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Kitchen Index Irish Kitchen Library

Memories of Tea Time
by Bridget Haggerty

When I was growing up, tea-time around 4:00 pm was a regular part of our daily routine. During the week, it was simple fare - mostly bread and butter and a cuppa, with perhaps a few biscuits (cookies). But, on Sunday, my mother usually put on a nice spread.

I can well remember the classic sandwiches she made - marmite and watercress, for example. I was also delighted to discover that a staple in our house back then - Shippam's Paste, is still available. It was a fish-flavored spread that while it might sound less than appetizing, was actually very good. I also recall when times were a bit difficult, sandwiches made with drippings saved from the Sunday joint. We didn't worry about cholesterol in those days. Just as well, because there were many times we didn't have butter and the drippings were a welcome substitute. Spread on fresh-baked bakery bread, and sprinkled with a bit of salt, it made for a tasty filling.

A word about the bread. In the 1950s, we didn't have a refrigerator. In many respects, this was a blessing, because my mother had to shop every day (except Sunday, of course). Thus, I grew up with food that was usually consumed on the day it was bought. We also didn't have a car, so my mother was limited to what she could carry home in a small shopping bag - usually just enough to see us through until the next day.

Our tea menus weren't limited to sandwiches; often, we'd have beans on toast. I've tried this again as an adult, and it just isn't the same. I don't know whether the difference is in the canned beans, or in the bread. What sets me to salivating is the memory of rich, tomatoey juice soaking into the thick, crusty slices - I'd gladly swap Irish smoked salmon to experience that taste sensation again!

Our mother also fixed us soft-boiled eggs served in egg-cups with "soldiers" on the side - toasted bread cut into vertical slices. And in winter, we often had Welsh Rabbit - lovely sharp cheddar cheese melted and poured onto thick slices of toast. Warm bread and milk sprinkled with sugar was another simple dish that we had quite often in cold weather. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention crumpets. Once in a while we'd have these warmed up and drizzled with butter. The holes in the top allowed the butter to ooze throughout - making every mouthful moist and buttery. Mmmm!

Tea-time in my memory was definitely the favorite meal of the day. Since we'd had our dinner at noon, it was also our last food until the next morning. Our dad would be served a supper when he came home from work, but, as in many homes in those days, the children didn't eat with him. (Which isn't to say we didn't try to cadge a bit of his chop or mashed potatoes!)

So, herewith, some favorite recipes and links to several others already posted. Many of these would also work well as appetizers for a party.
NOTE: For tea, sandwiches are usually served quartered. Essentially, tea-foods are morsels, not mammoth American-style servings!

Therese O’Flaherty’s Cucumber Sandwiches
Therese, my sister-in-law, can’t turn up at a party unless she brings a plateful of these delicious sandwiches. Deceptively simple to make, they’re totally addictive.

1 large cucumber, sliced very thin
Pillsbury Pop’n Fresh Bread Dough (refrigerator section of grocery store)
Cream cheese
Salt to taste

Place bread dough in cylinder shaped baking mold. Follow directions on back of bread package and bake. Once cooled, slice into thin rounds. Spread cream cheese on rounds and sprinkle with dill. Place thin cucumber slice on each round and lightly sprinkle with salt, if desired. Chill. Serve cold.

Marmite and Watercress Sandwiches
Marmite is a yeast extract which is readily available in most grocery stores. The secret to using marmite is to mix a very small quantity with soft butter. (Would also work well with cream cheese)

Marmite - about a a quarter to a half teaspoon
1 stick of butter - softened
Fresh watercress

Mix the marmite and butter together. Start off with just a bit of the marmite, and add more, to taste.
Spread marmite mixture on fresh-baked white crusty bread. Pile on crisp watercress and top with another slice of bread. Cut into four small sandwiches.

Other favorite sandwich fillings:

Open smoked salmon and cream cheese Sandwiches
Smoked salmon filet & cream cheese served on Irish oaten bread*
*See links to recipes below.

My brother's favorite "butty" sandwiches
Left over cold French Fries, white bread, and butter. Sprinkle a little bit of malt vinegar over the French Fries. Pile them on slices of buttered bread. Top with another slice of buttered bread and cut into halves or quarters. To add more texture, try some sliced pickled onions on top of the fries.

Chutney and Cheddar Cheese sandwiches
Sharp cheddar cheese sliced and Major Grey's Chutney, served on white bread and butter.

Salad Sandwiches
Lettuce and sliced tomatoes served on buttered brown or white bread.

Cold lamb and Branston Pickle sandwiches
Branston Pickle is readily available in the grocery stores and it goes well with most cold meats, as well as sharp cheeses.

Sausage Rolls
I’ve been making these for years and always serve them with Colman’s mustard (the dry, powdered variety). Mix the powder with malt vinegar and water to a spreadable consistency. Fair warning – it’s hot enough to make your eyes water! A small dab goes a long way.

12 pork sausage links
1 package Pillsbury Crescent Rolls

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook sausages according to directions on package. Set aside to cool. Unroll crescent roll dough and instead of splitting into triangles, split so that two triangles remain attached. Cut with a sharp knife into three vertical slices.Wrap one sausage in pastry slice. Crimp edges to seal. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown – about 10 to 12 minutes. Cut each pastry into thirds and serve with toothpicks Makes about 36 small sausage rolls.

It wouldn't be a proper tea without "Sweets"
For example, warm scones with jam. Sweet biscuits.* Shortbread.* Biscuits.* A light, jam-filled sponge roll is also a tea-time favorite.


One of the nicest times of day
I'm sure you will agree,
Is when you put the kettle on
At four o'clock for tea.

The little tray's arranged with care,
Especially for two,
With dainty, tasty sandwiches
And biscuits, just a few.

The bright, round teapot's waiting for
The kettle's cheerful tune,
And a friend has come to share with you
A happy afternoon.
From the recipe box of Hartson Dowd's Sligo-born grandmother.

Links to other Recipes:
To make a perfect pot of tea


Irish Soda Biscuits

Irish Lace Biscuits

Magical Moments

Sweet Biscuits

Oaten Yeast Bread

Image: The Mad Hatter's Tea Party by Tenniel from Barewalls.

Any purchase made helps to support our site (and Bridget's fondness for tea towels). Thank you.


Thu, Jul 9, 2015

"...the freshest of food and
the oldest of drink"
- Irish Proverb

Set a lovely tea table with Bewley's!

Bewleys Tea Pot

Bewley's Shamrock Sugar and Creamer

Bewleys Shamrock Mug Set

Click picture for individual items. click here for Complete Set.

Bewley's Biscuits

For teatime - or anytime, the same original carmelized biscuits served in Bewley's world-famous Dublin cafe!
Click here for Biscuits

The New Irish Table
by Margaret Johnson

Margaret Johnson’s love of Ireland permeates page after glorious page of mouthwatering Irish dishes, from Smoked Salmon Chowder to Raspberry Buttermilk Tarts. Lavish color photographs of the food, the landscapes, and the people are woven through the text, making The New Irish Table the next best thing to sitting down to dinner in Ireland itself.
Click here for New Irish Table.


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March 4, 2011
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