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Recipe Swap: Afternoon tea a trip down memory lane

Afternoon tea might evoke visions of finger sandwiches and clotted cream or pinkies held out affectedly.

For me it brings back memories of being at my grandmother’s house after school. She always served what she called “tea,” which in her house was a late afternoon meal, or light supper.

‘Gram’ was born in Southhampton, England, emigrating in the early 1900s to Minnedosa, Manitoba with her family. All her years as a farmwife near Basswood, and later living in Newdale, she’d have her afternoon tea.

It was never fancy — a few cookies, some cheese, and some raisin bread. She’d pour a “cuppa” then sit down with her visitors. She was an attentive listener, and always asked thoughtful questions. She loved having people over and always had the kettle going the minute anyone popped by. Many did.

I think of her often, but it’s the taste of certain foods that really evoke her memory — raisin bread, a ‘tea loaf’ or butter tarts. These, of course, were almost always on her tea table. A bite of them is a sensory sweep back in time, to her kitchen, where tea was always on and there was time for it.

“We eat certain things in a particular way to remember who we are,” writes Jeff Smith in his book The Frugal Gourmet Keeps the Feast.

What food or foods evoke a memory of someone special, or a special place in time for you?

Here’s a few recipes from various sources for a tea time, or any time, treat.

Gram’s Butter Tarts

  • To make pastry:
  • 2-1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 block vegetable shortening

Mix together flour, sugar, salt and shortening with a pastry blender until consistency of small peas. Mix one beaten egg with one tbsp. vinegar and add cold water to reach 1/2 c. of liquid. Mix together with flour mixture adding a little to ensure pastry dough is neither too wet or dry. Roll out, cut with biscuit cutter to create tart shells, then proceed to fill with tart mixture.

  • To make filling:
  • 1 tbsp. creamed butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tbsp. vinegar
  • 1 c. raisins

Pour hot water over raisins to soften and puff them up.

Mix together butter, vanilla, brown sugar and beaten egg, then add one tbsp. vinegar and spread it over the top. Add raisins to mixture. Fill tart shells 3/4 full and bake for 15 minutes at 375 F. Makes about 15 tarts.

Orange Pound Cake

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 2-1/4 c. sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 c. cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. freshly grated orange peel
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Orange glaze:
  • 1 c. orange juice
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease and flour a Bundt pan. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture in two additions, alternating with the sour cream. Stir in orange peel and vanilla. The batter will be fairly thick. Spoon batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 1-1/2 hours, or until a wooden pick inserted near the centre comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, bring glaze ingredients to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 10 minutes; keep warm. Remove pound cake from the oven and let stand five minutes. Pour hot glaze over the top of the cake and let stand for one hour before removing the pan.

Serves 8. Source: Great Tastes of Manitoba.

Fruit Scones

  • 2-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. butter, cubed
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. sugar, divided

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins. Mix lemon juice into the milk, and pour into flour mixture, mixing dough until quite sticky. Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead gently. Pat to a 3/4-inch thickness and use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, brush with egg and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 scones.

Fruit Tea Loaf Cake

  • 1/3 c. sunflower or other light oil
  • 3/4 c. sugar, or alternative dry sweetener
  • 1-1/4 c. tea brewed at regular strength
  • 1-3/4 c. unbleached or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. raisins
  • 1/2 c. dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 c. dried figs, chopped
  • 1/2 c. almonds or hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream together the oil and sweetener in a large mixing bowl. Add tea (and if using it, the vanilla) and mix well. Sift the flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg together into the wet ingredients, mixing until all ingredients are moist. Stir in the fruit and nuts, blending well. Turn the mixture into a well-greased loaf pan and spread the top with a wooden spoon or spatula to smooth. Bake for 35 minutes or until done when tested with a toothpick. Cool to room temperature before serving. Source: Canadian Tea Council.

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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