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Eric Akis: Sandwiches add class to your summer tea time

If you’re planning to have friends over for tea, why not turn it into a summer meal by serving sandwiches. Tea sandwiches, of course. Daintily prepared bites you artfully arrange on plates or a platter.
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Tea sandwiches, from left: Irish ham, arugula and aged cheddar ribbons, smoked salmon and cucumber round and devilled egg salad and asparagus. Credit Eric Akis

If you’re planning to have friends over for tea, why not turn it into a summer meal by serving sandwiches. Tea sandwiches, of course. Daintily prepared bites you artfully arrange on plates or a platter.

If you think that’s a smashing idea, and you’re not sure what to make, not to worry, I have three ideas for you.

The first is a devilled egg salad and asparagus sandwich. Dijon mustard puts the “devil” into the egg salad and the bright green, cooked and cooled asparagus provides a nice taste and colour contrast to it.

Sandwich two is Irish ham, arugula and aged cheddar ribbons. It’s made by filling and stacking three slices of bread with those different coloured ingredients giving the sandwich a ribbon-like look when cut, not to mention a lovely mix of flavours.

Irish ham has a mild, but pleasing smoky taste. I also spread some dark, nicely spiced, sweet and tangy Branston pickle on those sandwiches. The Branston pickle, baby arugula and Irish ham used in the sandwiches are sold at most grocery stores, the ham being in the deli section.

My last sandwich is smoked salmon and cucumber rounds. They are made by topping rounds of dense rye bread with a richly flavoured cream cheese mixture, thinly sliced cucumber and half slices of silky, cold smoked salmon.

All of the sandwiches can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until ready to slice, or garnish, in the case of the smoked salmon rounds, and serve.

Devilled Egg Salad and Asparagus Sandwiches

Dijon mustard-flavoured egg salad and cooked, cooled, bright green asparagus fill these tea sandwiches.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: nine minutes (to boil the eggs)

Makes: 12 pieces of sandwich

15 thin asparagus spears, tough lower stems removed

4 large hard boiled eggs, cooled and peeled

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbsp minced green onion

• salt to taste

• butter to taste, at room temperature

6 slices white or whole wheat bread

Bring a shallow, wide pan of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until quite tender, about three to four minutes. (You want the asparagus to be tender enough to easily cut and bit through once in the sandwich.)

Drain asparagus well, cool with ice-cold water, drain well again, and then pat dry with paper towel. Now trim some of the bottom off each spear so they are the same width as your bread slices. (Save the trimmings of asparagus for another use, such as adding them to a salad.)

Grate the eggs into a mixing bowl. Add the mustard, mayonnaise, green onion and salt and mix to combine.

Lightly butter one side of each bread slice. Divide and spread the egg salad on three of those slices. Top the egg salad on each sandwich with five asparagus spears. Set on remaining bread slices, buttered-side-down.

Individually wrap and refrigerate sandwiches at least an hour before serving. When ready to serve, with a sharp serrated knife, trim away the crusts, and then carefully cut each sandwich into quarters.

Irish Ham, Arugula and Aged Cheddar Ribbons

Filling, stacking and pressing together three slices of bread gives these tasty sandwiches a ribbon-like look when cut.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: 12 pieces of sandwich

• butter to taste, at room temperature

6 slices whole wheat bread

• mayonnaise, to taste

1 cup baby arugula

100 grams aged white cheddar cheese, thinly sliced

3 slices white bread

6 Tbsp Branston pickle, or to taste

3 thin slices Irish ham

Butter one side of three slices of the whole wheat bread. Now spread and top the butter with mayonnaise. Set some baby arugula, and then some cheese, on those bread slices.

Butter one side of each slice of white bread and set them, buttered-side down, on top of the arugula and cheese. Spread the top of those white bread slices with Branston pickle. Now top the Branston pickle on each slice of white bread with a slice of ham.

Butter one side of the remaining three slices of whole wheat bread and set them, buttered-side-down, on the sandwiches. Gently pressed down on the sandwiches to lightly compact them. Individually wrap and chill the sandwiches at least an hour before serving.

When ready to serve, with a sharp serrated knife, trim away the crusts, and then cut each sandwich, widthwise, into four bars.

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Rounds

These small, open-faced sandwiches see rounds of dense rye bread topped with dill/horseradish-flavoured cream cheese, crisp cucumber and silky smoked salmon.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: 12 small sandwich rounds

8 (2-inch) round slices dense rye bread (see Note)

1/2 cup (125 grams) firm cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tsp chopped fresh dill

1 tsp horseradish

1 tsp lemon juice

• salt and ground white pepper, to taste

12 thin, round slices English cucumber

6 slices cold smoked salmon, each half widthwise

• dill sprigs and twirls of lemon zest, for garnish

Combine cream cheese, dill, horseradish, lemon juice, salt and white pepper in a bowl. Pipe or spread cream cheese mixture on one side of each round of rye bread. Set a slice of cucumber on each round. Artfully top each piece of cucumber with half slice of smoked salmon. Set the rounds on a serving plate, tent with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. The sandwiches can be made to this point many hours in advance.

When ready to serve, uncover the rounds, garnish each one with a dill sprig and two twirls of lemon zest, and enjoy.

Note: Dense rye bread is sold sliced at most supermarkets and bakeries. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut slices of that bread into rounds. Cube and use the leftover trimmings of bread to make croutons.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.