Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Traditional afternoon tea sandwiches have had quite a revival in recent years, and although delicious, they often come at an eye watering price!
I'll show you how to make elegant finger sandwiches suitable for royalty, for your family and friends.
Perfect for Mother's Day, Easter or for Sunday tea, these little morsels are quintessentially British, delicious and so easy to make at home.
About this recipe
Growing up, Sundays were the only day of the week where we had our main meal at lunchtime, which was a roast. This meant that we had tea time, which is not just a cup of tea. This is a huge pot of tea served with sandwiches and followed by cake in the early evening. It's very traditional and we still do it now as a family.
Nowadays, there is a trend to go out for afternoon tea or even have it delivered. But, it's so easy to do very British afternoon tea sandwiches at home and I'll show you how.
Essentially the cucumber sandwich was traditionally deemed perfect for teatime. It's light, easily grown at home and not very filling, so perfect if you are leaving room for cake!
Of course, now we can have any combination of sandwich filings, but I'm giving you the recipes for a good old fashioned English tea finger sandwich.
There is a question of etiquette surrounding afternoon tea sandwiches, regarding the bread. Cucumber sandwiches are always served on white bread and smoked salmon on brown. It's just the way it is!
The bread is also plain, without fancy seeds or flour and the crusts are always cut off.
So, you will need:
- thin to medium sliced white bread
- thin to medium sliced brown or wholemeal bread
- smoked salmon
- cream cheese
- sliced roast beef
- horseradish or English mustard
It sounds really simple, but traditionally there is an art to sandwich making.
First peel the cucumber then slice it thinly. Sprinkle with salt and leave it in a sieve. Stir gently, so that the salt touches all the surfaces. Put the sieve over a bowl and leave for 30 minutes.
This will make sure that the excess water is released from the cucumber, so that you don't get soggy sandwiches.
To prepare the hard boiled eggs, place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for 11 minutes, then drain and cover with cold water. Repeat and let the eggs stand in the water for 5 minutes.
Now remove the shells and return the eggs to the water to remove any remaining shell remnants. Leave to drain on kitchen paper for a couple of minutes.
Chop the egg finely, season with salt and pepper and mix with the mayonnaise. Use a fork to mash the yolks in.
Next, start to assemble the sandwiches.
For the bread, spread softened butter to the edges of the bread. It doesn't have to be thick.
Add a slice of roast beef to one side and spread horseradish sauce or English mustard on the other.
For the egg sandwiches, pile on the mixture and top with fresh mustard cress.
For the salmon sandwiches spread one side of the bread with cream cheese and top the other with smoked salmon.
Make the cucumber sandwiches just before serving.
Tip the cucumber slices on to kitchen paper and pat them dry. Layer the slices on the bread.
Put the sandwiches together and carefully cut off all the crusts.
Depending on the size of your bread, cut 3 to 4 fingers. Arrange them on a plate, cut side up, so that it's easy for your diners to see the filling.
These sandwiches are very traditional, but other popular ones are:
prawns and mayonnaise
tuna and mayonnaise
ham and mustard
chicken and ham
poached salmon and watercress
cheddar cheese and pickle
A tea like this is normally arranged on a three tiered plate.
At the bottom there would be a selection of sandwiches and I would allow 3 or 4 finger sandwiches each.
The next layer would be a scone for each person, served with a pot of clotted cream and strawberry jam.
The top layer is reserved for cakes, normally 2 per person, depending on the size. Macarons are very popular or try something more dramatic like salted caramel mille feuille.
Of course, all of this is served with tea in a cup and saucer and a glass of Champagne too it it's a special occasion!
Keep the sandwiches covered in the fridge until the following day. The cucumber sandwiches are best eaten shortly after making as the bread will become soggy quickly.
- To soften butter, cut into small pieces and heat in the microwave on low power for 10 second increments.
- You can reduce the amount of butter by only spreading one half of the sandwich, except for the cucumber ones which need more of a barrier to stop the bread from becoming wet.
- When buying the bread, choose a square loaf as there will be less wastage when cutting off the crusts.
More tea time recipes
Traditional Afternoon Tea Sandwiches
- 8 slices white bread
- 8 slices brown bread
- 140 g butter
- ⅕ cucumber
- 20 g cream cheese
- 2 slices smoked salmon
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 slices roast beef
- 2 teaspoon horseradish sauce or English mustard
- Peel the cucumber then slice thinly, sprinkle with salt in a sieve and stir gently so that the salt touches all the surfaces. Put the sieve over a bowl and leave for 30 minutes.
- Place the eggs in a saucepan, cover with water and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for 11 minutes then drain and cover with cold water. Repeat and let the eggs stand in the water for 5 minutes.
- Remove the shells and return the eggs to the water to remove any shell. Leave to drain on kitchen paper for a couple of minutes.
- Chop the egg finely, season and mix with the mayonnaise.
- Spread softened butter to the edges of the bread
- Add a slice of roast beef to one side and spread horseradish sauce or English mustard on the other.
- For the egg sandwiches, pile on the mixture and top with fresh mustard cress.
- Spread one side of the bread with cream cheese and top the other with smoked salmon.
- Tip the cucumber slices on to kitchen paper and pat them dry. Layer the slices
- Put the sandwiches together and carefully cut off all the crusts Cut into 3 or 4 fingers.
- to soften butter, cut into small pieces and heat in the microwate on low power for 10 second increments
- you can reduce the amount of butter by only spreading one half of the sandwich, except for the cucumber ones which need more of a barrier to stop the bread from becoming wet
- when picking the bread, choose a square loaf as there will be less wastage when cutting off the crusts
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.
Detailed instructions for this recipe, including step by step photographs, hints and tips, can be found in the main article.
We sometimes take for a granted that we have years (or decades) of cooking experience, that the average visitor may not. Add to, or remove from, the list below with health and safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove