I was most disturbed to hear that many of you have sad gaps in your culinary experiences. Your taste buds have definitely not lived if they haven’t had a proper cream tea – or even an improper one! And who is more qualified than your own dear Lady Fi to give you the ultimate guide to cream teas and scone-making? Answer: everyone on the planet is more qualified, except perhaps the kitchen staff at British schools who still insist on feeding kids with powdered potatoes and ready meals…
But I digress! A cream tea looks something like this: freshly-brewed tea (made with the finest tea leaves you can find), delicate china (make sure you are not expecting visitors in the form of bulls or other bovines in a china shop), thick clotted cream and strawberry jam.
Stuff you need (to make scones, that is!):
225g/8oz self raising flour
pinch of salt
25g/1oz caster sugar
150ml/5fl oz milk
What is self-raising flour? Well, it’s white stuff that makes cakes light and fluffy. If you can’t get the self-raising stuff in your country, then use ordinary flour and try adding 2 teaspoons of baking powder. (What’s that? Did I just take the figure of 2 teaspoons out of a hat? Of course I did! You don’t actually expect me to know how to turn ordinary flour into the self-raising variety, do you?!)
You’re aiming to mix up all the ingredients above so that they end up looking like this. Good luck!
What to do with the ingredients so that they more or less (probably less) resemble scones:
1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Actually, I would use some of those baking sheet thingies that you can put on the baking tray and then throw away later…
2. Mix together the flour and salt and rub in the butter.
(Rub is a weird word in this context – you’re not doing a belly rub here! You have to have soft butter that you then rub with your fingertips together with the other stuff so that it resembles crumbs.)
3. Stir in the sugar and then the milk to get a soft dough.
(Duh! Who would want a hard dough?)
4. Put dough on a floured work surface and knead very lightly. Pat out to a round 2cm/¾in thick. Use a 5cm/2in cutter to stamp out rounds and place on a baking sheet. Lightly knead together the rest of the dough and stamp out more scones to use it all up
(Forget the cutters! Just use the top of a glass or cup. Make sure you have drunk all the liquid inside first, though!)
5. Brush the tops of the scones with a little milk. (No, you don’t use a hairbrush or even a toothbrush! A paintbrush works well…)
Bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden.
6. Cool on a wire rack, but hey – don’t let them get stone cold!
Scones should be eaten warm with strawberry jam and clotted cream. Traditionally, in a Devon cream tea you do not use butter. If you want butter as well as all that cream, then by all means feel free – this is called ‘a traditional Cornish cream tea’ should anyone ask you what you’re doing…
Please note that I have never tried out this recipe so I cannot be held responsible for: explosions in the oven, very tall scones due to over-use of some of the ingredients, singed eyebrows or the inadvertent making of rock cakes or scones that look nothing like the pictures shown.
No scones were harmed in the making of this post.
A friend of mine is attending the London Book Fair and enjoying literary meetings and cherry blossom in the park. (No – I’m not green with envy… that’s only a bit of mould!) However, one of the things she is not enjoying is British food. Although, what exactly is wrong with eating chips in a bread roll or potatoes with pizza, I’ll never know!
Actually, it is a myth that all British cuisine is bad, but this story is not the one that explodes the myth. Quite the opposite. There were explosions – nasty ones, but not of the myth-busting variety.
Have I whetted your appetite?
A couple of years ago, when we were over in England visiting our families, we suffered at the hands of motorway stops and fifth-rate restaurants at tourist sites. Remember that we are hopeless cooks, so that anything below our standard really is low!
Anyway, towards the end of our stay, we went to M & S (an upmarket high street store called Marks & Spencers) to stock up on essentials like underwear and books for the kids. While we were there, we decided to have a bite to eat at their newly-renovated and very expensive in-store café. It was coffee and cake all round except for Sir Pe, who suddenly developed a craving for a scone with jam and clotted cream.
Traditionally, the scone is served warm and is light and fluffy inside with jam and cream that melts in the mouth and over your clothes. The one that Sir Pe took out of the chilling cabinet was cold and hard. In fact, I’m pretty sure that this was the scone David used to knock Goliath out with.
Sir Pe politely asked for a fresh scone. Preferably one that would allow him to keep his teeth in his mouth after eating it. The serving lady gave him another scone that was just as hard. He then asked her for a scone that had been baked that day.
“They are all baked right here on the premises.”
“OK. Can you warm this up please so that it is a little softer?”
“Sorry! We only have industrial ovens that can’t warm up food. Anyway, this is what scones are supposed to be like.”
That’s when it happened: the stretching of patience as taut as the nerves of a terrified patient at the dentist; the twang of nerves unravelling like knicker elastic; the sound of tempers exploding.
“What do I have to do to get some decent food in this [swear word deleted] country? Can’t I even get a fresh scone?” he shouted. Loudly. So that even the several hundred old dears in the queue behind us could hear us without having to switch on their hearing aids.
There is nothing a store likes less than an irritated customer telling everyone what bad food it serves.
The manager emerged swiftly. Took away the offending scones. And brought back a freshly-baked warm one.
What’s the moral of this story? If you want some decent food in England, you’ll have to shout louder than everyone else!