By Martyn Nail & Meredith Erickson
Revealed: secrets of the perfect afternoon tea (and much more). A sneak peek behind the scenes at London’s most elegant hotel.
Lemon drizzle cake
MAKES 2 x 450G LOAF CAKES OR 3 x 350G ROUND CAKES
440g caster sugar
3 best-quality unwaxed lemons
125g unsalted butter, very soft, plus extra melted butter, for greasing
6 medium eggs
190g crème fraîche
340g plain flour, plus extra for dusting (optional)
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
18ml rum (optional)
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
FOR THE LEMON SYRUP
100g caster sugar
juice from the 3 zested lemons
– To start, place the sugar for the cake in a large mixing bowl. Zest the lemons directly over the sugar, cover with clingfilm and leave to infuse for 6 hours or more. Retain the lemons for juicing.
– Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 (if using a fan-assisted oven, follow manufacturer’s instructions).
– Have ready two small loaf tins (about 14cm x 9cm x 5cm) or three small round cake tins (about 10cm diameter x 7cm deep: each one serves 2 people). Brush the sides of the tins with melted butter, then line with baking paper or dust with flour. Set aside.
– Add the eggs and crème fraîche to the mixing bowl with the sugar and lemon zest. Mix with a spatula until combined.
– Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together twice. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg and sugar mixture, little by little, until smooth.
– Once all the flour has been incorporated, stir the very soft butter into the cake mixture. If using, add the rum. Stir the cake mix until smooth.
– Divide the mixture evenly among the tins, making sure to leave at least 2 fingers’ room at the top of the tins. This cake will rise.
– Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon juice, then simmer over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Do not let the syrup come to a rolling boil.
– Dip the edge of a plastic dough scraper (or alternatively a knife) in melted butter and, pressing down, drag a line across the top of the cake mixture. This helps to create a crack and bump along the cakes when baking and a more even rise.
– Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and drizzle the cakes with the syrup. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust liberally with icing sugar, if you wish. The cakes will stay moist and fresh for up to 5 days.
330g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
60g caster sugar
1½ tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
90g cold unsalted butter, cubed
70g raisins (optional)
1 medium egg, beaten with a pinch of salt, for the eggwash
– We recommend you start this recipe the night before so the flour and butter mix can be thoroughly chilled overnight.
– In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then add the butter and rub into the flour mixture with your fingers until you have a fine crumb (you could also pulse this 5-6 times in a food processor to achieve the same sandy texture, but it’s almost as fast to work by hand). If you’re making raisin scones, stir the raisins in now. Transfer to a smaller container, cover and leave to rest in the refrigerator overnight or until thoroughly chilled.
– The next morning, preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas 9 (if using a fan-assisted oven, follow manufacturer’s instructions). Have ready a baking tray lined with baking paper and a 5cm pastry cutter.
– Transfer the butter and flour mixture to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Slowly mix in the buttermilk and milk until the dough comes together.
– On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to form a circle, about 21cm in diameter and 2cm thick, then cut out 12 scones using the pastry cutter.
– Transfer the scones to the baking tray. Using a pastry brush, carefully brush the tops with the eggwash. We like to let scones sit for 20 minutes at room temperature to give the baking powder a chance to activate.
– Bake until evenly golden, about 12-13 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then serve warm.
– We strongly suggest serving these only on the day of baking, but leftover scones can be frozen and will remain good for up to 3 weeks. As needed, defrost completely, then reheat in a preheated 180C/350F/gas 4 oven for 3 minutes.
Claridge’s rich hot chocolate
200g Valrhona Guanaja dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
300ml whipping cream
1 litre hot best-quality whole milk
marshmallows, to decorate
– Melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, or simply in the microwave. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat.
– Pour one third of the hot cream into the melted chocolate. Using a spatula, stir briskly to incorporate the cream. The chocolate might look grainy and split at this point – don’t worry! Repeat twice more, adding another third of the cream at a time. The chocolate should now be smooth and glossy.
– This chocolate ganache can be used straight away or refrigerated for up to 5 days and reheated as needed (to reheat, warm gently in the microwave or in a bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water until the ganache is hot and melted).
– We serve our rich hot chocolate as a jug of hot ganache, a jug of frothy steamed milk and an empty mug, so each guest can mix their hot chocolate to their liking. Garnish with marshmallows, as desired. There is a recipe for our signature marshmallows in the book.
Coffee almond biscuits
1 tsp hot water
2 tsp instant coffee granules
140g unsalted butter, softened
80g icing sugar
1 medium egg, separated
200g plain flour
40g flaked almonds, roughly chopped
50g demerara sugar, for coating
– In a small cup or bowl, mix together the hot water and instant coffee to make a thick syrup. Set aside.
– Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, lightly cream the butter and icing sugar on low speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add the egg yolk and the coffee syrup. Mix well. Next, add the flour, mixing on low speed until incorporated. Add the flaked almonds, mixing slowly and gently until they are distributed throughout – you may need to stop the mixer and stir them in manually so the nuts don’t get crushed.
– Divide the dough into 2 pieces, then roll each piece into a log about 15cm long and 4cm in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm or baking paper and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
– Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 (if using a fan-assisted oven, follow manufacturer’s instructions) and line two baking sheets with baking paper. Spread the demerara sugar on a tray or flat plate. Lightly beat the egg white to loosen it. Unwrap the logs of dough. Using a pastry brush, carefully brush each log all over with the egg white, then roll each one in the sugar. Press gently to ensure it sticks to the dough.
– Slice the dough into 1cm thick pieces and transfer to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2cm apart. (If you wish to only make 15 or so biscuits at this point, you can freeze one of the logs for up to 2 months. Simply defrost in the refrigerator before proceeding).
– Bake for 17-20 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
– These will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
MAKES ABOUT 30
200g unsalted butter, softened
½ vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped
½ tsp vanilla extract
70g icing sugar
250g strong white flour
caster sugar, for dusting
– Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, vanilla seeds and vanilla extract on medium for 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the icing sugar, then cream on low for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl once more, then add the flour. Mix on low until the flour is completely incorporated.
– Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into a log about 20cm long and 3cm-4cm in diameter, pushing the dough together if it is crumbly, then wrap in baking paper or clingfilm. Refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes. (The dough can also be frozen at this stage for up to 2 months. Defrost the dough logs in the refrigerator before proceeding.)
– Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 (if using a fan-assisted oven, follow manufacturer’s instructions). Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
– Cut each log into 1cm thick rounds. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2cm apart.
– Bake for 20 minutes until pale golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and dust the biscuits with caster sugar (the heat will ensure the sugar sticks to the shortbread). Leave to cool on the sheet.
– Once cooled, shake off any excess sugar and pack away in an airtight container. These biscuits can be stored for up to 5 days.
Claridge’s scrambled eggs
We’re often asked by our guests not only what makes our eggs so tasty, but also why the yolks are so orange. We use Burford Brown eggs from Clarence Court, where the hens range freely on green pastures that contain plenty of chlorophyll. It’s all this greenery that adds to the colour and the richness of flavour.
It’s no secret that everyone enjoys their eggs a certain way. Here’s our own tried-and-trusted method for the perfect scramble.
For one portion you will need 3 or 4 eggs, depending on how big they are and how hungry you are.
Thoroughly whisk the eggs in a heatproof mixing bowl that can sit comfortably over a saucepan of water.
Next, bring said pan of water to a simmer. Place the bowl of eggs over the pan, add a good knob of butter and start mixing continuously with a wooden spoon or a spatula.
After 2½ minutes the eggs will start to set around the edges of the bowl. Stirring constantly at this stage so the eggs stay smooth, turn off the heat and keep stirring until the texture of the eggs becomes mousse-like.
Around the 3½-minute mark, remove the bowl from the pan – remember that eggs will continue cooking even off the heat. When in doubt, always undercook!
This method gives the eggs that perfect glossy texture. Serve warm.
Tomato and chilli jam
750g very ripe organic tomatoes
2 long red Thai chillies or fresh cayenne peppers
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 thumbs of fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
285g unrefined golden caster sugar
90ml red wine vinegar
– Have ready 1 x 500ml sterilised jar of your choice to store the jam. Dice half the tomatoes into small pieces, skin and all, and set aside. In a blender, purée the remaining tomatoes, the chillies, garlic and ginger until smooth. (We recommend you don’t strain the purée to remove the tomato seeds because they provide the pectin that will help the jam set, while the chilli seeds add some necessary heat.)
– Combine the tomato purée, sugar and vinegar in a tall-sided pot or saucepan, then bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring slowly and continuously. When it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low and add the reserved tomatoes. Skim off any foam and cook gently for at least 1 hour, and up to 1½ hours, stirring every so often to release the solids that settle on the bottom of the pan. Be sure to scrape the sides of the pan during cooking so that the entire mass cooks evenly. The jam is cooked when it looks thick and is no longer runny – it should sit firmly on a cold plate.
– Transfer to the jar and cool to room temperature before refrigerating for later use. It will keep for up to 2 months.
CLARIDGE’S FIVE SANDWICH RULES
1. The one-third rule! The perfect afternoon tea sandwich should be two-thirds bread and one-third filling.
2. A sharp serrated knife is crucial for cutting sandwiches. You’ll need a knife with teeth that aren’t too large (these will tear the bread). Something like a Victorinox 26cm pastry knife is ideal.
3. Use a palette knife or spreader knife for spreading softened butters and jams.
4. Keep it even, keep it neat! We slice our loaves of bread lengthways (horizontally) into long rectangular slices, rather than vertically. This makes it easier to cut into rectangular fingers and reduces wastage. The bread should be evenly sliced, evenly topped, then evenly cut and trimmed.
5. Never let the bread dry out. Keep the slices covered at all times. We stack the sandwiches as we make them, placing the crust slices of the bread on the bottom and top of the pile to keep the bread just right. You could use clingfilm, or a damp clean tea towel.
FIVE CLARIDGE’S SANDWICH FILLINGS
Poached Var salmon, garden herb mayonnaise on rye bread
Due to the volume of salmon we require at Claridge’s, our fresh salmon is farmed. However, it is farmed by three brothers on the Faroe Islands between Scotland and Iceland, famed for being the finest salmon breeders in the world. The natural habitat, with exceptionally strong currents to swim against, provide the most real conditions with the highest welfare standards. We flavour our signature mayo with chopped chervil, tarragon and chives.
English cucumber, cream cheese & rocket on white bread
Our cucumbers are grown organically in the heart of England, under glass or in the great outdoors, depending on the weather. As is traditional, the cucumber sandwich comes on a soft white bread, recalling the time when white bread was a culinary sensation thanks to 19th-century milling techniques. We add a little chopped dill and finely grated horeseradish to the cream cheese.
Corn-Fed Chicken, lemon & thyme mayonnaise, walnut on malted bread
The chickens are naturally reared Cotswold White birds, which are given space and time to develop to produce a meat with great flavour and texture, perfect for our sandwiches. Once roast and carved, the chicken is lightly seasoned and served on malted bread with lemon and thyme mayonnaise and chopped toasted walnuts.
Breckland Brown & Clarence Court egg mayonnaise on white bread
Both eggs are soft-boiled, then chopped by hand, turned with our homemade mayonnaise and finished with a good twist of pepper and pinch of mustard cress. The sandwich is served on fresh creamy white bread that is soft, yielding and very moreish.
Dorrington ham, smoked tomato chutney, watercress on onion bread
We purchase our fine hams directly from a small butcher in Dorrington, near Shrewsbury in Shropshire. It’s a family-run concern and Darren Sadd sources the pork from local farms. Any good-quality tomato chutney will be good in a ham sandwich. We also often serve our ham with sliced tomato and a tarragon and mustard mayonnaise.
SAVE 20 PER CENT ON THE GORGEOUS CLARIDGE’S COOKBOOK
Today’s recipes are from Claridge’s: The Cookbook by Martyn Nail (executive chef of Claridge’s) and Meredith Erickson, which will be published by Mitchell Beazley on Thursday, price £30.
As well as the authors’ personal introductions, foreword by René Redzepi and a brief history of Claridge’s, chapters include breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, cocktails, dinner, dessert and Claridge’s at Christmas.
To order a copy for £24 (a 20 per cent discount) until 15 October, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.