Mary Berry's afternoon tea

Looking to impress your next set of guests? Try Queen of Baking Mary Berry's recipes for mini scones, proper cucumber sandwiches, meringues and bite-sized banoffee pies for a perfect afternoon tea.

Proper cucumber sandwiches

Mary says: "I use thinly sliced brown or white bread, which average about 24 slices. Allow one sandwich per person, if serving with scones and cake too, and a choice of two fillings.

"Always taste the filling before you put it in the bread. Flavour is very important – cucumber needs plenty of pepper, for instance.

"For afternoon tea, cut the sandwiches into four triangles or three long fingers, and cut off the crusts first, to give a more elegant finish. Small, bite-sized sandwiches look best served alongside scones, mini tarts and slices of cake."

If making the day before, use slightly thicker slices of cucumber and lemon-flavoured butter. Season with black pepper.

The sandwiches can be made the night before, or in the morning before an afternoon event. Butter the bread, fill and stack no more than six sandwiches on top of each other. Put them, uncut, on large trays, cover completely with cling film, then a damp tea towel. Transfer to the fridge. No more than 2 hours before serving, trim the crusts from the bread using a very sharp knife, then cut each sandwich into either 4 triangles or 4 domino shapes.

Smoked salmon, prawn and dill canapes

These are so pretty to look at and fresh and healthy to eat – the mayonnaise adds a little flavour and holds the prawn in place. To make them really smart, and if you do not want to serve the bread, arrange 20 Chinese spoons on a serving plate, spoon a teaspoon of mayonnaise on each one and sit a canapé on top.

Serves: 20

Ingredients

4 large slices of smoked salmon

20 cooked and peeled king prawns

2 tablespoons light mayonnaise

20 sprigs of fresh dill

Juice of ½ a lemon

5 slices of rye bread

Soft butter, for spreading

Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Lay the salmon slices on a board and slice into twenty 10 × 1.5cm (4 × ¾in) strips.

  • Sit a prawn in the centre of a strip of salmon (so the top and tail are sticking out).

  • Spoon a little mayonnaise on top of the prawn, lay a piece of dill on top and sprinkle with black pepper. Roll the smoked salmon piece around the prawn and squeeze over a little lemon juice.

  • Repeat with the remaining ingredients to give 20 canapés.

  • Spread the bread slices with butter, cut off the crusts and cut each slice into four squares. Arrange on a plate, sit the prawn canapé on each square, sprinkle with black pepper and a squeeze of lemon and serve cold.

Buttermilk and sultana scones

Buttermilk gives a lovely, light texture to these scones. Omit the sultanas if you prefer plain scones. The scones are best made on the day, but they can be made up to a day ahead and reheated.

Ingredients

450g (1lb) self-raising flour

2 heaped tsp baking powder

75g (3oz) butter, cubed

75g (3oz) caster sugar

100g (4oz) sultanas

2 large eggs, beaten

1 × 284ml carton buttermilk

Cream

Jam

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/200°C fan/Gas 7

  • Line a baking sheet with baking parchment

  • Measure the flour, baking powder and butter into a bowl. Rub with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and sultanas or do this in a food processor.

  • Mix the eggs and buttermilk together in a jug and pour all but 1 tablespoon into the flour bowl and lightly mix together until combined – it should be a fairly moist dough

  • Lightly sprinkle the worktop with flour and gently knead the dough until smooth and soft

  • Roll the dough to about 2.5cm (1in) thick. Using a 6cm round fluted scone cutter, stamp out 12 scones.

  • Arrange the scones on the baking sheet and brush the tops with the reserved egg and milk mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for about 12–15 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Once cooked can be frozen.

Mini meringues

Meringues are a wonderful dessert and handy to have in the cake tin ready to fill. They can be make up to two months ahead and kept in a bag or box. They freeze well in a box (this avoids crushing).

Serves: 30

Ingredients

3 egg whites

175g (6oz) caster sugar

150ml (¼ pint) double cream, whipped

Fresh raspberries or strawberries

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C fan/Gas 1. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. You will need a piping bag with a 1cm (½in) plain nozzle.

  • Measure the egg whites into a large bowl (or the bowl of a free-standing machine). Whisk on high speed until white and fluffy, like a cloud. Still whisking on maximum speed, gradually add the sugar, a teaspoon at a time, until incorporated and the meringue is stiff and shiny and stands upright on the whisk.

  • Using the piping bag, pipe the meringue mixture into tiny rounds on the baking sheet – make sure they are the same size so they cook evenly

  • Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the meringues come off the baking parchment easily

  • Remove from the paper on to a cooling rack and set aside until stone cold

  • Keep in the cake tin until ready to serve with whipped cream and raspberries, strawberries or other soft fruits

Mini banoffee pies

Tins of ready-made caramel can be bought in any supermarket and save having to boil a can of condensed milk like we used to, to give it a caramel flavour. The toffee can be put into the rings up to a day ahead. Top with banana and cream up to 6 hours ahead (leave the rings on as the banana will discolour if exposed to the air). Not suitable for freezing.

Serving: 8 mini pies

Ingredients

40g (1½oz) butter, melted

75g (3oz) digestive biscuits, crushed

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) light muscovado sugar

1 × 397g tin caramel

4 small bananas

200ml (7fl oz) double cream, lightly whipped

25g (1oz) square of dark chocolate

Method

  • You will need eight 7cm (2½-in) cooking rings, arranged on a baking sheet. To make the bases, mix the melted butter with the crushed biscuits and stir until combined. Spoon evenly between the rings and press down with the back of a spoon. Chill while you make the topping.

  • Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the caramel and stir until combined. Simmer for 1 minute then set aside to cool for a few minutes.

  • Pour the sauce into the rings on top of the biscuit base and chill for about 1 hour or until the toffee has just set. Slice the banana and arrange on top, then spoon or pipe over the cream. Slide a fish slice under each ring and move to serving plates. Remove the rings and finely grate chocolate on top of each pie to garnish.

  • Serve chilled

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