The first time I ever had a scone it was a revelation. Were were having High Tea with my Canadian friend A. in a beautiful hotel in Oxford, the Old Parsonage, one of the few luxuries we allowed ourselves as students (the pound was very strong and Greece still had drachmas). We were sitting by the window, admiring the fine linen and cutlery and chatting about this and that when the trolley came with all the sandwiches, the scones, the cakes and the tea. I could not believe the amount of food that we were having between meals (high tea was served at 4pm), but started to taste it anyway. Two things blew me away: the cucumber sandwiches and the scones.
Scones are so boring on their own: they are neither salty nor sweet and have no particular taste. What they do have however is texture: they are buttery, crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and warm. Team them with clotted cream and a good quality jam (usually raspberry or strawberry) and they are transformed into bliss. Just the thing one needs on a dreary, cold afternoon after hours of studying in the library!
There is so much lovely, tasty and comforting food in Britain, it is a shame that people don’t know about it. That is one of the reasons I chose “Eating for England” by Nigel Slater as a read for Cook the Books the bi-monthly cooking and reading club organised by Deb, Rachel and me (deadline is today, so hurry!). Nigel is a great writer and the perfect man for introducing someone to the particularities of the British at the table. I think what I absolutely love about his writing is the perfect combination of sentimentality and wry humor: one minute you get misty eyed and the next you laugh out loud.”
Scones are mentioned in a few places in the book, but they also have a “chapter” to their selves.
How to dress a scone (from Nige Slater’s, Eating for England)
You are faced with a plate of scones , a pat of butter, a dish of jam and a pot of clotted cream. This being Britain, it follows that there must be a right and wrong order in which to dress your scone. You have either butter or cream, never both. At least not when everyone is looking. it is generally accepted that the jam goes on first, followed by a teaspoonful of cream. Others insist it is the other way round. Dare I suggest it really doesn’t matter? At a tea shop or hotel, you will inevitably get strawberry jam, though many would say that raspberry is better. At home I would go for blackcurrant or damson every time.
The recipe for scones I used is from another great Brit, Gordon Ramsay. Unfortunately I forgot them in the oven slightly longer and they came out crunchier and darker than they should. They were fluffy and buttery enough though, so no harm done. I cannot find clotted cream in Greece, so I used crème fraîche left over from the tarte flambée with home made strawberry jam.
recipe by Gordon Ramsay from the book Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets
- 250 self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- good pinch of fine sea salt
- 45g butter (I used 60g for a more buttery flavour)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra to dust
- 50g sultanas (I omitted them as I like my scones plain)
- 1 large free-range egg
- 100ml ice-cold milk, plus extra to glaze
- Pre-heat the oven to 180oC
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a large bowl. Add the butter in little pieces and rub it using your fingers and lifting the flour up high so you aeriate it. When the butter is incorporated the mixture should look like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar, then the sultanas (if you are using them).
- In another bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Pour about three quarters into the flour mixture and quickly mix together with a large table knife, adding extra egg and milk mix as necessary to give a soft, but not sticky dough. Do not overmix -the quicker and lighter the mixing and the higher your scones will rise.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and very gently roll with a rolling pin or pat out with your fingers to a 2-2.5cm thickness. using a 6cm cutter, press out as many rounds as you can. Gently re-shape and lightly roll the trimmings to cut out a couple of more rounds if you can.
- Place the rounds on the lined baking sheet, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle gently with extra sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
- To check that the scones are ready, lightly squeeze the sides of one – the dough should be springy. Slide off to a wire rack and cool. Eat the scones within an hour or so of baking while still warm.