My First Pop-Up Tea Party – Indian Afternoon Tea

On Sunday I hosted my very first food event! An Indian inspired afternoon tea featuring Gujarati snacks, sweets and Indian inspired bakes – and of course lots of tea. On the menu were two savouries, various sweets, two cakes and masala chai.

My venue was the fabulous Cambridge Cookery School – which was a dream to cook in – especially being as my kitchen is the size of a postage stamp. There were 5 ovens, or maybe 6! I lost count. I had a lot of fun prepping in there. I had the help of Miss Sue Flay, Cambridge’s afternoon tea expert extraordinaire – her experience was much appreciated!

My guests arrived and I greeted them with a refreshing glass of Mango Lassi. My lassi was spiced with cumin – based on the traditional Gujarati dessert of ‘Rus’ – which is mango puree sprinkled with cumin and salt, eaten like a cold soup. Mango Lassi often comes with just a little salt, or fennel, the cumin was a nice change – and very nostalgic for me! My mango lassi recipe is here.

My afternoon tea consisted of two savouries, three sweets and two cakes. As you would traditionally start with finger sandwiches my guests dove into the savouries first.

Dhokra – steamed chickpea & semolina sponge, with chilli & ginger

Pea Katchoris – crispy pastries filled with peas, potato, cumin and mustard seeds

Tea station

Whilst everyone worked their way through savouries I made two big pans of masala chai with Kandula English Breakfast Tea and a sprinkling of Jacob’s Jam’s Chai Masala. Masala chai is made by bringing water, sugar, masala and loose tea to the boil then adding milk and bringing to the boil once again. If my guests wondered why I was staring so intently at it, it is because it can boil over in seconds if you take your eye off it – a watched pot does boil, full recipe here.

Onto the sweets – again as is traditional for afternoon tea – they made up the majority of my offering for the day. I really wanted to include some mithai on my menu, as they are integral to sweets in Indian culture – served during all celebrations – weddings, births, Diwali and when welcoming important guests.

My personal favourite mithai is ladoo – made up of tiny deep fried sugar balls which are then formed into large rounds and spiced with cardamom and decorated with pistachio nuts. These are something of a challenge to make, so they didn’t make it on to my menu – but if you see them anywhere – buy them!

Kopra Pak – coconut and milk sweets with saffron and a sprinkling of chocolate
Ghor Papri – ghoor/jaggery and sesame seeds with pistachio for prettiness

Crumbly and lightly spiced Nankhatai biscuits are ideal with a cup of tea, and they were a hit with my guests. Thumbprint cookies remind me of Nankhatai – although the Indian biscuits are filled with nuts or sometimes spices. Mine had pistachio on top, and for a few brave types – cumin seeds.

What is afternoon tea without cake? First up was my Honey Sesame Dream Cake – not a based on a traditional Indian recipe but the flavours are quite Indian! I made a double batch for an extra tall cake.

My centrepiece was a Masala Chai Cake which had three components – a light sponge which was then soaked in spiced tea syrup before being sandwiched with cream cheese buttercream with a final flourish of syrup and some pistachios. My cake icing skills need a little work, I have to admit, but I was happy with the flavours. I’m planning on making that tea syrup again, but putting it into a cocktail instead!

Putting on a food event is such hard work, I’m used to organising conferences as part of my day job, but food is something else! I spent the whole weekend prepping plus all the planning before, list making, shopping, recipe collecting – but it was so FUN. I learnt lots, and some new techniques – a lot of the food I’d eaten before but never cooked before so it was a steep learning curve.

The majority of the pictures in this post were taken by Ozzy – thank you for capturing my event so perfectly. 🙂

Thanks so much to all who came to my tea – particular thanks to Tine at the Cookery School for the venue, Miss Sue Flay for being a fabulous assistant, Gemma at The Linton Kitchen for lending me her gorgeous china and my lovely husband for being my sous chef/assistant/calmer downer.

I’m doing this all again soon! Next is a supperclub which will be a 3 course Gujarati (vegetarian) feast. I’m still working out a date so stand by your inboxes (sign up to get emails here) or follow me on Twitter for tickets. Soon!

1 Comment on My First Pop-Up Tea Party – Indian Afternoon Tea

  1. Pauline Wiles
    August 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm (7 years ago)

    It looks wonderful (stunning location) but I can well believe how much work this was. Kudos to hubby for being your calmer-downer – every woman needs one of those 🙂
    The food all looks amazing, but your Masala Chai Cake is the one I would really love to taste. Congrats and I’m glad it all went well.


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