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.
Lawks, I love a tart! (Insert Carry On joke here).
Did they ever make Carry On Cooking? I think not. Shame – the double entendre capacity of cooking is immense. Cream puffs and toasted nuts. I saw on the internet the other day a list of saucy Bake Off sayings. I don’t know if Mary Berry really did actually say the words ‘moist crack’ on the TV, but it’s hilarious (if you’re British and have a childish mind) to imagine that she did.
This is not a comedy tart, it doesn’t raise an eyebrow and say ‘oo madame’ like more showy-off tarts, but it has an immensely satisfying small list of ingredients that meld themselves into a remarkably fine tasting tart. I make mine quite thin, but you can increase the filling or decrease the size of the tin to make it deeper if you want.
A word on sorrel: I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in the shops. Which is a shame as it’s every bit as useful as rocket. The very lemony sharp flavour of the leaves is really useful. If you’ve got a garden and you like growing herbs for cooking, get a sorrel plant or throw some seeds on the ground and it grows like a weed and comes back every year. There are different kinds, a heart-shaped small one (buccleuch, pronounced ‘buckler’) that creeps rather like ivy in cracks in walls or between plants in the ground, and a large-leafed kind that looks very like spinach and is called broad-leaved sorrel. Either will do and will return each spring without you having to do anything.
OR, if the more likely scenario is in play, which is that you don’t have any sorrel, I suggest you zest half a small lemon and put that in instead. Or of course you can always add a tablespoon of herbs you particularly like, such as tarragon, or chervil, or even just chives.
I first had falafel in Paris in the 1980’s when Cathy, wonderfully glamorously, lived there. We used to visit a take-away place in the cool area of la Mairie and get the now familiar pitta bread stuffed with crunchy cold salads and hot falafel, freshly fried and crispy on the outside, soft and mysteriously spicy on the inside, topped with some creamy and equally mysterious sauce – which I later worked out was tahini. This was long before anyone had opened a falafel bar in the UK. They were exotic and alluring and I felt very well travelled just eating them.
Gung-ho as my family has always been about food, we thought – ‘we can make those!’- and embarked on a few attempts in our kitchen when I was a teenager, using our ancient chip-frier on our even more ancient gas cooker. My memory of this is of infrequent success, mixed with quite a lot of disintegrated chickpea mess floating in the hot oil. We probably had to make do with a lot of salad for our tea on those nights… I’m afraid we gave up after a while.
For years afterwards my experience of falafel was limited to the occasional take away, either drunk at the end of the night in lieu of a kebab, or from a very decent take away place on Old Compton Street when I lived in London. More recently I’ve tried a few packet versions where you just add liquid… they were…well…ok I suppose…
BUT, then along came Yotam Ottolenghi. My experience of both eating and cooking falafel was transformed when I started using Ottolenghi’s recipe in his masterpiece of a book Jerusalem. Not only did they not fall apart, they were more delicious than anything I’d had in from a packet, a cafe, or a take-away – drunk or otherwise.
So here is the recipe that I’m sharing with you. Far be it for me to mess with the legend that is Yotam, but I have to say that I almost double the spices and flavourings, mainly because I don’t make as much mixture as his recipe calls for (there are usually only two of us eating), but I still usually chuck roughly the same quantities of spices that he specifies.
I know, I know, fiddle with an Ottolenghi recipe at your peril, his testing is rigorous and his flavour balancing is unsurpassed. But there it is. I add more flavouring. I can hear the knock on the door from the food police as I write…
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
So, not to be like a record stuck in a groove or ‘owt, but this is very very veeeehy quick and very easy and it’s another of our ‘not-a-recipe-more-of-a-serving-suggestion’ salads.
We don’t believe in iceberg lettuce and tomatoes with no dressing. That’s not salad, that’s just assorted fibre on a plate. Yet somehow, despite all the fancy places to eat in the UK and the transition from spam and sprouts to quinoa and coulis that’s occurred in the last twenty years, lots of people still think that salad is boring and worthy. Sometimes those people come round to our house and eat a salad and go: ‘wow, how did you make this?’ and the answer is – …’er we chopped it up and put literally TWO things on it’.
And then you’ve got taste, interest, AND HEALTH.
This recipe is for Keith’s mum Marion who’s been waiting for ages for me to post it!
My boyfriend and I had these in Los Angeles last year at The Standard Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, sat by a pool with a beer before dinner. Is that image sickening enough for you and do you now hate me? My work here is done.
The point is, it was the first time I’d come across them and I was amazed – I thought them super cool and we scoffed the lot pretty darn quickly. That I knew they were healthy was a massive bonus. Salty pre-dinner snacks are a weakness of mine (see post on tomato salsa, which I eat tons of with tortilla chips). I now serve these delicate crisps as often as I can get my hands on some good strong kale, and people always love them, even people who you might expect to turn their noses up at something so…well – righteous.
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.
This is what you do when you bought a rock-hard avocado ten days ago, left it in a bowl to reach ripe perfection and then forgot about it so now it’s starting to look a bit old and tired. There are lots of different ways of doing guacamole and you can experiment with them, of course. This is what I do. Nice and simple.
This is, like many salads, just a question of putting some things together and creating joy on a plate. It’s very similar to the Flageolet Beans salad. But different.