Ask the past: Belgian afternoon tea

I work for an NGO, and we have a delegation from our Belgian counterpart coming to visit next month. We have a dinner for them that is being catered, but there will also be an informal afternoon tea for them in the office. What should we serve?

Most people are inclined to go straight for the biscuits at afternoon tea, but if you're hosting guests and have a little more time to eat before you rush back to your computer, you will want some sandwiches too. Aunt Daisy's New Book of Handy Hints has some great simple suggestions for sandwich filling:

Tomato and apple sauce.

Baked beans and chopped pickle.

Chopped celery, mashed cheese, mayonnaise, and a few drops of worcester sauce.

Sliced bananas on bread and butter spread very thinly with golden syrup.

If you have time to make something a little more elaborate, then you could make this Mock Lobster Sandwich Filling from Calling All Cooks by The League of Mothers. Your guests are bound to appreciate the touch of class it lends, and they won't know it's not real lobster if you don't tell them:

1oz butter, 4 large tomatoes, 3oz grated cheese, 1 large onion, 1 egg, 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, pepper and salt to taste.

Scald and peel tomatoes, grate onion. Put on to cook in the butter. When quite soft, add beaten egg. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well. Remove from stove and add cheese and breadcrumbs. Add pepper and salt. Do not cook further. Put in small jars and seal when cold. Delicious served hot on toast also.

As far as sweets go, why not make your guests feel at home with some real Belgian baking? The League of Mothers also offer this recipe for Belgium biscuits that will transport them right back to Brussels:

11oz butter, 2 tablespoons cornflour, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 lb flour, 5 1/2oz icing sugar, 1 tablespoon spice, 1 tablespoon cocoa, 1 tablespoon syrup, 1 egg.

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and syrup, then dry ingredients.

Bake as you see fit, I suppose. If you don't feel confident with that, try this Belgian tart from The New Zealand Women's Institutes Cookery Book:

Line a plate with pastry and prick bottom. Spread raspberry jam over pastry, then spread the following mixture on top of jam. Beat 2 ozs butter, 2 ozs sugar, add 1 egg, beat well. Mix in 2 ozs ground rice, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, pinch of salt, vanilla flavouring. Bake in fairly quick oven. Sliced bananas may be put on jam and covered with pastry or meringue.

I'm sure that will help.

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