This is the most delicious part of the tea party series, food! Luckily when throwing a casual tea party for friends, you can make the food as simple as you'd like. I recently co-hosted a tea party for a few close friends; M and I decided to keep the food pretty casual and simple. I made chicken salad on croissants, and she made delicious BLT's with avocado on white bread; no crusts, of course.
When it comes to afternoon tea, there are a few staples you must have. Finger sandwiches, fresh fruits, scones, and sweets. Traditionally you would start with a selection of finger sandwiches, cleanse your palette with fruit, have a scone, and then move onto the sweets. This can be easily achieved if you have a tiered serving tray; you just start from the bottom and work your way up! M and I had an abundance of food, so we had to set up a separate small table for the desserts.
After several tea parties I've decided that although cucumber sandwiches are a traditional staple for tea, I much prefer heartier sandwiches; chicken salad has become my favorite.
Basic Chicken Salad
- Canned Chicken, packed in water
- Celery, finely chopped
- Green Onions, finely chopped
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Dash of Cayenne
Drain the chicken and place in a large mixing bowl. Chop the veggies and toss on top of the chicken. I usually season by grinding enough pepper to cover the top of the chicken and veggies, then I add a liberal sprinkle of salt and a dash of cayenne. Last step is to add the mayonnaise, I prefer my chicken salad on the dry side. I don't think it's very lady like to have your sandwich dripping with mayo. It's best when refrigerated for several hours, or overnight, before serving. Split mini croissants in half and fill with the chicken salad. These can be turned into countless types of chicken salad: curried, sweet with apple and walnuts, savory with sun-dried tomatoes, the list goes on.
Scones are incredibly easy to make, so are shortbread cookies. The main difference between the two is how the butter is added. For scones, be sure to dice your butter and then put it in the freezer before you cut it into the flour. Use your fingers to combine until you get a sand like texture. With shortbread, you add softened butter that doesn't need to be cut into the flour. Scones are great because you can make them quite plain, then top with them with butter and jam. The shortbread can be made into round cookies and filled with lemon curd or buttercream. M and I enjoy scones and shortbread with every tea party we throw.
If you are short on time, serve fresh fruit, croissants, and store bought pastries for your tea party. If there's a bakery near your home you can usually find decadent treats that are better quality than any grocery store, and typically less expensive. Mexican Wedding Cookies, or Russian Tea Cakes, are delicious with tea. I also enjoy mini lemon bundt cakes, and fruit tarts. You can even buy the pre-made chicken salad from the store, and just buy the croissants to put the salad on. It's amazing how much a croissant can dress up a simple sandwich.
A great way to dress up store bought treats, such as mini cupcakes, is to place them in a demitasse tea cup. Not only does it look beautiful, it's also edible!
There you have it, throwing a casual tea party on a budget! You have so many options when it comes to settings. Your buffet table, dining room table, living room, or even your backyard are all perfect. Now that the weather is starting to mellow out I see many outdoor teas in my future. This is the perfect way to spend a Saturday amongst friends, and the cleanup is pretty easy too. So grab your white linens and china, and throw a tea party this weekend!