We get a bad rap for our food in this country. The rest of Europe thinks that we don't cook anything worth eating, and no-one ever knows what to suggest actually constitutes 'English food', apart from roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. I say now that I refer only to English food as opposed to Welsh because I am, in fact, English. One has to highlight these things, you see. I wouldn't want a run in with the Welsh Mafia (the Tafia?).
I don't deny the lure of roast beef (although I can do without the Yorkshire pudding, thanks all the same). But the other day, Mr. Other P made scones (photographs provided as evidence of his ability - he has a very light hand you know, I could never make them as well as this), and it occurred to me that the scone deserves its place on the world stage.
Have you ever eaten a proper English scone before?
They bear no relation to those triangular (???), chocolate studded things calling themselves scones you see in Starbucks in the US, which seem to promise moist succulence but deliver only dry-crumbed mealiness and nothing even resembling flavour. Well, save for the acrid tang of artificial vanilla.
(He's being harsh today!)
I am not slating American food. Far from it; I ate better when I was in the States than most other countries I have ever visited. What I am saying is that a real scone, especially a homemade one, is a wonderful thing. Light, fluffy and delicately flavoured, they just plead with you to be split in half and spread with clotted or whipped cream and jam. Anyone who tries this recipe will never sneer at English food again.
Mr. Other P has made scones four or five times so far this year. Always following this method, but sometimes adding sultanas or cheese (a savoury scone is a wonderful thing). He is convinced that it's quicker, and much cheaper, to make them than it is to go to the shop and buy some (we live about three minutes walk from a bakery, and four from a supermarket). I think he's right.
Try this. Not because I told you to (good reason though that is), but because you want to make something really, truly English. Get your teacups and teapot out, and it will be just like a Summer holiday in the Cotswolds.
What else do you think of when you think of English food? Pies? Steamed puddings?
adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking
You will need:
500g plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 1/2 tsp cream or tartar
75g cold butter, diced
300ml milk, plus extra for brushing
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C, and lightly grease a baking sheet.
- Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips, until you have a mixture that looks like damp sand.
- Add the milk, and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form a dough. Roll out to a thickness of about 3cm and cut rounds using a medium sized round cutter. We don't have one of these, and use an upturned drinking glass. You can even improvise the rolling pin for this - a bottle of wine or ketchup will do.
- Place the rounds on the sheet, fairly close together. You should get 12, but it depends on how large your cutter is. Brush the tops with milk, and bake for 10 minutes or until well risen and golden.
- Serve warm with cream and jam.