Mothers Day Afternoon Tea

With the Australian Mothers Day coming up on Sunday, I thought I’d share my favourite way to treat my Mum. Afternoon Tea.

I’ve actually booked us into afternoon tea at The Ritz when I return to the UK to celebrate her 60th birthday and cannot wait! I’m not expecting that my afternoon tea will compete with the likes of The Ritz but I guarantee your Mum, like mine, will be just as pleased with the amount of effort you’ve made and at a fraction of the price!

I like to make everything on the day so it’s really fresh but it’s a good idea to make all the cakes the day before so you can enjoy the day too! I’ll also forgive you on this occasion if you buy some or all of the cakes to save more time.

Raid your local charity shop or grandparents cupboards for a good tea set complete with a tea pot, cups and saucers, little plates and milk jug. Mix and match works just as well but the older and more patterned china you can find the better. If you’re in London, there are some fantastic stalls in Portobello Road markets selling loads of the stuff but you will definitely find it cheaper if you spot some in your local charity store. Doilies or cute napkins and some beautiful seasonal flowers will finish the table off nicely. Serve the afternoon tea on a tiered cake stand if you have one or fancy splashing out on one for the occasion, or just serve your sandwiches neatly on one plate and your cakes on another in the middle of the table. If you like the look of mine used here, they were handmade by my stepdad so message me for details of how you can get your hands on them!

If, like me in Australia, you can’t get your hands on Cornish Clotted Cream, you can try my Clotted Cream Recipe and you won’t be disappointed! No afternoon tea is complete without it! 

So let’s talk cakes! The main idea is that you want something chocolatey, something citrus, a biscuit, a plainer cake and of course a scone. With everything, think small so that everyone can have a bit of everything.

Here, I’ve gone for a small square of chocolate brownie (recipe coming soon), you can bake your favourite brownie recipe then slice them a bit smaller than you would usually. You can always go back for seconds….or as I seem to recall, your sister can take them all home with her to eat the next day or even that evening being the chocoholic she is!

For the citrus, I’ve done a cheats lemon tart. Feel free to make a proper lemon custard version or a lemon cupcake would work well too. For speed and ease, I cut out some rounds of sweet pastry with a cutter (short crust pastry would also work) that were a bit larger than the holes of a cupcake tin. Push the pastry rounds down into the holes of a greased cupcake tray to fit, before dolloping a heaped teaspoon of lemon curd in each. You’d be surprised how a little lemon curd (or lemon butter as I’ve discovered it’s called in Australia) goes a long way. Go easy on the amount of lemon curd you add to each so that they don’t overflow when baking. Bake at 180 degrees c for 12-15 mins or until the pastry is golden brown and the lemon curd has melted to fill the pastry shell. Allow to cool on a wire rack then decorate with some lemon zest and a dusting of icing sugar.

For the biscuit, I went for shortbread as it’s my Mum’s favourite and also handily the easiest biscuit ever to make! Why not ask your Mum what her favourite biscuit is and give it a go to replicate…but have back up shop bought ones just in case!

For the plainer cake, you can’t go wrong with the classic Victoria Sponge cake! I baked a thin Sponge in a larger shallow tin and then used a cutter to cut some small circles of the Sponge out. When loaded with some jam and freshly whipped cream in the middle of two rounds they look super cute. Note, they are way more fiddly that a normal Victoria Sponge so feel free to cut some slices of a large round cake instead, you’ll only loose a few cute points. Other times I’ve made little cupcakes which is probably the easiest option for serving.

If you choose to make your favourite plain or fruit scones in advance, a great thing to do is warm them a little in the oven just before serving to freshen them up. Serve with strawberry or raspberry jam (your Mum’s favourite or whatever you already have) and Cornish Clotted Cream on the side for everyone to load up themselves at the table.

At the end of the day, your Mum will be happy with one cake, just make sure it’s her favourite! 🙂

Now for the Finger Sandwiches! You can choose any fillings you like here so a good idea is to raid your fridge and cupboards for leftovers and ingredients you already have. I like to do a variety that include vegetarian, meat and fish options. And of course no afternoon tea would be complete without the infamous cucumber sandwiches! Use the freshest sliced bread, real butter (leave it out of the fridge for a while before attempting to spread) and cut off the crusts for added decadence. Then it’s up to you, cut into 4 triangles along the diagonals or 3 fingers cutting lengthways. Triangles or Finger Sandwiches…the choice is yours!

For the veggie options I like to do egg and cress, and a cheesy one like cheese and chutney. The cheese sandwiches are pretty self explanatory. For the egg sandwiches, place eggs in a pan of cold water and heat on full. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, time the eggs for 6 minutes then turn off the heat, drain and cool down the eggs rapidly by holding them in the pan under cold running water. When the eggs are cold enough to handle, crack the shell and peel off gently. Chop the egg into a bowl and mix with mayonnaise and some cress, salt and white pepper. Spread evenly onto your bread before slicing.

For the meat options I like to use left overs from a roast with their complimenting sauces or roast some chicken breasts for 15 mins (or until juices run clear) to slice up with some mayo and salad if I don’t have any leftovers available. Ham and English mustard is also a favourite in my household.

For the fish options, why not chop up some prawns with a Mary rose / prawn cocktail sauce (create by mixing tomato sauce with mayonnaise and a bit of lemon juice and possibly some cayenne pepper or paprika for a kick). My all time favourite sandwich filling is smoked salmon and cream cheese. It’s one that definitely feels fancy enough for a celebration afternoon tea! Pimp up the cream cheese by mixing in some lemon zest, black pepper and a squirt of lemon to taste.

For the best cucumber sandwiches, use white bread, butter, 1/2 cm slices of cucumber laid out so they cover the bread but don’t overlap and a pinch of salt (Cornish sea salt if you have it) over the top. And that’s it. Way tastier than they sound!

Now all you have to do is make a pot of tea and serve everything arranged as prettily as possible to your favourite people.

Happy Mothers Day!

Prawn Gyoza 

​​​Gyoza are without a doubt my favourite guilty pleasure. I could gobble up so many of these little parcels of heaven! Folded similarly to a Cornish Pasty, they are pretty far away from the holy food of my motherland except for the way they hold an equally delicious filling.

I first tried these traditional Japanese dumplings in Borough Market in London and they were so good I rarely swayed from the stall regardless of the other amazing temptations on offer. I even made them my last lunch in the UK before flying to Sydney and had to queue 30 minutes for the pleasure…clearly word has got out!

They’re a little bit fiddly to fold but apart from that, Gyoza are easier than they look so make for an impressive starter for your next dinner party or for your own pleasure. They are gooey, they are sticky and they are oh so flavoursome. So here’s The Cornish Cook’s Prawn Gyoza Recipe.

To make 10 Prawn Gyoza you will need:

10 cooked and peeled King Prawns | 1 thumb of Ginger peeled and grated | 2 Spring Onions | 2 tbsps of Soy Sauce | 1 clove of Garlic crushed | a pinch of chopped Coriander stalks and leaves | 1 tbsp of Seasame Oil | 10 Wonton Wrappers | 1/2 Pint Chicken Stock | 1 tbsp Olive Oil | 1 tbsp Lime Juice | 1/2 a Red Chilli | a pinch of Seseame Seeds (or crushed peanuts)

Mix together your prawns, ginger, whites of your spring onions finely diced, 1 tbsp soy sauce, seseame oil, garlic and coriander in a small bowl.

If you have square wonton wrappers, cut the corners to make them more round. In Sydney these are readily available in supermarkets and Asian stores but if you can’t find them where you are, follow my wonton wrappers recipe. 

 1 egg beaten | 1/3 cup water | 2 cups plain flour | Pinch of salt

Mix together, knead on a lightly floured surface until elastic, cut into equal pieces and roll into small balls. Cover for at least 10 minutes then roll out into small circles.

Hold each circle flat in one had (one at a time) then wet (with water) around the outside edge of half the circle with your finger. Add a heaped teaspoon of the prawn mixture to the centre of your wonton wrapper. 

To fold, hold one end of the wonton with your index finger separating the sides and holding steady with your thumb and middle finger, the rest should be balanced on your remaining fingers. Gently fold a small indent in the undedampened side and pinch against the moistened side. Continue this process down the full side of the dumpling then pinch along the whole edge to reinforce and ensure the filling doesn’t escape when cooking.

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Once you’ve folded all 10 dumplings, heat your stock with the olive oil in a large frying pan with a lid until simmering. Place your dumplings into the stock carefully (use tongs if you’re nervous about getting burnt). Close the lid and leave to steam for 5 minutes shaking the pan occasionally.

Then take the lid off and fry until all the liquid has evaporated and the bottoms of the Gyoza are crispy and golden.

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Transfer the Gyoza from the pan to your plates. Mix the remaining soy sauce and lime juice together and drizzle over the top of your Gyoza with a teaspoon. Finish with your seseame seeds/crushed peanuts, shredded green tops of your spring onions and slices of fresh red chilli. As the chilli fiend I am, I also sprinkle with some dried chillies.

Enjoy!

Australia Day Pavlova 

Pavlova is to Australians what a Cream Tea is to the Cornish so what better way to celebrate Australia Day than a tasty pavlova topped with lots of seasonal fruits?!

At home in Cornwall I’d use Cornish Clotted Cream for this recipe but I’ll unfortunately have to make do with the thickest double cream I could find in Sydney, whipped up so it’s even thicker!

In Australia, summer fruits and wonderful figs are in season so that’s what I’ve chosen to top my pavlova. Just about any fruit will work, so go nuts with your favourites!

One point to note is that you’ll need a bit of time for this one to allow the meringue to cool completely. Less time to actually prepare your pavlova though so what I like to do is make the meringue the night before, then assemble the cream and fruit on the day.

Here’s how to make The Cornish Cook’s Australia Day Pavlova.

You will need:

The Whites of 6 Large Eggs | 350g Caster Sugar | 200g Clotted Cream (or 200ml extra thick double cream) | 200g Mixed Fresh Fruit | Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract | Optional 200g raspberries, 25g icing sugar and 1 tsp lemon juice for the raspberry coulis | Optional 25g dark or milk chocolate for the meringue

Pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees c. Whisk your egg whites on a slow speed until they get a bit frothy. This will take about 3-4 mins. Then turn up the speed of your whisk to medium for another minute or two before whacking your whisk up to its highest speed. Whisk on high until the egg whites form stiff peaks. It’s important to not over-whisk your egg whites so as soon as your peaks stay put when you remove the whisk, stop. Feel free to do the bowl above your head test but do so at your own risk…

Now you can start to add your sugar to the egg whites. Whisk in sugar about a tablespoon at a time until you have a lovely glossy meringue mixture. On a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper, spoon about a third of your meringue into the centre of the tray. Spread out into a big circle leaving a little gap at the edge of the tray just in case! Then spoon the rest of the mixture in big blobs and swirl it around a bit. You don’t want any spikes on the top since these are likely to catch in the oven. If you get any spikes, push them down softly with a wet finger. A simple and stylish variation is to marble some melted chocolate into your meringue mix.

Once you’re happy with your meringue shape, put it in the oven and turn the temperature down to 140 degrees c immediately. The reason I do this, is so that the outside gets nice and crisp while the inside remains deliciously chewy as any good meringue should! Cook your meringue for 1 hour until lightly golden then turn your oven off and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven. Leaving the meringue in the oven allows it to dry out as it cools. Once completely cold, transfer your meringue onto your serving plate.

If you’re using Clotted Cream, gently stir in the vanilla extract before spreading onto your cold meringue. If you aren’t lucky enough to have clotted cream available to you (like me), gently whip some double cream with the vanilla extract and spread onto your meringue. Add your fruit to the top in whichever pattern you like. I like to display my fruit pretty randomly and my favourite fruits to display are red-currents on their stalks. Unfortunately these don’t really get a season in Australia from what I gather so I’ve opted for delicious raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, figs and cherries. I’ve kept the skins on the figs and the stalks on the strawberries and cherries for design but feel free to take these of for easy eating purposes!

If you have the time, why not make a quick raspberry coulis for a little more sharpness to cut through all that sugar in the meringue? To make this, heat the additional raspberries and icing sugar in a saucepan with a teaspoon of lemon juice until the sugar has completely dissolved and your raspberries have fallen apart to a runny sauce. Push the raspberry sauce through a fine sieve and then drizzle over your pavlova.

Viola!

 

 

Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Fajitas were most likely the first dish I ever cooked as a child. I’ve perfected the recipe over the years and it’s one of the dishes that friends will actively request when they’re coming over for dinner! There was one time that I made my friends cry because they were so spicy so don’t be like me and go easy on the chilli!

Fajitas are seriously quick and easy to rustle up and are definitely one of my own personal favourite meals so I’m always happy to prepare them upon request. Fajitas are really fun for an informal dinner party just so long as you have plenty of napkins or paper towels to wipe up your inevitable messy face and hands (and everything else, let’s face it!) Serve up after a few tasty nachos to get you started and wash down with some freshly mixed Margaritas!

Get ready for an awesome Mexican themed night with The Cornish Cook’s Chicken Fajitas!

To serve 4 party guests you will need:

2 Peppers (mix up the colours) | 1 Red Onion | 2 Chicken Breasts | 8 Large Tortillas (or 12 small) | Fajita Spices (or a blend of paprika, cumin and dried chilli flakes) | Guacamole | Salsa (or 2 large salad tomatoes) | 200ml Tub of Sour Cream (or yogurt/creme fraiche if that’s what you have in your fridge) | Bunch of Coriander | Olive Oil | Tequila (optional)

Start by slicing the peppers into long thin strips and stir fry on a high heat in a large frying pan, griddle pan or wok. Peel the onion and slice in half then thinly slice against the rings so that the layers will fall apart when you fry them. Add your onion to the pan and turn your heat right down. Keep stirring occasionally in between preparing your other ingredients.

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Chop your chicken (or beef steak if you prefer) into equal sized pieces that are also long and thin. Cover your meat in the fajita spices (or blend of a tea spoon each of the individual spices) then when the onions are almost translucent, turn up the heat and add it to the pan. Stir fry until your chicken (or beef) is cooked. At this stage I like to slosh in some tequila and try my best to flambĂ© it but if this is something you’re not comfortable doing, hold the tequila (or have an even better time eating Fajitas with the extra alcohol!) Turn the heat off then add some chopped coriander and the juice of a lime to finish. If you’re going down the fresh tomato route rather than homemade salsa (or shop bought, I’ll let you off this once), dice these and stir in to the fajita mix to warm through a little.

My family have always had sizzle pans which are awesome for keeping your food hot on the table and portioning off so your siblings don’t take more than their fair share! If you have these available, pre-heat them, oil them up and add the hot fajita mix to them and hear it sizzle as you risk your life taking them to the table! Since I flew away from the nest, I haven’t had such luxury, so I just keep the fajita mix in the pan on the table (make sure you put it on a heat proof mat, I’d hate to see you burn a hole in your table!)

Serve your fajitas with homemade Guacamole, salsa (if you skipped the fresh tomato stage) and sour cream. If you have plain natural yogurt or creme fraiche in the fridge, you can substitute this for the sour cream. I always try to use what I already have available so that I don’t need to buy so many ingredients at the supermarket. Warm your tortillas in the microwave for 30 secs (I like to fan them out around a plate so they don’t stick together) or in the oven wrapped in some foil for a few minutes until warm but still soft.

So that’s all the cooking out of the way, now it’s time for you and your friends to assemble to your liking at the table. If you have the big tortillas, the best way to fill them is to add the mixture to the middle in the top half. Fold the bottom up first, before folding in the sides. This helps catch all the tasty juices in the bottom of the tortilla rather than on your lap! As for the sauces, there are some different methods in my household. My Mum will always spread the sauces on first to cover the whole tortilla evenly, while I will dollop them on top before folding. You’ll have to let me know where your alliances go! With the small tortillas, eat the fajitas like a taco as shown below but be prepared to get seriously messy! Either way, remember the mantra “less is more” with the fajita mixture. All of us have got a bit carried away with the first fajita’s filling in all the excitement. You soon learn from this mistake when your tortilla rips and you have to hang your head in shame while you head for the cutlery drawer…


Enjoy!