Princely repast: A Merion epicurean plans high tea

Posted: April 28, 2011

When members of the House of Windsor converge on Westminster Abbey Friday for the highly anticipated wedding ceremony uniting Prince William and Kate Middleton, high tea will be served at the House of Hofman.

That is, the home of Ethel G. Hofman in Merion.

A Brit born and bred, Hofman says she'll stay in her bedclothes and slippers during the ceremony, which starts at 3 a.m. Eastern time and will be covered live on numerous TV networks and streamed live at Philly.com/royalwedding and YouTube.

She'll change into something more suitable to host her 5 p.m. high tea.

Unlike traditional afternoon tea, which is served about 2 p.m. and features not-very-filling cucumber or watercress sandwiches on crustless triangles of white bread, the high version of tea offers more substantial fare.

Hofman and her American-born husband, Walter, will cater to a cadre of guests - most from England and Hofman's native Scotland - with a menu that starts with a champagne toast, proceeds with tea, and culminates with a single-malt whiskey toast.

Along the way, they'll have a Windsor salad with quail eggs (so called because it features frisee and watercress, which are apparently staples of the Windsors' kitchen gardens); smoked salmon with a curried rice called Kedgeree; Scotch eggs (hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a sausage mix, coated with bread crumbs, and deep-fried) with caviar and horseradish sauce; and golden sausage rolls with champagne mustard (see recipe).

Desserts will be plentiful as well: Queen Victoria sandwich, which is a round sponge cake "sandwiched" with whipped cream and berries, reportedly beloved by Queen Victoria; Prince William's favorite, banana flan (see recipe); Middleton's favorite, sticky toffee pudding (see recipe); plus Imperial Meringues; and strawberries with cream.

"I felt I really had to mark the occasion," says Hofman, who let the nuptials of William's mother, Diana, pass without so much as a dollop of clotted cream.

"I wasn't enthusiastic about the royals at all until William and Kate," says Hofman, who arrived in the United States more than 40 years ago to study and stayed for love and marriage.

"This [wedding] is different," she says. "All the pretensions are falling aside now. William and Kate have been living together, after all. And she doesn't have to pretend to be a virgin.

"They are a modern young couple who represent a new start for the monarchs. They've been so stiff, you know."

Hofman plans to fly the Union Jack outside, along with a placard urging drivers to "Honk to Celebrate the Royal Wedding!"

Inside, the table will be set with selections from her collection of china and silver, along with the proper accoutrements for tea, among them a charming "slop" bowl meant to cradle the tea strainer.

Readers may recognize Hofman's name because she is a freelance writer, cookbook author, and kosher food specialist whose work appeared in The Inquirer frequently in the 1970s.

She still writes a twice-monthly column on Jewish food that is syndicated in nearly a dozen newspapers nationally and in the United Kingdom. And together the Hofmans (he's a forensic pathologist) also offer online training in food safety for waitstaff in restaurants and cruise ships.

Born in Glasgow, Hofman will return there later this year to receive an honorary doctoral degree from Caledonian University.

She met her future husband at Chicago's Michael Reese Hospital, where she was chief administrative dietitian and he was a fellow in pathology. The couple lived in Switzerland and in Boston before settling in Philadelphia in the 1970s.

"Suddenly, I was home with two small children and I knew no one here," she says.

To fill her time, she started a cooking school, with an initial class that included Charlotte Albertson, now well-known as founder of her own Albertson's Cooking School on the Main Line.

Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals; she worked and traveled with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin; and the best known of her half-dozen cookbooks is probably Everyday Cooking in the Jewish Home (Harper Collins, 1997).

A memoir of her younger years spent in the Shetland Islands, Mackerel at Midnight (Camino Books, 2005), also contains recipes. And now she's at work on a murder mystery, also set in the Shetlands.

Through it all, she's remained a Brit at heart and says she's eager to see an infusion of youthful energy in the monarchy.

"I think this wedding will change the way people see the royal family," Hofman says, "and it will bring more visitors to the U.K."

But more than anything, she admits, the wedding is an excuse to make sticky toffee pudding.

"It's a favorite of Kate's. She had it often at the Old Boot Inn, near the Middleton's home in Bucklebury."

According to British press reports, William and Kate have eaten together at the Inn. And, in keeping with the kind of everyday royalty that so pleases Hofman, Middleton invited innkeeper John Haley to the ceremony (but not the reception.)


Golden Sausage Rolls With Champagne Mustard

Makes 16 servings

1 (17.3 ounces) package

frozen puff pastry sheets

1 egg

1 tablespoon cold water

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored

About 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley, packed

2 (8-ounce) packages sausage

patties, precooked, and

browned (may use chicken,

turkey or beef frozen

sausages)

Champagne Mustard:

1/3 cup Dijon mustard  

1 tablespoon honey, warmed

1 to 2 tablespoons

champagne (may use

leftover, flat champagne)

1.   Thaw pastry at room temperature 40 minutes or until easy to handle.

2.   Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

3.   In a cup, whisk the egg and water. Set aside.

4.   Cut the apple into 16 wedges, each a scant ¼ inch thick. Set aside.

5.   Unfold 1 pastry sheet onto a lightly floured surface. If there are any cracks, press together with fingers to seal. Brush with egg mixture. Sprinkle with half the chopped parsley. Cut the pastry sheet in half lengthwise, then in four equal pieces crosswise.

6.   To assemble: place an apple wedge on each piece of pastry. Top with a sausage. Fold pastry over to cover. Seal, leaving the ends open. Place on the prepared baking sheet, sealed side down. Brush with the remaining egg mixture. With a sharp knife, mark two slashes across the top of each. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

7.   Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until puffed and pastry is golden brown.

8.   Serve hot or warm with Champagne Mustard for dipping.

9. To make Champagne Mustard: mix Dijon mustard with honey and enough champagne to make a thick pouring consistency.

-From Ethel G. Hofman

Per serving (sausage roll): 214 calories, 7 grams protein, 17 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 14 grams fat, 12 milligrams cholesterol, 130 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Per serving (champagne mustard): 7 calories, trace protein, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, trace fat, no cholesterol, 59 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.


Sticky Toffee Pudding

Makes 8 to 10 servings

3/4 cup chopped pitted dates

1 teaspoon baking soda

11/4 cups boiling water

 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

 3/4 light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon dark molasses

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

11/3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Toffee Sauce:

 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in 4 pieces

 1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

Unsweetened whipped cream to garnish (optional)

1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.   Spray a 10-inch pie dish or 9-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

3.   Place the dates and baking soda in a medium bowl. Pour the boiling water over. Set aside to cool.

4.   In a bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and molasses until well blended and fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons flour, which will prevent mixture curdling. Add the baking powder and remaining flour, about 1/3 cup at a time. Set aside.

5.   Pour the date mixture into a blender jar. Whirl a few seconds at high until blended. Add to the flour mixture and beat to mix well. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

6.   Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes or until pudding is set and firm in center.

7.   While pudding is baking, prepare the toffee sauce.

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cream and sugar. Stir to mix well. Return to a gentle boil, stirring often. Cook at medium low heat, stirring often, until mixture is thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes.

8.   Keep warm.

9.   Remove pudding from oven when cooked and place on a wire rack. While still hot, prick all over with a skewer.

10. Pour half the toffee sauce over. Sauce will sink in to moisten the pudding.

11. To serve: cut into wedges or squares, drizzle the remaining toffee sauce over and top with a dollop of whipped cream (optional).

Per serving (based on 10): 352 calories, 3 grams protein, 50 grams carbohydrates, 34 grams sugar, 17 grams fat, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 243 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.


Banana Flan

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1 egg, separated

1 (9-inch) graham cracker pie crust

2 (2.9 ounce) packages cook-and-serve custard dessert mix

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

2 bananas, thinly sliced

1/4 cup apricot jam, melted

1 tablespoon slivered

almonds

1.   Whisk the egg white lightly. Brush the graham cracker crust all over with the egg white. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 8 minutes. Cool completely.

2.   In a medium saucepan, stir the custard mix into the milk. Whisk in the well-beaten egg yolk.

3.   Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly, taking care to stir into the corners of the saucepan. Cook one minute, stirring briskly. Mixture will be thin.

4.   Pour into a bowl, cover surface with wax paper, and refrigerate 2 hours to thicken and cool completely.

5.   Spoon into the graham cracker shell. Spread the whipped cream over to come to edges of pie crust.

6.   Arrange the sliced bananas over to cover.

7.   Brush with apricot jam. Scatter almonds over.

8.   Chill and serve.

Note: Refrigerate until just before serving

Per serving (based on 10): 269 calories, 6 grams protein, 33 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams sugar, 13 grams fat, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 218 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.


Reach staff writer Dianna Marder at 215-854-4211 or dmarder@phillynews.com. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/diannamarder.

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