Afternoon tea with a twist

Afternoon tea with a twist

Posted 22nd Apr 2016

Celebrate the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown and host a Capabili-tea party using these authentic 18th-century recipes

The Capability Brown Festival 2016 is marking the extraordinary life, work and legacy of 18th-century landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown by holding hundreds of events across the country, and you can join in with the celebrations at home by making these historic teatime treats

Georgian Sandwiches

The Earl of Sandwich's legendary snack was almost certainly beef. Here is a delicious updated version of a Georgian sandwich.

Serves 4

1 small sourdough loaf
1 tablespoon English mustard
1 frying steak, sliced into strips
Salt and pepper
Handful of watercress
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1. Split the loaf lengthways and spread the bottom half with the mustard.

2. Flash fry the steak strips for 3-4 minutes and season well.

3. Arrange the steak onto the bread and cover with the watercress.

4. Spread the mayonnaise on the top half of the bread and lay on top of the bottom half to create a sandwich.

5. Press the sandwich for 15 minutes under a weighted kitchen board. Cut into 4 slices and serve.

Seed Cake

Modern raising agents have replaced the use of yeast which was required for nearly every Georgian cake, including seed cake. Flavoured with caraway seeds, this recipe is based on Eliza Smith's The Compleat Housewife, 1727.

Serves 6-8

175g butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
50g almonds, ground
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons milk

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan/Gas Mark 3.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then fold in the flour, almonds and caraway seeds before mixing in the milk.

4. Transfer to a loaf tin lined with baking parchment and bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.


These popular knot-shaped biscuits flavoured with aniseed derived their name from the word 'gemmel'. A gemmel ring was a ring with two interlocking sections, which was fashionable at the time. The following recipe is adapted from Robert May's The Accomplisht Cook, 1685.

Serves 12

200g plain flour
25g butter
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons single cream
75g caster sugar
1 tablespoon aniseeds

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4.

2. Sieve the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter.

3. Mix in all of the other ingredients with a wooden spoon.

4. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a long sausage shape. Cut the dough into 12 sections.

5. Take each section and fold over into a knot.

6. Put the jumbles onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.


Based on Hannah Glasse's The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, 1747, this gingerbread has a distinctive flavour and uses nutmeg, ground clove, ground mace and candied peel.

Serves 8

120g butter
2 tablespoons black treacle
120g dark brown sugar
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon cloves, ground
2 tablespoons candied peel
1 medium egg

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4.

2. Melt the butter, treacle and sugar in a saucepan over a gentle heat.

3. Place the flour, spices and candied peel into a large bowl and mix together.

4. Add the melted liquid and egg to the dry ingredients and stir well with a wooden spoon. Rest the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.

5. Once rested, roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into shapes with a cutter and lay on a lined baking tray. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Sally Lunns

This English version of brioche was probably introduced by Huguenots fleeing persecution in 17th-century France and the name is likely to be a corruption of the word 'Solimemne', which was a sweet bread from Alsace.

Serves 6-8

1 teaspoon dry yeast
200ml milk
40g butter
40g caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium eggs
400g strong white flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
1 lemon, zest
1 orange, zest

1. Combine the yeast and 50ml of warm water in a bowl and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

2. Gently heat the milk, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool. Mix in the yeast liquid and the eggs. Gradually add the flour, nutmeg and zests, mixing gently. You should have a soft sticky dough.

3. Cover the dough and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

4. Knead the dough and then cover again and leave to rise in a warm place for a further 30 minutes until doubled in size.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Knead the dough again and push into a prepared tin or ring mould. Cover and leave to rise for another 20-30 minutes.

6. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown in colour.

All recipes courtesy of

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Images by Lucy Ray

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