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The new Diamond Jubilee Salon at Fortnum & Mason in central London. Click to reserve.

Welcome to Tea Tuesday, my weekly tribute to the art of having tea. As Henry James once said:  “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

I host Tea Tuesday each week, a virtual tea party which was inspired by Christine, a follower who lives in France, who was curious about English tea traditions after watching a few episodes of Downton Abbey. The British may have failed miserably in other culinary areas, but they excel in the tea ritual. Join me every Tuesday as I dish on Downton Abbey, the Royal Family, UK tourism and other topical tea issues one might discuss at tea, served up with a tea treat recipe with a history.

My Online Guide to the Tea Ritual

Many of you will be traveling to the UK and will likely have “afternoon tea” on your list. To help avoid disappointment (there is a difference between afternoon and high tea), I have created a handy guide to help you enjoy the experience: Downton Abbey Cooks Online Guide to Afternoon Tea. The guide includes:

  • The history of Tea in England
  • Tea Lingo
  • The difference between Afternoon and High Tea
  • Proper tea etiquette

The guide also includes tips and recipes to host your own tea party, perhaps to gather friends to watch your favorite Downton Abbey episode:

  • How to make a proper cup of tea
  • Sweet and Savoury tea recipes, including a great scone recipe you can adapt many ways.
  • How to build a tea service on a budget.

Dishing Downton

Season 3 poster revealed

After weeks of no news gossip front, some great news this week:

  • PBS confirmed that Season 3 starts  January 6th.
  • Emmy nominations were announced last Tuesday, and Downton Abbey received 16 nominations including best drama, as well as nods for Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) in the lead actor and actress categories, and supporting nominations for Joanne Froggatt (Anna), Maggie Smith (Dowager Countess), Jim Carter   (Mr. Carson) and Brendan Coyle (John Bates). As the Daily Beast’s critic Jace Lacob observed on Twitter: “It seems as though the entire casts of Downton Abbey… have been nominated.”
  • Check out my Online Guide for ideas on what to serve when hosting fellow fans to a Downton themed bash to watch the Emmys on Sept. 23.

Free Bates.

  • Cast members appeared for a Downton Abbey event hosted by the Television Critics Association Event on Saturday.  There was a question and answer section, and a trailer shown, which hopefully will be made available to the public, soon!  Nine More spoilers were revealed which alluded to the type of season we can expect. Hugh Bonneville stole the show with a show of support for John Bates.

Stilton and Fig Tart with Walnut Dressing

Stilton and Fig Tarts

This is a great simple addition to the savoury layer of your tea or your appetizer tray.  The recipe comes from the famous Fortnum & Mason in London, a place many of you may have the opportunity to visit this summer.  My treasured book of recipes from Fortnum & Mason was a gift from Ellen, my online friend who journeyed to London on a whim in response to a tweet I posted about a luncheon with Lady Carnvaron of High Clere Castle She promises she will provide an detailed account of her trip.  As it turns out she is off again to London this Fall, this time with her son. Both trips were in tribute to her Mother’s memory who passed last September.

Makes 6 tarts

Ingredients

  • 6 x 4″ tart shells
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, plus extra to garnish
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream or use non fat greek yogurt to reduce fat/calories
  • 2 fresh figs, each sliced into nine wedges
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 oz quality stilton cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper

for the dressing

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 oz walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
  • a bunch of watercress

Method

  1. Blind bake tarts according to package instructions (i.e. fill tart shells with dry beans, bake 10 minutes at 400 F, then remove beans and bake another 5 minutes until bottoms are dry).
  2. Melt butter in a pan. Add the onion and thyme sprig and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Discard the thyme spring and spread the onion over the base of the tart.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and dairy, season well with salt, black pepper and nutmeg.  Pour over the tarts.
  4. Top each tart with 3 slices of fig and sprinkle stilton on top.  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 F until golden and cooked through. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Whisk together the oils, vinegar and walnuts and season to taste.  Drizzle the dressing over the tart and garnish with water cress.
  6. Own your Own

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