Take tea for two or more

TEA parties are the "in" thing these days. Whether you host a bridal shower, book club, birthday party, house-warming party, baby shower or just to catch up with your girlfriends, an afternoon tea party is a wonderful way to celebrate.

TEA parties are the "in" thing these days. Whether you host a bridal shower, book club, birthday party, house-warming party, baby shower or just to catch up with your girlfriends, an afternoon tea party is a wonderful way to celebrate.

Party planner Jane Ball says a tea party is ideal because it is suitable for many celebrations.

It is basically a celebration with tea as the beverage.

Only tea, bouillon, chocolate, sandwiches, biscuits and cakes are served, according to Ball, and guests go to the table and help themselves to their own selection of what is on offer.

There can be all sorts of sandwiches, biscuits, crumpets, muffins, sliced cake and little cakes in every variety that a cook or caterer can devise.

Whatever comes under the heading of "bread and cake" is admissible, but nothing else, or it becomes a "reception," and not a "tea."

Ball says the winning formula for a tea party is a good tea.

"Any type and flavour is fine, just choose tea of high quality. Use fresh, cold water, filtered if your tap water isn't great.

"Put the water in a clean kettle and put it on to boil or on the stove to heat.

While the water is heating, fill your teapot and your teacups with warm tap water.

"When the kettle is ready, empty the tap water from your teapot, it should be nice and warm now.

"Add your loose tea - about one rounded teaspoon for each cup," Ball says.

"Then fill your teapot with the hot water from the kettle. Black tea and oolong teas should be made with boiling water, but white and green teas are best made with water that is just about to boil," Ball explains.

Planning your tea party

l Select a date and send out your invitations.

l Buy your tea and related accessories.

l Review recipes for tea time sandwiches and treats.

l Plan your menu. Include both savoury and sweet food.

l Set a beautiful table.

l Design an easy rose centrepiece.

l Brew and serve a proper pot of tea.

l Relax and enjoy your guests while musing on the merits of tea. - Additional info www.howto.com

MACADAMIA NUT TART:

1 roll of ready made short crust pastry

or

To make the pastry:

250g flour

150g butter

20ml icing sugar

A pinch of salt

60ml cold water

1 egg yolk

In a food processor pulse dry ingredients with butter Add water and egg yolk and blend till a smooth dough is formed.

Roll out and bake blind at 175 degrees for 20 minutes or until the pastry is a lovely golden brown.

For the filling:

3 eggs

250ml maple syrup

125ml glucose

125ml brown sugar

60g butter (melted)

10ml vanilla extract

375ml macadamia nuts

Method:

Combine eggs with maple syrup, glucose, melted butter and vanilla extract.

Add nuts to the well-blended mixture.

Pour into the baked pastry shell and bake for 30-40 minutes at 175 degrees.

Dust with icing sugar.

(Makes one 23cm tart)

AMARULA CRÈME CHOCOLATE ÉCLAIRS

For the éclairs:

250ml water

100g butter

250ml flour

4 eggs

200g good quality dark chocolate

Boil water and butter. Add the flour and take off direct heat, allow to cool.

Beat one egg at a time till a thick paste is formed.

Pipe dough through a piping bag.

Bake at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes till golden brown.

For the crème:

30ml Amarula

500ml fresh cream

50ml white sugar

Whisk cream and sugar till stiff peaks form (be careful not to split the cream)

Fold in Amarula. Dip in melted chocolate

When set, cut and pipe in the cream. Makes about 30 éclairs.

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