not need to add any further salt.
3. Deseeding the cucumber
There are varying views on whether this is truly necessary or not. For an afternoon tea party at home, it’s likely you will do the majority of the prep in the morning, meaning your sandwiches will be made a few hours in advance. If this is the case, then I would absolutely recommend deseeding the cucumber to make sure your sandwiches stay firm until they are ready to serve. It’s quite easy to do, and you can see how I have prepared mine which are then salted in the image below.
4. The bread
I don’t know why but I always associate cucumber sandwiches with white bread. Having them on any other type of bread seems wrong and out of step of the usual display of sandwiches we see at afternoon tea. Obviously, remove the crusts. It is an afternoon tea sandwich after all!
Afternoon Tea Expert fact: Did you know the crusts were traditionally removed from the bread for hygiene purposes? The bread would have been on the counter all day so it was considered cleaner and more hygienic to remove the crusts that was exposed to the air.
Now that we have covered the key preparations, let me share the recipe with you. While it seems simple, if you follow the preparation correctly you will be left with the most delicious sandwich to pair with your Earl Grey tea.
The Recipe – For 18 small sandwiches:
12 slices of good quality white bread
1. Wash and remove the skin of the cucumber
2. Cut into thin slices, remove the seeds and add to a colander. Dust the cucumbers with salt and leave for around 20 minutes
3. Take the cucumbers out and place on kitchen paper, pat off any excess liquid or salt
4. Next, get your bread ready. Butter with the unsalted butter. Make sure you have the butter at room temperature so that it doesn’t tear the bread
5. Lay your cucumbers on the bread, you can decide how thick you want them but I generally try and follow the rule of three. 2 parts bread to 1 part filling.
6. Once they are laid out, gently sprinkle over your white pepper. White pepper is strong so I wouldn’t use any more than half a teaspoon per 2 pieces of bread.
7. Put the second piece of bread on top, cut off the crusts and cut into your desired shape
If you are making these in advance, I usually add a layer of cling film, followed by a damp tea towel to ensure freshness.
Once served, make sure you brew the Earl Grey tea as per the instructions on the tin/box and enjoy. Remember, Earl Grey is best enjoyed without milk.
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