Quality snacks can make or break afternoon tea, but they needn’t cost the moon. Eric Lanlard indulges in some decadent dishes that would put grand hotels to shame

Spinach focaccia with salmon and keta tartare

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus rising and cooling
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Makes 16

This open sandwich is visually stunning due to the contrast of colours, but more importantly it tastes amazing. This is true sophisticated baking – perfect for a celebratory occasion and worth all the effort. You need to ensure you use very fresh salmon for this recipe. To make spinach purée, defrost 500g (1lb 2oz) frozen spinach and squeeze dry on kitchen paper or in a clean tea towel. Place in a blender and whizz to a purée.

400g (14oz) skinless Scottish salmon fillet,finely diced
3-4 tbsp créme fraîche
70g (2½oz) capers, rinsed
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp finely chopped dill, plus extra to garnish100g (3½ oz) keta (salmon roe)
freshly ground black pepper

For the focaccia

500g (1lb 2oz) strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling and drizzling
​300ml (½  pint) cold water
​200g (7oz) spinach purée 
sea salt flakes

First, make the focaccia. Put the flour, salt, yeast, nutmeg, oil and 250ml (9fl oz) of the water into a large bowl. Using your hands or a wooden spoon, gently combine to form a dough, then knead in the bowl for 5 minutes, gradually adding the remaining water and spinach purée.

Turn the dough out on to an oiled work surface and continue kneading for a further 5 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Line two baking sheets, 20 x 26cm (8 x 10½ in), with baking paper. Turn the dough out on to the work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Using your hands, press the dough into the prepared baking sheets, making sure it reaches into the corners. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour. Preheat the oven to 220°C (fan 200°C)/425°F/gas mark 7. Using your fingertips, create little dimples all over the focaccia, then drizzle with olive oil and add a good sprinkling of sea salt flakes.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden. Drizzle with more oil while still hot, then transfer to cooling racks and leave to cool. Meanwhile, put the salmon, créme fraiche, capers and herbs into a bowl and season with pepper. Mix well, then gently fold in the keta. Cover with clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator until required. Cut the focaccia into 16 rectangles, each about 10 x 5cm (4 x 2in). Using two spoons, scoop a quenelle of salmon tartare on to each piece of bread. Garnish with dill and chill until ready to serve.

 

Roast beef, watercress and horseradish brioche buns

Preparation time: 25 minutes, plus rising and cooling
Cooking time: 15–20 minutes

Makes 12

There is something very satisfying about making your own bread and I especially like making brioche. These sweet, buttery buns combined with the rare roasted beef, the tangy sauce and crunchy watercress are simply divine. If you wish to cook your own beef for this recipe, roast a 500g (1lb 2oz) beef topside joint in a preheated oven, 200°C (fan 180°C)/400°F/gas mark 6, for 15–20 minutes, then leave to cool before slicing.

100g (3 ½ oz) créme fraîche
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
slightly salted butter, softened, for spreading
handful of watercress
24 thin slices of rare roast beef (see Tip)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the brioche buns

125ml (4fl oz) warm water
1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
2 tbsp warm milk
2 tsp golden caster sugar
​225g (8oz) strong white bread flour, plus
extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, beaten
beaten egg, to glaze
sesame seeds, for sprinkling

First, make the brioche buns. Put the 125ml (4fl oz) warm water, the yeast, warm milk and sugar into a bowl and leave to stand for 5 minutes until it starts to bubble. Meanwhile, tip the flour and salt into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the yeast mixture and egg. Using your hands, mix together until it forms a sticky dough – don’t worry if the mixture feels a little wet at this stage, it will come together when kneading.

Knead the dough in the bowl for 10 minutes, stretching it up and out of the bowl with your hands – it will still be very sticky. The dough is ready when it feels soft and bouncy and will stretch up high without breaking. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Knock back the dough by punching out the air, then turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes. Divide into 12 equal pieces,  then roll into balls and place on the prepared baking sheets.

Loosely cover with a damp, clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C)/400°F/gas mark 6. Brush the buns with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool. In a small bowl, mix the créme fraîche and horseradish together, then season to taste. Cut the brioche buns in half horizontally, then butter the cut sides. Spread over the horseradish cream, then add some watercress and two folded beef slices to each. Top with the brioche lids and serve.

 

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Black bottom cheesecake squares

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Cooking time: 5 minutes

Makes 12  

This is a guilty pleasure of mine: a simple, yet striking no-bake cheesecake that does not require too much work, but is still indulgent. It’s important to use good quality cream cheese for this recipe.

350g (12oz) Oreo biscuits
​125g (4 ½ oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp powdered gelatine
4 tbsp hot water
​175g (6oz) white chocolate, roughly chopped
​350g (12oz) cream cheese
​300ml (½ pint) double cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
​100g (3.oz) golden caster sugar

Line the base of a 23cm (9in) square springform cake tin with baking paper. Using a knife, open up 250g (9oz) of the Oreo biscuits. Scrape the creamy filling into a large bowl and set aside. Put the biscuits into a food processor and whizz until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Using a tablespoon, press the biscuit base evenly into the prepared tin and leave to firm up in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, put the gelatine into a small heatproof bowl, pour over the four tablespoons of water and set aside.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Leave to cool for a few minutes. Scrape the creamy filling from the remaining biscuits and add to the bowl with the other biscuit filling, then crush the remaining biscuits and set aside.

Beat the cream cheese, cream, vanilla paste, Oreo filling and sugar together in a bowl using an electric hand whisk. Stir in the gelatine mixture and the melted white chocolate, then fold in the crushed biscuits, reserving a few crumbs for decoration. Pour the mixture on to the biscuit base, keeping a little bit back to use as decoration. Leave to set in the refrigerator for about four hours. Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut into 12 small squares. Add a small scoop of the remaining cream mixture to the top of each square, then dust with the reserved cookie crumbs for decoration.

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