Monday, March 24, 2008

What flavour scones?

March 24 ...

I know exactly what made me decide to feature ‘scones’ today. Sheer astonishment at the degree to which the human cook will go to adapt, modify, and ‘improve’ a perfectly good recipe, that’s what. I was quietly browsing an Australian cookbook (undated, but probably late 1930’s), not seeking to be shocked, disgusted, or even intrigued when I came across a chapter of recipes for ‘scones’. We have tackled the subject in a previous post, but just to remind you, a scone is ‘generally, a soft cake of barley- or oatmeal, or wheat-flour, baked in single portions on a griddle or in an oven. Also with defining words, denoting varieties of this cake, as butter, potato, soda, treacle scone; brown scone, one made of whole meal; drop-, dropped scone, one made of a small portion of batter dropped on the griddle or on a tin and baked.’ It is better known to some of you ‘over there’ is essentially the same thing as a ‘biscuit’.

There are few things simpler and better than an Authentic Devonshire Tea: scones with good jam (strawberry jam, preferrably) with lashings of proper cream, (‘clotted’ cream, preferrably). The use of whipped cream is a bit down-market, and the use of the synthetic stuff that looks like shaving cream from a can is an act of sacrilege. The only real debate is whether or not the scones should be plain, or contain sultanas. In Australia, whose housewives are (were?) famous for their scones, it is perfectly acceptable, maybe even desirable, to provide pumpkin scones.

Any other varieties seem superfluous somehow. But superfluity is no barrier to housewives who want to get creative when the ladies are coming over for afternoon tea. A previous story featured two scone recipes from New Zealand, and these were not too startling – apart from the first being called ‘buns’ when they are clearly ‘scones’, and the second containing preserved ginger. The Australian book that gave shocked me however, contained a couple of pretty scary scone recipes amongst the forty it had on offer.

Be honest now. Would you ever be inclined to serve Bloater* Scones or Curry and Egg Scones?

Bloater Scones.
½ lb self-raising flour
1 oz. butter
1 egg
lemon juice to taste
2 oz. bloater paste
salt and cayenne
1 gill** milk
Sift flour, salt, and cayenne. Rub in butter and bloater paste. Add egg and milk and lemon juice, and make into a soft dough. Knead slightly. Roll out ½ inch thick. Cut into small rounds 1 inch in diameter. Glaze and bake in a quick oven eight to ten minutes.
Filling: 1 dessertspoon bloater paste and one dessertspoon whipped cream, blended together and flavoured with cayenne, lemon juice, and salt.

Curry and Egg Scones.
½ lb. self-raising flour
1 oz. butter
1 dessertspoon curry powder
pinch salt
1 hard-boiled egg
1 gill milk.
Sift flour, curry powder and salt into a basin. Rub in butter and add egg chopped finely and milk. Make into a dough, roll out, cut into rounds, brush over with milk and bake about ten minutes.
[From: Australian Cookery of Today Illustrated, by ‘Prudence.’]

*bloaters are herrings: bloater paste is, essentially, pureed bloaters.

**gill = unit of volume in the British Imperial and United States Customary systems. It is used almost exclusively for the measurement of liquids. Although its capacity has varied with time and location, in the United States it is defined as half a cup, or four U.S. fluid ounces, which equals 7.219 cubic inches, or 118.29 cubic cm; in Great Britain the gill is five British fluid ounces [Encyclopedia Britannica]

Tomorrow’s Story …

A wedding breakfast, 1571.

Quotation for the Day …

In nothing more is the English genius for domesticity more notably declared than in the institution of this festival - almost one may call it - of afternoon tea...The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose. George Gissing (b. 1857)


Lidian said...

What truly horrifying scone recipes! But such fun to see (in print, not in reality!)

All the cream teas I have had on family visits to England have featured scones with sultanas (in National Trust tea rooms, mostly)- I have also had something called a 'teacake' there which is a cross between a flat scone and what we call an 'English muffin' in N America. Both are quite delicious!

rsynnott said...

It could be worse; I was vaguely expecting the egg to be entombed whole in the curry scone.


I've seen chocolate scones, actually. I didn't sample them, I'm afraid.