There was a bit of a mini news story this morning on Radio 4 about Prime Minister Teresa May being asked about her cooking preferences. Apparently Hillary Clinton got herself into trouble during this Presidential campaign by daring to admit that she didn’t have an interest in cooking. We were told she then had to schlep around the USA doing cookery events to counteract the backlash she received. Sheeeeeeeshhh. When will women be able to say what they actually think and not get some hideous Victorian standard attached to them? Anyway… Teresa May learned a valuable lesson from Hills, evidently, because she carefully and strategically fitted into her answer her mother’s recipe for scones, and also the fact that she like Yotam Ottolenghi thereby attempting (who can say whether she achieved it?) to dangle herself between the Family-Values-Right-Wingers and the Left-Leaning-Tahini-and-Preserved-Lemon-Brigade.
But the brouhaha was fuelled by the scone recipe, about which the BBC was more interested. She specified butter OR margarine. Well. All hell broke loose in the UK this morning. Purists saying it was sacrilege to use margarine, Jack Monroe interviewed saying margarine is all some people can afford, meaning ‘back off with your middle class butter’. I think what you can afford is often (not always, but often) wrapped up in a choice, and having margarine is not the preserve of the working class anyway, so to bring them into it is merely point-scoring. Anyway, our mother Mavis says that our working class grandmother never used margarine, even though she was struggling to feed a family of five through the 1930’s depression in Oldham with our grandfather, a mill-worker, out of work for most of the decade.
So personally, as a tribute to my grandmother Eva Mellor who knew a poverty that not even Jack Monroe could rival, I would never use margarine BUT I’m willing to bet that if it was a good quality one specifically made for baking then the difference in taste would be negligible. If you use Utterly Butterly or some olive oil replicant then I expect it would be nasty – there is just too much water in it. But you can even prove me wrong on that point, as on any other – I’m liberal like that.
The power of suggestion being very strong, especially in matters food, after listening to the item about scones, today I had to make them.
Preheat the oven to 200º / 190º fan.
Amounts for 10 large scones:
- 12 oz /340g plain flour
- 3 oz /85g butter OR some controversial margarine
- 2 tsp baking powder or:
- 1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3 tsp cream of tartar
- pinch salt
- 7½ fluid oz /200 ml yoghurt and milk mixed
- 4 tbsp /1½ oz /40g of caster sugar
- 2 oz /60g raisins
Tips: Don’t overwork the mixture, don’t roll them too thin or make them too small.
Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder or tartar/bicarb. Cut the fat into chunks. This is one of my favourite things to look at as it means there is a cake or pastry on the way. How sad am I…?Rub the fat into the flour with the tips of your fingers using a ‘sprinkling salt’ action. Or you can mix it in the food processor with a blade. It should look like this:Stir the raisins and sugar into the flour mixture. Mix the yoghurt and milk together and using a fork incorporate it until just blended. You could continue in the food processor, but this will chop up your raisins which you might not want… If you try and add the raisins after mixing the liquid in I find it hard to distribute them adequately around the dough. So I prefer using a fork and it takes about 1 minute so is not that difficult. It will seem as if there won’t be enough liquid but I promise it’ll all mix in and pick up all the dry flour. When it looks like the following, use your hand to finish mixing it, and knead it a BIT, just to make sure it’s a solid mass.Roll it out on a floured surface to an inch thick and cut it out with biscuit cutters. I use the depth of the cutter and make sure it’s a nice generous height inside. Who wants a thin scone, eh? No-one.Squash remnants back together and re-roll until all the mixture is cut out. Put on a lightly greased tray and bake for 15 minutes. I dusted mine with icing sugar after they’d come out to make them look photogenic. This is, of course, optional…
I promised scones of any flavour:
- Plain scones – of course leave out the raisins. You can also leave out the sugar if you want them non-sugary or you intend putting a lot of jam on them.
- Cheese and/or chilli scones – leave out the sugar and the raisins. Add instead 2 oz/40g of grated hard cheese to the flour before the liquid and/or ½ tsp of chilli flakes.
- Date scones – chop up 2oz/40g of dates instead of raisins.
- Apricot scones – chop up 20z/40g dried apricots instead of raisins. Maybe even grate in the zest of an orange as well – orange and apricot go very well together,
- You could try dried figs – same amount as above. Figs are also lovely with orange.
- If you’re planning on having scones with lemon curd, you could grate the zest of a lemon in. I’d keep the sugar in but leave out the raisins.
You get the idea. Enjoy.
I love it when I find a recipe that uses up egg whites!! I always have loads in the freezer from making quiches and mayonnaise, both of which I love. If you don’t have any in the freezer…. try making some mayonnaise… or a quiche.
Last weekend, in the dog-days of the English summer, James and I went blackberrying in the lower hills of the South Downs. I didn’t want very many, it’s mid September and little fingers have picked too many off the bushes already as they walk their dogs along the footpaths, so I knew we’d be too late to get enough for jam; but I had a hankering (maybe it’s being pregnant) to make a blackberry-type cake. We got a small tupperware box, and got blown about on the hill, and I huffed and puffed my bump around the gorse and was happy to get back to the car. Once home I was even happier to get onto the real business of baking.
A couple of weeks ago I’d never heard of a friand. Now they are my new favourite thing. I don’t have a very wide range of sweet things that I make, being not particularly sweet-toothed and believing that sugar is pointless/verging on the harmful as an actual food stuff, but of course like most people I do love cake. The ones I do make I make over and over, and have a tendency to binge eat them in front of The Good Wife or House of Cards or some other brilliant US drama. These friands are going to become part of my regular go-to cakes, I just know, it. I’ll be making them all year round with different flavours.
They didn’t invent them, but I do have my heros Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi to thank for introducing me to them. But stop – is that the Food Police at the door? Maybe, because yet again I’ve messed very slightly with the recipe. It’s a French delicacy with a history of its own, and is very popular in Australia, appaz, so I don’t feel too guilty. Ottolenghi makes them with blackcurrants and puts cinnamon in, which I didn’t really like the first time I made them. I use almond essence and vanilla, and I make them with less sugar, and smaller. For some reason, I like having two (or three) on my plate, instead of one. Can’t think why.
The picture above is actually some painfully expensive supermarket blackberries I used for my first attempt, but the ones we picked in the wild were much smaller, which is actually better for the cake as they don’t take over the entire friand but stud it with flavour like they should.
- 125g butter, melted and cooled a bit.
- 60g plain flour (or gluten-free flour)
- 60g blanched almonds
- 50g unsalted pistachios ( you can leave these out as they’re fiendishly expensive and just use 110g almonds if you prefer)
- 140g caster sugar
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- ¾ tsp almond essence
- ½ tsp vanilla essence
- 3 egg whites
- pinch salt
- 1 tbs mashed banana (an Ottolenghi master stroke)
- 120g blackberries or small fruit of your choosing, tossed in a heaped tablespoon of plain flour, like my arty pic above.
I just love me anything fried. Along with massive salads it’s one of my favourite types of food to eat. I think mum must have made fried things when we were kids, although we weren’t a chip pan sort of a family. Actually, I’m wrong, we did have a chip pan in the 1980’s. Anyway, I digress, here are some lovely potato pancakes to have for lunch. Mum has always served them with some plain yoghurt, and some homemade apple sauce. If you grind a bit of salt and pepper on your yoghurt and then top with apple sauce it’s just a great combo.
- 200g potatoes, peeled. (approx 215g unpeeled
- 50g onion, peeled and grated (messy but better than chopped)
- 1 egg white, beaten to a froth but not stiff
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
This is another of those recipes that came from a booklet we got with some bit of electrical kit like a mixer or a processor. You can keep it as a whole cake but I think it’s another one that works brilliantly when cooked in a square tin and cut up into individual little square cakes then frozen and defrosted when the mood for a Swedish apple cake takes you. The cake is cooked for longer than a lot of sponge cakes – it needs to in order to cook the apples and deal with the moisture that the apples have brought into the equation – and this means that you end up with soft sponge, melting apple and some crunchy sponge on top. Excellent.
Excellent with coffee or tea. Also excellent as a dessert – especially warmed up, dusted with a bit of sieved icing sugar and served with cream.
About the ingredients:
If you haven’t got cooking apples you can make it with dessert apples but be sure that they’re on the sharp side. And reduce the sugar in the sponge by about a quarter. But really you should use cooking apples.
Makes 16 little square cakes
This recipe comes from Gennaro Contaldo – or rather, Gennaro’s mother – and I saw him make it on a BBC programme, Two Greedy Italians. It’s incredibly simple and it literally takes 15 minutes to make.
There is one very, very important thing to remember – I got this from watching Gennaro – and that is to ensure a lightness of touch. Don’t handle the dough as you would a bread dough, or even a pastry dough. Be quick and light, using fingertips wherever possible, never holding on to it for more than a couple of seconds at a time. This ensures that the dough remains light and doesn’t turn into a sticky icky goo.
Fish soup can be very complicated to make. It can start with fish stock, often made out of several different kinds of fish, with the heads and the bones boiled and stinking the house out. This is different. This is the quickest thing imaginable. And delicious.
About the ingredients:
Lidl sometimes sells whole big Greek anchovies on special offer and they are fantastic for this soup. You can use any oily tinned fish such as sardines or mackerel. You could make it with tuna but it probably needs a good hit of some very salty anchovy fillets to go with it.
You can serve it just plain, or with a bit of cream in it, perhaps with some chives chopped in. Or you can serve it the traditional French way with croutons (just little bits of toast), some garlicky mayonnaise and some grated cheese.
Most soups start with softening onions and other vegetables and then adding other vegetables and possibly other things too, and finally blending the whole thing. This one, from the divine Elizabeth David, is very different. It’s a lovely simple soup – Elizabeth David knew everything there was to know about unfussy food – and it doesn’t start with onions and doesn’t need blending. Like most soups, it freezes well and possibly tastes even better when it’s been left for a while or frozen.
About the ingredients:
You can use any kind of mushroom. It works fine with normal supermarket mushrooms but if you’ve got something special to add, go ahead. Also, Elizabeth David puts bacon rinds in with the mushrooms when she cooks them. I don’t eat meat so I might use a bit of parmesan rind (be sure to remove after cooking).
Makes about 8 generous servings. Cost per serving 30p
There are plenty of foods (..er..most of ’em I fink) that I find it possible to sit dreaming about during the day as I look forward to my meal that evening. Plain white rice isn’t one of them. I’d much rather have a potato. BUT there are three rice dishes that I adore, and they’re all on the comforting side of the spectrum. No dry tasteless bits of starch here. One is kedgeree, which I posted about recently, the second is risotto, which we’ll post about soon. The third is this ‘ere paella. It is, in no uncertain terms: lush.
It’s inspired by a fantastic recipe from Rick Stein. Actually it’s not ‘inspired’ at all – it’s basically his recipe, I just alter bits and bobs depending on which ingredients I have available. Like a lot of recipes on this blog, it doesn’t matter if you’re not exact with the quantities or if you change things. Good home cooking is NOT about putting exactly the teaspoon of that and exactly the weight of the other or following a recipe like a slave. Mostly it’s about making it so that it tastes the way you like it. I hope Rick Stein will forgive the mash-up of his recipe.
I had this last night, it is one of my favourite comfort foods. The brilliant thing about kedgeree is that it’s incredibly moreish but is also good for you. It uses a decent amount of butter, but on this blog we believe that butter is good for you, unlike sugar, which we believe isn’t.
A word on ingredients.
I implore you not to be put off by the fact that I use brown rice. Our mum Mavis uses brown, which is why I do. Catherine uses white rice in hers. It’s a matter of preference. What I like about brown is that it makes it more chewy. So it’s a buttery smokey creamy chewy bowl of moreish loveliness. The fish can be fresh or frozen, but if you make it for the first time and think ‘…hmm… This dish is chewy but it’s not the rice, it’s the FISH that’s chewy’!’, then one of two things has happened to mess with Kedgeree Heaven: 1) the fish was not so great to start with, or more likely 2) you’ve cooked it too long. Tips on this below.
The main tip about this dish is not to stint on the butter and onions. Or it will not be as nice. You have been warned.
I’ve put it as a commuter cook (half hour) as well as a longer cook, as strictly speaking if you put the rice on and cook it for 20 minutes, you can cook the rest of the ingredients within that time, so you could cram it into half an hour.
This is a recipe from Nigel Slater, who is one of our greatest food writers. He understands about simplicity. It’s taken from his book Real Food and the only difference here is that I put in quite a lot more potatoes than he does. He likes his food very rich…
We often have this when there are just two of us and we have it two days running. It’s just as good heated up the next day. So we might have it with a green salad on day one and a beetroot or tomato salad on day two. It works really, really well with a beetroot and lemon salad. You certainly want some sharpness or bitterness (rocket, watercress, lemon, tomato etc) to cut through the richness of the cream and mackerel.
About the ingredients:
If you’re feeling flush you can get a lovely whole smoked mackerel from the fishmongers (in which case you might use some of it to make a mackerel paté as well) but you can also buy smoked mackerel in little packets in supermarkets (Lidl, of course, is great) and it’s really not expensive. Mackerel is incredibly good for you, is local to British waters and highly sustainable. And it’s delicious.