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Afternoon Tea With Will Torrent

To celebrate the launch of his beautiful new cookbook, Afternoon Tea At Home, chef Will Torrent talks to us about his career highlights, unusual chocolate combinations and Afternoon Tea with a twist, as well as sharing some recipes from the book.

My career has taken me in so many directions. It all started with a week shadowing Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck when I was 16. Then, developing food for Waitrose; it has opened up so many doors and experiences I never would have dreamed of. In 2012, I helped design and deliver the picnic that was served at Buckingham Palace to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

To make perfect sweet pastry, take your time and weigh all the ingredients correctly. Always flavour your pastry with a touch of lemon zest, a pinch of salt and some good quality vanilla.

I always have good quality chocolate in bucket loads, as you can never go wrong with it. I also have cookie dough in the freezer, ready-rolled for slicing, just in case the urge appears for warm cookies fresh out the oven.

My ultimate Afternoon Tea has to be classic with a twist. Smoked salmon sandwiches are an Afternoon Tea staple and I love them, but by curing your own in beetroot and vodka and adding horseradish to the cream cheese you get a completely different eat. There also has to be scones, but maybe a different jam to accompany them like an apricot and vanilla. And of course you can’t have Afternoon Tea at home without a fondant fancy; mine are flavoured with the backbones of Black Forest Gateaux – cherries, chocolate and kirsch.

When you’re making Afternoon Tea at home, spend a little bit more on the finest ingredients and they will sing out and make it even more special. A touch of gold leaf here and there always helps too!

I never get sick of chocolate and always eat a bit of good quality chocolate every day! But my favourite non-chocolate dessert has to be something super simple like a strawberry tart with crisp vanilla pastry and deliciously velvety crème patisserie. In the winter, it’s sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate can be used in weird and wacky ways. Last year, Blue Peter asked me to design some chocolates to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. One of those chocolates was a white chocolate and tikka truffle: white chocolate and tikka ganache with a mango and lime gel, coated in white chocolate and then rolled in crispy onions, black onion seeds and toasted cumin seeds. It sounds odd, but trust me, it really works.

If I was let loose in the Harrods Food Halls, I would eat and drink copious amounts of the finest food and drink available in London, of course.

Beetroot Cured Salmon with Horseradish Crème Frâiche on Rye Bread (Makes 18-20)
Curing your own salmon for a celebration really isn’t as difficult as it may sound. The colour of the beetroot gives such a lovely contrast, while the delicate flavour of the dill, with the pink peppercorns and vodka, really come through, too.

500g piece of salmon, pin-boned and scaled (skin on)
1 tbsp grated fresh or preserved horseradish
175g crème frâiche
6-8 thin slices of rye bread
50g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh dill or watercress, to garnish

For the beetroot cure
2 raw beetroots (about 200g)
1 tsp pink peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp juniper berries
60g coarse sea salt
50g golden caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of  ½ orange
2-3 tbsp freshly chopped dill
3 tbsp vodka

First, prepare the beetroot cure. Peel and coarsely grate the beetroot into a large mixing bowl. Lightly crush the peppercorns, fennel seeds and juniper berries using a pestle and mortar, applying just enough pressure to release their flavours. Add them to the bowl with the salt, sugar, lemon and orange zest and half of the chopped dill. Mix to combine.

Scatter one third of the beetroot cure over a baking sheet lined with three layers of cling film and lay the salmon on top, skin side down. Cover the salmon with the remaining cure, pressing it into an even layer over the fish. Slowly spoon the vodka over the top and wrap the salmon tightly in the excess cling film. Lay another tray or tin on top of the salmon and weigh it down with something heavy. Set in the fridge for at least two days to cure.

Take the salmon from the fridge and unwrap it over a sink to catch the purple juices. Using your hands, scrape off as much of the beetroot cure as possible and pat the fish dry with paper towels. Finely chop the remaining dill and press into the top (flesh side) of the salmon. Using a very sharp knife, cut the salmon into wafer thin slices, cutting down to - but not through - the skin so you can transfer it easily to a serving platter.

Mix the grated horseradish with the crème frâiche and salt and black pepper. Thinly spread the rye bread slices with butter and cut into bite-sized pieces. Spread with the horseradish crème frâiche and lay the salmon slices on top. Garnish with a little fresh dill or watercress and a twist of freshly ground black pepper. Caperberries work exceptionally well with this tartine, too.

Victoria Sponge with Strawberry Jam and Vanilla Buttercream (Serves 8)
Words cannot express my love for this most British of cakes! Named after Queen Victoria, it simply is one of the UK’s most loved cakes, baked for many years by families up and down the country.

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
175g plain flour
50g cornflour
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
2–3 tbsp whole milk
3–4 tbsp good-quality strawberry jam, to serve

For the vanilla buttercream
150g butter, softened
200g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 x 20cm/8 inch round cake pans, base-lined with baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C/Gas 4.

Cream together the butter and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl until really pale and fluffy – this will take about five minutes. Add the vanilla bean paste, then gradually add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, mixing well between each addition and adding a little of the flour if the mixture looks curdled at any stage. Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder into the bowl, add the salt, two tablespoons of the milk and mix again until smooth. Add extra milk if necessary to slacken the mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until pale golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean.

Cool in the pans for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack until completely cold.

To make the vanilla buttercream, cream the butter in a stand mixer until very soft and pale. Sift in the icing sugar and vanilla bean paste in stages, mixing well between each addition until pale, smooth and very light. Spread the top of one of the cakes with the buttercream. Cover with a thick layer of strawberry jam and top with the other cake pressing down gently.

Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

From Monday 15th February 2016, two of Will Torrent's patisseries - a passion fruit and chocolate Jaffa cake and a mango coconut and lime mille-feuille - will be available exclusively in the Harrods Tea Room. 

Afternoon Tea At Home by Will Torrent is available to buy at the Harrods Bookshop, Second Floor.

Scroll down to shop Afternoon Tea essentials.

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