Lisa’s Letters Home: Tea Party

Lisa’s Letters Home: Tea Party

Lady Finger Foods

A couple of weekends ago, we had a baby shower for a good friend of mine. We went with a tea party theme, as per my friend’s request to do something involving cake and pampering – and what’s not to like about that? Baby showers are sort of a new thing on this side of the pond, usually conjuring up frightening images of greedy mums-to-be with baby registry lists the size of a phone book and games involving chocolate bars smeared on diapers. (Which we did do at my baby shower several years ago, and it was a lot funnier than it sounds.) It’s not very… British. One simply does not hold gatherings with the intention of accumulating gifts; it’s just so North American, darling. However, if you promise your guests tea, cake, and tiny savoury food items, it adds quite a bit of appeal. I decided to take on finger foods, and went on an Internet quest to find alternatives to traditional crustless egg salad and cucumber sandwiches.

Now, if you’re not on Pinterest, you won’t understand how it sucks your free time into a crafty, foody vortex of scintillating photos and links. While it takes vast portions of my life away, it also provides me with a lot of inspiration. I spotted a photo on Pinterest of stuffed cucumbers via Annie’s Eats, and I loved how simple they were while still looking fancy enough for party nibbles. There’s no real recipe here; you just cut a cucumber into 1” slices, scoop out the seedy middle bit, and pipe (or spoon) in a dollop of Boursin cheese thinned out with a little heavy cream. Cream cheese would work just as well, and I think these would be great in a school lunchbox. I made these a few hours ahead of time and they lasted very nicely.

I managed to use not one, but two neglected kitchen gadgets for this one: a melon baller to scoop out the inside of the cucumber and a julienne tool to remove thin strips of peel in a decorative manner. Both of these gadgets are inexplicably owned by my husband, who acquired them in the years before we met. What a single man was doing with a melon baller is really not worth pondering.

Another one of my “go-to” sites for inspiration is the BBC Good Food site, which is where I found the next two recipes. The first is a very Springy dish of zucchini and mozzarella rolls. I used rocket/arugula instead of pea shoots, because seriously – what supermarket carries pea shoots? They are absolutely delicious and if you can get them, definitely use them. Otherwise, arugula, watercress, or anything else decorative and leafy will work. You can’t make these too far ahead of time, as the rocket wilts and the zucchini will get quite watery after a few hours.

Pears with stilton wrapped with prosciutto or Parma ham is a pretty standard hors d’oeuvre, which is why I liked the slight variation of this recipe for pears with parmesan. I made quite a few changes to this recipe, mostly based on personal preference and still having the grill pan on after making the zucchini. I wondered what the pears would taste like in this dish if they were grilled, and the answer is: a lovely sweet contrast to the salty cheese and ham.

The recipe called for Parmesan cheese, but I prefer the slightly nuttier taste of Pecorino with pears. I didn’t use rocket/arugula as I used it for the zucchini rolls already. Again, these can’t be made too far ahead of time because the pears soften after they cool and get mushier with time.

All of these finger foods were a hit with the guests, and leftovers were eagerly taken home. The guest of honour is still with child, and was a little annoyed by the lack of stomach space at her baby shower. I’ll have to hold another tea party when her stomach isn’t being squished into a tiny ball by a baby bump!

Zucchini, Mozzarella, and Pea Shoot Rolls

(Makes around 20 rolls, depending on the size of the zucchinis.)

2 zucchinis, sliced thinly
Olive oil
Pesto (ready made or homemade)
Fresh mozzarella, torn into 1” pieces
Pea shoots, sprigs of watercress, or rocket/arugula

Method

Slice the zucchini into thin strips (I used a mandolin), drizzle with oil, and season. Heat a grill pan until it’s smoking hot, and grill the zucchini slices for a minute or so on each side. Leave the slices on a plate or cutting board to cool. Spread each slice with a very thin layer of pesto and add a small piece of mozzarella and a few pieces of arugula, so it sticks out a little at one end. Roll up and serve standing up on the flat end.

Proscuitto, Pear, and Pecorino Rolls

(Makes 12 rolls.)

2 ripe but firm pears, cored and halved
1 tsp lemon juice
6 slices prosciutto, cut in half
30g Pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Toothpicks

Method

Cut the pears into 12 slices. Combine the pears and lemon juice and sear in a very hot grill pan for 1-2 minutes per side.

Place a pear slice on each prosciutto slice. Add a shaving of Pecorino, roll tightly and secure with a toothpick.

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4 Comments

  1. Tammy Jones
    March 23, 13:12 Reply

    These look absolutely delicious! If it’s okay with you, I will skip the baby showers and serve these to guests at my next cocktail party.

  2. Phillipa Loewen
    March 23, 16:48 Reply

    So going to be trying the pear dealies…..sound definitely more-ish…..

  3. Helen
    March 23, 17:09 Reply

    “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a melon baller must be in want of a wife.” Austen, 1813

    tsch, woman, have you never read the classics?

    Waitrose in Glasgow has pea shoots, and the Tesco here does a *lovely* ‘peashoot salad’. given that I’d never even heard of eating peashoots until about nine months ago this feels very ahead of the curve.

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