Thursday 26 April 2012

Back to basics: Scones

When I recently advertised a baking course at the Chef’s Room, it filled up straight away and yet only a couple of years previously when I ran a similar course there had been very little interest. That of course was prior to the Great British Bake-off series on TV.

We made chic Parisian macarons, crisp Sicilian almond biscuits, rich chocolate tartlets and plump coffee flavoured choux buns. All of which were enjoyed as a Savoy style afternoon tea with a glass of fizz. What was left over was taken home.

In my wisdom, even though I felt that everyone would know how to make scones I decided that no such occasion would be complete without them and added the recipe to the list. I was therefore quite surprised when the assembled company admitted they had never made scones. I therefore decided to share my mother’s scone recipe this month. My next bake-away afternoon tea is Thursday October 11th if you would like to join me please get in touch.

Hot tips:
  • Scones are very simple and quick to make but there are certain rules to follow; work quickly and lightly and keep the mixture as moist as possible. If it is too sticky to handle, dust with plenty of flour.
  • In the days before refrigerators, scones were traditionally made with milk that had turned sour. This is not something that happens very often these days. Either leave the milk out overnight to go sour or add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice to the milk to turn it sour just before you make the scones. You would not believe the difference it makes to the taste and texture.
  • Always serve scones warm; if necessary reheat in the oven before serving
  • Lastly if you don't do afternoon tea, freshly baked scones are great for breakfast

Grannie’s scones: makes 8

200 g, 2 cups self-raising flourteaspoon bicarbonate of soda

teaspoon cream of tartar

pinch of salt

25 g butter from the fridge

25 g caster sugar

1 medium free range egg
75-100 ml milk and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 extra egg, forked for glazing


straight-sided scone cutter 5 - 6 cm in diameter

alternatively use a glass

To serve

strawberry jam

125 ml whipped cream

200 g small fresh strawberries

icing sugar

preheat oven 200 C 400 F gas mark 6

Sieve the flour with the bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour evenly with the tips of the fingers, mix in the sugar. Add the egg and 75ml of milk and work the dough into a ball quickly and lightly with a knife. The dough should be soft, moist and malleable. Add a little extra milk to the dough to keep it moist.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and flatten it with the hands and shape into a round, 2-3 centimetres thick. If the dough is too moist simply add a little extra flour. Cut out as many scones as the dough allows. Roll the trimmings into a ball, flatten it and cut out a couple more scones. Shape the remaining trimmings into one single scone. Transfer all the scones to a greased baking tray. Paint the scones with beaten egg and bake for 10-15 minutes until well risen and golden. Tap the underside it should sound hallow. Leave to cool a little.
While still warm split open, spread with jam, add a spoon of whipped cream and top with a strawberry. Sprinkle with a veil of icing sugar.

Tuesday 24 April 2012


It may surprise you to know, given we are a nation of marmalade makers and eaters, that we celebrated National Marmalade week this year for the very first time from 25 February - 3 March.
This inaugural awareness week was created by the organizers of The World’s Original Marmalade Awards & Festival held in Dalemain mansion in the Lake District because of the huge increase in the number of people making their own marmalades and artisan made marmalades on the market.
If you want to have a go yourself next year jars from every type of marmalade maker are welcomed. Further entry details including a downloadable entry form, category criteria, submission details and entry fees can be found by visiting:
However if you simply want to have a bash at making your own Jubilee vintage to celebrate this great British tradition, here is a great marmalade recipe guaranteed to wake up your palate over breakfast. One of the pluses or this recipe is that you can make it any time of the year as it does not require Seville oranges. Don’t forget, marmalade is a useful ingredient; it makes great sponge puddings and tarts and you can also add it to savoury dishes to give a tangy citrus flavour.

Chunky lemon, lime and grapefruit marmalade
The combination of lemon, lime and grapefruit makes a delicious zingy ‘good morning world’ tasting marmalade. It can be made in small quantities at any time of the year, not just when the traditional Seville oranges are in season. I have given quantities to yield two or three jars but if you want to make in bulk, then simply double or triple the ingredients. Cut the peel to suit your taste – thick or thin by hand, chunky or fine using a blender. Vary the citrus fruit to suit your taste.

1 lemon
1 small pink grapefruit
1 lime
500 ml water
1 kg sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
3 clean, dry, warm 259 g jam jars with lids
1 pack jam pot covers and waxed discs

Makes 500g 750 g
Scrub the fruit and prise out any stalk ends still attached. Put the fruit in a pan and cover with cold water, set over low heat and cook until tender – this will take 11/2-2 hours. The fruit is ready when it ‘collapses’. Lime zest is generally tougher than other citrus peel, so you must make sure it is tender at this stage otherwise it will taste woody.
Transfer the fruit to a chipping board, reserving the water) and leave until cool enough to handle. Cut in half, scrape out the pips and add to the pan of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Cut the zest into strips as finely as possible or put in a blender and whiz until chunky. Strain the water from the pips and flesh and return it to the pan, adding the chopped zest and the lemon juice. Discard the pips and the debris.
Add the sugar to the pan and bring slowly to simmering point, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Because the sugar content is high this will take quite a long time. When the marmalade has become translucent, you will know the sugar has dissolved and you can increase the heat. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached – 5-10 minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and test for set (see below). If the marmalade is not ready, put the pan back on the heat to boil for a few more minutes and test again. Repeat this process if necessary and remember to take the pan off the heat during testing as over boiling the marmalade will ruin it.
When setting point is reached, return to simmering point, then turn off the heat. Skim with a perforated spoon, stir well and let stand for 20 – 30 minutes for the fruit to settle. Stir and ladle into clean, dry, warm jars and wipe the necks of the jar with a clean, damp cloth if necessary. Seal at once with waxed paper discs and covers.
Let cool, label and store in a cool, dark cupboard until required.
Testing for set
Before you start put a saucer and 2 – 3 teaspoons in the fridge to cool. When the marmalade is ready take it off the heat and using a cold spoon put a teaspoon full in the fridge on the cold saucer and leave for five minutes. After this time push the marmalade with a finger – if it offers resistance or crinkles it is ready, on the other hand if it is still liquid the marmalade needs to be boiled up again.

Monday 23 April 2012

Wallow in a bowl of sheer luxury

This is a traditional Scottish dish know as Cullen Skink and if you don’t know it, now is the time to try it. I first tasted it while in Nairn, visiting my niece. Her husband Tony is a great cook and this is one of his specialities which he was keen for me to try. I was keen to try it as smoked haddock is a favourite fish and I was researching Cured at the time and keen to find just the right recipe to showcase this wonderful ingredient.
Cullen Skink is creamy; some of the potato is liquidised with the milk before serving, delicately smoky and succulent; the recipe uses the thickest part of the best natural smoked haddock, colourful and luxurious; tinted with saffron and totally satisfying and healthy.
As a big fan of smoked haddock I was knocked out by it. It is a hearty dish yet totally suited to spring time, just wait until you see the colour! If you are serving it as a starter, keep the portions small; it works well as a one course lunch dish with some decent bread. If you live within striking distance of Ross-on-Wye, Cirencester or Newent I highly recommend Donna and Robert’s market fish stalls; their smoked haddock is exceptional as is all the fish they sell. They are there from early morning until lunch time but it is essential to make an early visit to benefit from the full range of beautifully fresh fish.

Creamy saffron-laced smoked haddock chowder, served with parsley and chives
serves 4

600ml milk
1 small onion or shallot studded with 6 cloves
Generous pinch of saffron threads
400g natural smoked haddock, preferably the thick middle part
1 ½ tablespoons of butter or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
175g potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
Black pepper

For serving
Extra milk
Chopped parsley and chives

Put the milk in a saucepan with the clove studded onion and a generous pinch of saffron strands. Bring the milk to simmering point, switch off the heat and leave to stand for 1 hour for the flavours to infuse.
After this time bring the milk to simmering point again, add the haddock and gently poach for 3 minutes. Transfer the fish to a plate and carefully flake with a fork, discarding the skin and bones, then cover and reserve. Strain the milk and reserve.
Melt the butter or heat the oil in a saucepan, adding the chopped onion and cook until soft. Add the cubed potato and cook for 2 minutes. Add the strained milk and simmer gently until the potato is tender (say 20 minutes). Reserve half of the potato cubes for later use and transfer the remaining vegetables and milk to a blender and blend until creamy. Add black pepper.
When ready to serve, gently reheat the soup, taking care not to let it curdle. If the soup is very thick it may be necessary to dilute it with extra milk. Divide the reserved haddock and potato between 6 warmed dishes and pour the soup on top. Sprinkle with snipped chives and chopped parsley and serve at once.