Thursday, 5 February 2015

Perfect Cucumber Sandwiches

This week we're covering an Afternoon Tea staple: the Cucumber Sandwich. The execution of a perfect cucumber sandwich is more difficult than you would think. The bread needs to be perfectly fresh and whether to peel the cucumber is a hotly-discussed topic. Luckily, we've got it covered, here at Elena's L'Etoile!

(Makes 9)
1/2 cucumber, peeled
6 thin slices of good white bread
Unsalted butter, at room temperature
White pepper

1) Cut the cucumber into slices as thin as you can make them, and put in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle lightly with salt (don't go overboard) and leave for 20 minutes. Taste to check you haven't oversalted them: you can rinse them at this point if so.

2) Lay out a few pieces of kitchen paper on the work surface, place the cucumber slices on them, and pat dry with more paper.

3) Lay out the bread and butter each slice generously. Arrange the cucumber on half the slices, overlapping each round, and sprinkle with ground white pepper. Top with the remaining slices.

4) Pressing down firmly, cut the crusts off, and then cut into neat fingers, triangles or quarters of roughly equal sizes. Serve immediately, with good tea.

Cucumber sandwiches: are you a fan, or are they a silly Victorian affectation that deserves to go the way of the top hat and the whalebone corset? And if not, what do you like to do with this most refreshing of vegetables?

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The History of Afternoon Tea

As of the 15th January, we have been serving Afternoon Tea at Elena's. Afternoon Tea is one of our favourite classic British pastimes and we thought it would be fun to examine the history behind it.

Tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century and it is around this time that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of "having that sinking feeling" during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day: breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o'clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot of tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

Later, friends were invited to join her in her rooms at Woburn Abbey and this summer practice proved so popular that the Duchess continued it when she returned to London, sending cards to her friends asking them to join her for "tea and a walking the fields." Other social hostesses quickly picked up on the idea and the practice became respectable enough to move it into the drawing room. Before long, all of fashionable society was sipping tea and nibbling sandwiches in the middle of the afternoon.

Occasionally you will see hotels serving a 'high tea'. Traditionally, the upper classes would serve a 'low' or 'afternoon' tea around four o'clock, just before the fashionable promenade in Hyde Park. The middle and lower classes would have a more substantial 'high' tea later in the day, at five or six o'clock, in place of a late dinner. The names derive from the height of the tables on which the meals are served, high tea being served at the dinner table.

Many visitors from overseas still imagine that we are a nation where, in the words of the well-known song, 'at half past three, everything stops for tea'. Sadly, these days Afternoon Tea is usually only an occasional luxury for the British; a birthday treat in a country house hotel, or a welcome break from a hectic days shopping 'in town'. That said, it has remained such a popular phenomenon that it has spawned its own website, a handy help for any tourists still hoping to indulge in a little bit of British tradition for themselves.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Afternoon Tea at Elena's

We're very excited to announce, that, as of 15th January, Elena's will be serving Afternoon Tea from 12.30-17.30 Monday - Saturday.

We'll be serving the finest selection of teas together with freshly baked scones and sandwiches. In fact, you should check out the menu for yourselves!


Ham Sandwich with Grain Mustard Mayonnaise on White Bread
Scottish Smoked Salmon with Lemon Butter on Rye Bread
Cucumber, Dill and Cream Cheese Roll
Chicken on a Puff Pastry

Duo of Plain and Raisin Scones with Baked Clotted Cream and Strawberry Preserve

Fruit Tart
Bird Nest Meringue with Cream and Strawberries
Chocolate Éclair

White Chocolate Mousse