I hope you enjoyed my two part series on ESB Baking Essentials. Although it was hard to narrow down my absolute must-have’s in ingredients and equipment, I thought it was important to show that you don’t need a big budget to get in the kitchen and start baking. If you haven’t seen it, click here.
In this post, I am going to put together my top 10 tips for the perfect cricket tea. I have been involved in making cricket teas since I was very little, so I have picked up tips and tricks over the years to make the teas a success.
Afternoon tea is a part of English Village life. And whether its served in the manor, the vicarage or the cricket pavilion the elements remain the same : sandwiches, cups of tea and sweet treats. In a cricket match, the tea provides a social break in the game with much of the conversation revolving around the quality of the cakes and scones and comparisons to weeks gone by.
So I am going to give you my tips to allow you to make the perfect cricket tea. Of course, if you don’t have a tame cricket team, you can always apply these tips to other tea parties you are hosting.
Twinned with my top 10 tips, I have put together a video of clips from the day I made the tea. These are set to an Australian cricket song called ‘You’ve got to be a cricket hero, to get along with the beautiful girls.’ It was first written for American Football then adapted, but with a bit of help, I’ve brought it bang up to date with the English cricketers of today.
To have a watch, click the video below or visit the ESB YouTube channel.
Make a list and plan ahead
The key to creating the perfect cricket tea is numbers and logistics. Knowing how many you are catering for means that you have an idea how much food you need. Each side in a cricket match is usually made up of 11 players, but you also need to cater for scorers, umpires and hungry spectators. Write a list of everything you need to buy and make, to prevent any panic, as well as budgeting how much you are going to spend. Then work out a game plan of which bakes you are going to make and when.
To see my 2017 list for the cricket tea, you can read and download it here.
2. Bake Ahead
When you are planning a cricket tea, it helps if you think of some bakes you can make ahead of time, to save yourself last minute hassle. Recipes that can be frozen, refrigerated or that keep well in a tin for a couple of days are useful to have to hand. For example, this year I made a couple of batches of scones days before the actual tea and froze them in individual freezer bags until the day of the tea.
3. Be True to Tradition
Village cricket clubs are all about tradition. When you are making a cricket tea, you are given brownie points if you come up with foods that are well liked, rather than unknown bakes. Before you plan what you are making, it’s best to know if there is anything that you absolutely must bake to keep the players happy. At our local club, although we do a range of sandwich fillings for the tea, the one that is an absolute must is cheese and onion. It is the most popular and always is the first pile of sandwiches to be eaten! (although I can’t quite understand why!)
4. Buy as well as bake
Although it is tempting to go all out and make everything from scratch for a cricket tea, it’s important to remember that you can buy as well as bake. For one thing, it takes the pressure off so that you can focus on doing a couple of bakes really well. And for another it means that the players can choose from a selection of branded or homemade bakes, whichever tickles their fancy. I always remember Ina Garten’s advice to “buy some and make some” for her dinner parties and I think it is a philosophy that also works well for cricket teas. So, as well as baking a couple of cakes and batches of scones this year, I also bought chocolate fingers and KitKats as well as mini battenburgs and pork pies.
5. Take all the help you can get
Putting together a cricket tea can be hard work so it really makes a difference to have a couple of people to help you. Our cricket teas have always been a family affair. The four of us do different jobs which makes less work for everyone and a more enjoyable experience. Also, if a member of the team or spectators offer to help, accept, as it means you have more time to enjoy the day.
6. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect!
With all the preparation that goes into creating the perfect cricket tea, it is easy to worry that everything won’t go to plan. However, as with most things, cricket teas are an imperfect art and just getting food out to the cricketers is all that matters. Nothing is ever perfect so don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go according to plan. For instance, as you can see here, I ran out of time to signpost food with cocktail stick flags so made these instead.
7. Time Savers and Short Cuts
Time savers and short cuts are a must for any big catering event and cricket teas are no exception. If there are any ways in which you can save time, do it. Supermarkets do a range of food that can save you time and effort so it’s worth checking while you are shopping. For example, buying grated cheese to make cheese sandwiches means you have extra time to prepare other parts of the tea.
8. Leave plenty time to set up
Always leave plenty of time for laying out your tea spread. There is nothing worse than being told you only have a couple of minutes to set everything up when you have nothing ready! Leave plenty of time to make your sandwiches on the morning of the match and to travel to the ground. You never know what things might happen or how temperamental the English weather can be, which can affect the time of tea. It also gives you the chance to check the facilities in good time to make sure that everything you want is there.
9. Make more than you need (and don’t
worry if you have some leftovers!)
It’s always a good idea to make more than you need for a large group of people but particularly for a cricket tea, making sure there is plenty to go around never goes amiss. You never know who might pop by for a bit of refreshment to see the teams playing and gives you flexibility to offer extra to people watching. It also gives you the chance to eat up the leftovers (which I never find a hardship!)
10. Be aware of timings
My final tip is to be on top of timings. Keep in touch with a member of the home team or captain to find out how far off tea is. Traditional tea time is 4 or 4.30, or 2 hours into the match, but timings can change due to weather conditions or the number of overs bowled. So, make sure you are ready for the right time so you can be pouring the tea as the players walk off the pitch.
Thank you for popping by to my blog. I hope you enjoyed my top 10 tips for a perfect cricket tea and that the tips I gave were useful. In the comments, let me know what your top tip for catering for a crowd is.
Join me next time for another post, but in the meantime,
English Singing Baker x