For a full afternoon tea, finger sandwiches are definitely something I would serve. I think they look really pretty if they are carefully made and presented on petit four stands or on beautiful plates.
They should only take 2 or 3 bites to eat. It should be possible to pick up the sandwich in one hand. Afternoon tea is a delicate affair and it's hard to be dainty while munching on a large sandwich that you have to hold in both hands. :)
Fingers, triangles or squares are all popular choices, but I must say I have a preference for triangles. You can see the filling so much better with triangles and it's easier to lay them out attractively.
If you want to make a fairy princess style tea party, you can even cut them into different shapes like stars and hearts, using pastry cutters.
It's best to remove the crusts after filling the sandwiches. Although you waste a little of the
filling, they look so much better. You can always snack on the crusts
before your guests arrive. That way, you can look attractively
restrained when the goodies come out!
I prefer to have my loaves already sliced, just for ease. Ready-sliced loaves are usually more square in shape and this makes it easier to cut them into nice shapes.
Always buy thin or medium sliced bread - never thick, for afternoon tea. And it goes without saying that the better the bread, the tastier the sandwich will be.
For a full afternoon tea, I like to serve a selection of different sandwiches. I usually choose between three and five different fillings, depending on the number of people coming.
Unless you have mainly vegetarians in your group, I think a selection of your favourite finger sandwiches from the meat and vegetarian choices is best.
For afternoon tea, I think it's important not to have too many very strong flavours in the sandwiches, or it detracts from the delicate taste of some of the teas, and certainly of the cakes and other sweets. When I'm getting a little bored if my usual sandwiches, I just change the flavourings that I use.
I have a fabulous book called The Flavour
Bible. This book has been written by a number of chefs who make
suggestions for different flavourings to go with food.
I use it extensively in my kitchen. Just for example, the book suggests lemon, pepper, cream cheese, chives and dill as the main ingredients to compliment smoked salmon, but it also offers some more unusual ingredients such as chervil, eggs, sour cream, celery, cumin and poached salmon - all of which I have tried in smoked salmon sandwiches very successfully. It also suggests ingredients to avoid - in this case, mayonnaise.
These pretty little open sandwiches are simply to make and you can be as adventurous as you like with the toppings. This particular sandwich is made with buckwheat bread and is suitable for grain free (buckwheat is not a grain) and gluten free guests. Shown here are sliced baby tomatoes on cream cheese and cucumber with dill on pesto cheese.
Sometimes I like to be very traditional and perhaps a little old-fashioned, but often I prefer to be a bit different and more adventurous. I've given a selection of my favourites of both.
If you want to be traditional, then the old-fashioned favourites are best. These are the kinds of sandwich you would expect to find at an English afternoon tea served in good hotels across England.
For meat lovers, the ham sandwich is very traditional. I like mine best when they are made with good Yorkshire Roast Ham. But there are many other delicious hams that you can try. I adore mustard and can't resist English mustard on mine. But dijon mustard mayonnaise is also delicious.
Especially if you roast your own meat, roast beef sandwiches take some beating. I adore them served with horseradish sauce.
Chicken sandwiches are another good tasty option. Again, cooking your own chicken means that you can flavour it yourself and you can make sure it is tender and juicy. I've given my favourite recipe for roasting chicken breasts here, but we do often use ready cooked chickens from the deli counter.
Salmon finger sandwiches are so delicious. I can never decide whether I prefer smoked salmon or poached salmon so I've given recipes for both. It's nice to have smoked salmon with a little lemon if there are other creamy mayonnaise sandwiches as part of the spread. Using gravadlax makes smoked salmon sandwiches even more special.
Tuna sandwiches are a great store cupboard standby. They can be whipped up in no time and make a tasty addition to an afternoon tea spread. Of course, they're quite filling on their own and we often have them as a tasty afternoon tea snack with a cupcake and some apple.
Cucumber tea sandwiches are my personal favourite. They are so quintessentially English and they look so pretty. I almost always include them as part of an afternoon spread as they make the other sandwiches look lovely with the touch of green showing.
Cheese and pickle sandwiches are superb, especially if you have vegetarians in your group. I like to use a slightly different relish to the usual Branston Pickle. I've included recipes for Carrot and Ginger relish and Tomato Chutney - both delicious with cheese.
Egg salad sandwiches are totally sublime! I find them irresistable... They're always the first off the plate in our house. Sometimes we serve them with cress for prettiness, but usually we just serve them plain.It's another great store cupboard standby.
Tomato sandwiches are marvellous too. I adore them with basil and a little vinaigrette dressing. The colours are so pretty, and they are so tasty. Of course, tomato sandwiches really are best with fresh tomatoes in the height of summer, but we still can't resist vine tomatoes in the winter time.
Watercress sandwiches are truly delightful (if you like the peppery flavour, of course). I just love the dark green of the leaves and the crunch as you bite into them. They add a little more interest to the mix.
Some of these recipes include mayonnaise, so I have given you my favourite homemade mayonnaise recipe. All these sandwiches taste great with shop bought mayonnaise - but sometimes it just feels good to make your own!
I have also included my favourite homemade salad dressing recipe, given to me by my mum, given to her by a French chef. It's very good! I like it on tomato sandwiches.
Salad cream is indispensible in egg salad sandwiches, in my opinion! You can buy shop bought, but this homemade version is delicious and of course, you know exactly what goes into it.
This tomato chutney is delicious on cheese sandwiches, particularly the mild and crumbly hard cheeses like Wensleydale and Cheshire. It is not spicy, but mild and sweet, more like a jam. Tomato chutney also tastes good with ham sandwiches.
Carrot and ginger relish is extremely pretty with cheese on brown bread. It adds colour, crunch and flavour to otherwise rather dull cheese sandwiches. My favourite pairing is with Edam cheese, but it goes well with any white cheese from Cheddar to Monteray Jack.
If you have a great baker near to you, you can try out different sorts of bread. We have a fabulous bakery in town that makes great gluten free bread, for example.
In this case, why not try some more adventurous fillings for your sandwiches?
I love to serve different kinds of salad sandwiches in
different kinds of bread. Just heap loads of different salad leaves into a sandwich and dress with my favourite salad dressing or with mayonnaise.
Smoked mackerel and avocado sandwiches are delicious.
Wraps are easy to make with great fillings, such as cream cheese, grated carrot, garlic and salad. In this case, you can take a really sharp knife and make pinwheel sandwiches, which are a little bit different and look fabulous.
If you are making cream puffs or chocolate eclairs for afternoon tea,
why not use some of the choux pastry cases to make tea sandwiches with a
difference! Some fillings go particularly well in choux pastry. Try ham
with dijon mustard, or beef with horseradish and ginger.... For
vegetarian fillings, think of watercress or cheese. A nice strong
mountain cheese would go well in choux cases. And I am rather partial to
them filled with creamy cheese - such as Boursin.
Overall, avoid watery fillings such as tomato, egg mayonnaise or .... They will turn the choux cases soggy in no time at all and then they won't be good to serve.
Sometimes finger sandwiches can be difficult to present in an appealing way. Rectangular plates neatly solves this problem, so long as they are the right width.This gorgeous Royal Albert Vintage Formal Sandwich Tray in Polka Blue available from Amazon solves that problem! I am saving for this tea service. I absolutely adore it!