It all depends on how you spread your jam.

“There’s the Devonshire way, which is where I’m from, and there’s the Cornish way,” said Lesley Hullman, as she neatly breaks a currant-studded scone in half.

She dips a knife into a bowl of thick, clotted cream and spreads that over the interior of one half of the scone. Then she adds a dollop of a strawberry jam on top.

“That’s the proper way to have a Devonshire scone,” Hullman said. “If you reverse it and put the jam down first and then the cream, that’s the Cornish way of doing it.”

It’s just one of the niceties that are a part of what is now an iconic element of British culinary tradition — afternoon tea.

Tradition has it that the practice of pausing in the late afternoon for a fresh pot of tea and a selection of dainty treats began in the 1840s, when Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, would come over all peckish during the long hours between lunch and the fashionably late dinner hour of 8 p.m.

“Apparently, at first she asked just for bread and butter to be brought to her,” Hullman said. “But when this started to become a habit, her cook decided to come up with some special cakes and other things.”

The duchess began to invite friends to join her for these afternoon repasts, and the practice of the afternoon tea was born.

Over time, and throughout the strata of British culture, afternoon tea took a variety of forms, from the utilitarian to the elaborate.

“When I was growing up, it might just be a mug of tea and a piece of cake in the afternoon,” Hullman said. “It would be a little more elaborate if we had guests over.

“But what most people think of as afternoon tea is more of an indulgence, something you do for a special occasion,” she said.

However, as the novelist Henry James put it, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

Tulsa’s Harwelden Mansion is inaugurating what it hopes will become a monthly tradition of hosting afternoon tea, with the first event taking place Wednesday, Sept. 4, at the mansion, 2210 S. Main St. (This event is sold out.)

Hullman, owner of Absurd Curd, is helping to provide some of the bite-sized baked goods that will be served alongside pots of English black tea.

The menu will include a selection of savory items, such as smoked salmon and dill finger sandwiches and curried chicken vol-au-vents (puff pastry shells filled with a blend of chicken, curry powder, apricots and mayonnaise), Devon scones served with strawberry preserves and English double cream, finishing with pastries such as a blueberry Bakewell tart and lavender shortbread.

“People will be greeted and shown to their tables,” Hullman said. “One person will be chosen to be ‘Mother,’ who pours the tea for the rest of the people at the table. Then out comes the tea stand with the food. You start with the savories and work your up to the sweets.”

Hullman came to the United States in 1995, when her husband’s job brought them here.

“It was quite a culture shock,” she said, smiling. “I missed all the breads, all the varieties of cheeses, the cakes and puddings. But the one thing I truly missed was real lemon curd. Growing up, there was always a jar of it on the table. But what I was finding in the states wasn’t anything like I remembered.”

Hullman began making her own versions, working in small batches and using fresh, simple ingredients. In 2017, she was selected for the Kitchen 66 program. She now sells her Absurd Curd creations at the Mother Road Market and at the Kitchen 66 booth at the Cherry Street Farmers Market.

She became involved with the Harwelden’s Afternoon Tea program a bit by chance.

“A friend of mine who I usually run with in the mornings is also a friend of (Harwelden owner) Teresa Knox,” Hullman said. “She mentioned that Teresa was looking for someone to do an afternoon tea service, and I said, ‘Look no further.’ I’ve always loved to entertain, and I’ve done some catering for small events.

“When I first met with Teresa, what immediately impressed me was that she was determined to make this as authentic as possible,” she said. “It’s going to be very elegant, with wonderful china and food that will look pretty and taste good.”

DEVONSHIRE SCONES

1 lb. self-raising flour

2 rounded teaspoons baking powder

3 ounces butter, at room temperature

2 ounces superfine sugar

2 eggs

8 ounces milk

1. Lightly grease two baking trays. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Measure the flour and baking powder into a processor. Add the butter and process until a crumble, then add the sugar. Or make by hand by rubbing the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

3. Beat the eggs until blended then add the milk and combine. Reserve two tablespoons of the mixture to glaze the scones. Gradually add the egg/milk mixture to the dry ingredients until you have a soft dough. The scone mixture is best if it is on the wet side, as the scones will rise better.

4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and flatten it out with your hand, or use a rolling pin, to a thickness of ½ to ¾ inch. Use a 2 inch fluted cutter to stamp out the dough by pushing the cutter straight down into the dough then lift it straight out. Do not twist the cutter; this ensures that the scones will rise evenly and keep their shape. Gently push the remaining dough together, knead very lightly then re-roll and cut more scones out as before.

5. Arrange the scones on the prepared baking trays and brush the tops with the reserved beaten egg/milk mixture to glaze. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the scones are well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack, covered with a clean tea towel to keep them moist. Serve as fresh as possible, cut in half and spread generously with strawberry jam and top with a good spoonful of thick cream.

— Adapted from “Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook”

HOMEMADE CLOTTED CREAM

2 pints heavy cream (do not use ultra-pasteurized cream)

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees

2. Pour the cream into a large, heavy casserole dish. The cream should come about 1 to 3 inches up the sides of the dish.

3. Set the dish, uncovered, in the over and leave for 12 hours.

4. Remove the dish from the oven and set to cool. Once cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

5. Scoop the thickened cream in the storage jars and refrigerate.

CORONATION CHICKEN

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons white onion or 1 shallot, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon double-concentrated tomato paste

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon brown sugar

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup creme fraiche or unsweetened whipped cream.

1 tablespoon dried apricots finely chopped

2 large skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into chunks

Salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add in the onion, bay leaf and curry powder and gently cook for 2 minutes.

2. Add in the tomato paste, red wine and water and bring to a gentle boil. Add in the lemon juice and a pinch of sugar, then season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Simmer for 2 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced, then remove from the heat. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and allow it to cool.

3. In a large bowl mix together the prepared sauce with the mayonnaise, creme fraiche and finely chopped apricots.

4. Add in the chicken breast chunks and mix gently all the ingredients together.

— Adapted from thepetitecook.com.


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James D. Watts Jr.

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james.watts@tulsaworld.com

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