Tag Archives: scones

Cheese and Herb Scones

Yesterday I had some friends round for afternoon tea. Chocolate tartlets, coconut macaroons, jam tarts, tarte au citron, Victoria sandwich, currant scones and chocolate clusters all magicked up in the morning. While cakes and sweet treats are all well and good, I think it is essential to have some savoury items as well. Otherwise, well, all that sugar gets too much!

I made a selection of the famous cucumber sandwiches, but I also wanted to try my hand at something more substantial. The result was these scones – flavoured with strong cheddar, fresh chives and herbes de Provence, as well as a dash of nutmeg and mustard to complement the cheese.

cheese_scones_2

These scones are soft and fluffy, and perfect while still warm – split them, and all the cheese is still melted and delicious! They are also an absolute, utter breeze to make. All you have to do is rub some butter into the flour, stir in the cheese and spices, then all some milk, which really makes them ideal if you’ve got unexpected guests or you need something a little special for breakfast. Ten minutes to make, fifteen minutes to bake and a few seconds to devour!

cheese_scones_1

To make cheese and herb scones (makes 8):

• 225g plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 50g butter
• 75g strong cheddar
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
• 1 teaspoon dried herbs
• pinch of nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon mustard
• 150ml milk

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C (420°F).

2. Put the flour, baking powder and butter into a large bowl. Work with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and there are no lumps of butter. Add the grated cheddar, chives, herbs and nutmeg. Mix well with your hands.

3. In a bowl, mix the milk and mustard. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – the mixture should hold its shape but still be fairly wet.

4. Put lots of flour onto a kitchen worktop. Turn out the dough and roll lightly. Use a cutter to shape the scones – aim to get eight from the dough.

5. Bake for around 15 minutes until the scones are puffed and golden. Serve while still warm, and best eaten the same day.

Worth making? These scones are amazingly easy to make and taste spectacular. Highly recommended!

Advertisements

13 Comments

Filed under Afternoon Tea, Recipe, Savoury

On Location: The Library Lounge at County Hall

Psssst! Fancy going for afternoon tea with a great view?

I’m always on the lookout for somewhere to go for afternoon tea. Tea, finger sandwiches, cakes, scones and maybe a glass of something. That, and visitors love doing something so thoroughly British, and when there is a great view to boot, who could resist?

Recently I went to the Library Lounge at the Marriott County Hall. This is somewhere that offers fine views and some interesting history. The County Hall building is located on the south bank of the Thames, next to the London Eye and just across the river from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. So the view is one of the great views in the world. Yes, in the world. It does not fail to excite – show it to anyone, and they know what they’re looking at straight off.

County Hall was the home of the former Greater London Council until the 1980s, when the then-government got rid of it. There were a series of spats, but one of the things that annoyed the government of the day was the propensity of the occupants in County Hall to drape banners with inconvenient political truths down the side of the building – which was not something the occupants of Parliament were keen to see across the Thames when looking out of their offices! You still see extracts of this history – the walls are dotted with old political cartoons based on the battles between the Government and the Greater London Council.

While the location is stunning, it can also make it easy to overlook – locals might avoid this part of the Southbank given that it gets busy, and visitors tend to walk along the riverbank and then turn  straight onto Westminster Bridge and head towards Big Ben. So, time to change that!

Since the 1980s, County Hall has since been redeveloped, and you are now able to wander in and enjoy afternoon tea in the former library. This is a truly lovely space, living up to its name with books lined up on heavy wooden shelves. I think this is what makes the atmosphere so nice – the shelves break up the space, so it feels really rather very private – you could imagine the politicians of days gone by in this place, gossiping, making plans and scheming!

You’ve got a number of options in the Library Lounge, and faced with the selection, we plumped for the champagne tea. It just had to be done. I was there just before Christmas, just having completed my gift shopping. It had been hard work, and heck, I felt I had earned it.

I had arrived around 3 o’clock, on a clear evening as the sun was beginning to set. And I have to admit that there is a real thrill sitting there with a glass of chilled fizz, looking out over the Thames towards Parliament, and seeing Big Ben light up against the twilight sky. As a (pretend) local, it’s actually such an unusual thing to do, so easy to overlook, but it’s also a simple pleasure really worth enjoying. It’s one of those sights that makes you remember how great our city is. I know, I keep going on about the view, but it was lovely!

When it came to the tea, there was the usual wide selection, but a little touch that I rather enjoyed was receiving a tray of samples to test.

You unscrew the sample jars, and can then take in the aroma of the teas on offer. There was a good combination of classic teas (Darjeeling, Lapsang Souchong and my own favourite, Assam) as well as herbal teas including rooibos with orange and cinnamon and a nice blackcurrant and lavender. Helpfully, the server was also able to offer some tips on which teas to take as well as sharing her own favourites.

As I was there just before Christmas, afternoon tea came with a festive twist. Following a section of finger sandwiches (a veggie selection was not an issue – hummus, cheese, avocado), we had Christmas cake, cranberry tartlets and tree-shaped cookies with edible pearls.

However, the highlight for me were the truly delicious scones. Light, fluffy and still warm. Yummy!

As you can see, I eat my scones the “Cornish way”. That is to say – split, spread with jam and then add the clotted cream. Apparently if you eat them with the clotted cream first and then the jam, that’s the “Devon way” – fine if you’re in Plymouth, but frowned upon if you’re in the Cornish town of Penzance.

So, would I go back? Definitely. The afternoon tea was lovely (as evidenced by the fact I managed to demolish three scones, in addition to the plate of finger sandwiches and all the cakes), and the view is breathtaking.

If you’re got a visitor to entertain, it works out a treat as you can take in the sights around Westminster, then nip in and enjoy the calm with an appropriate vista. My tip? Call to book, and check whether you are able to get a table near the window!

Library Lounge, London Marriott Hotel County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7PB. Tel: 020 7902 8000. Tube: Waterloo or Westminster.

LondonEats locations map here.

4 Comments

Filed under Afternoon Tea, London, On Location

Halloween II: Treacle Scones

Like anything Halloween-themed, there needs to be a sequel!

So today, I’ve been thinking about Halloween traditions – what are yours? Dressing up as a cat, a skeleton, a sexy shepherdess (yes, I have seen “Little Ho Peep” offered in a central London costume store…’nuff said!) or a vampire? Maybe you like to smile and ask for sweets, or prefer to run around and threaten strangers with a good pelting of eggs if they don’t dish out the sugary stuff?

Well, here is a little flavour of what we traditionally got up to in Scotland. First, and at the risk of sounding like a bad Blackadder sketch, we didn’t carve pumpkins, we carved turnips. Yes, turnip lanterns. And you know what? I really like them. They look much more like odd little goblins. Pumpkins look cute, but turnips actually look much more fitting for Halloween.

In fact, these may be the ancestors of the carved pumpkin. This was apparently a Celtic tradition to ward off evil spirits in late autumn. When those hardy Celts from Ireland and Scotland ended up in America, you can imagine that this tradition was easily applied to pumpkins, and a new tradition (and Halloween as most of us know it) was born. Surprisingly, they throw out the most amazing golden light, so you can see why people thought there was something magical about doing this.

Next, the idea of “trick or treat” was quite novel to me. Up north, we called it “guising” and the idea was children would dress up in a disguise. Guisers would go door to door and perform a party piece – sing a song or tell jokes – and you would get some nuts or pieces of fruit (oranges or apples – very healthy!). Inevitably, the attraction of sweets without the need to earn it has seen trick-or-treat take off…

And finally, we used to have treacle scones! I’m going to stick my neck out here and guess that unless you are from Scotland, you’ve never heard of this before, but of course it’s pretty easy to to guess what this involes…or at least most of this will be clear. You take a scone, cut it in half, spread each half with treacle…

…then you tie it to a string to eat it! Alright, so this final step is one for the brave, the willing and the foolish. And as you can imagine, it gets pretty messy very quickly. The sticky scone will swing back and forth, hitting you in the face and making sure you are well-covered in treacle.

You can make this even more fun by tying a string across the room, and then hanging the individual scones on other pieces of string from the main rope – the effect of this is that any swinging effect is amplified, making it more fun and increasing messiness by around 150% (note: no actual reasearch into messiness levels has been undertaken). It is, however, rather advisable to keep a damp cloth to hand, and make sure you do this either above a wooden or tile floor, or put down lots of newspapers. Treacle and cream carpets tend not to go too well with each other.

Just a note if you do decide to give this a try – tie up the scones first, then put on some treacle just before the games begin. It turns out to be rather difficult to tie up a sticky scone…

When I revisited this tradition, I did a little thinking about what to put on them. Was pure treacle the best thing to use? Well, I tried it straight up – the proper black-as-tar stuff that comes in the traditional Lyles tin.

I have to admit, it is pretty strong and actually it was not all that much fun. So I did a little experimentation, and worked out that you actually want to have a mixture of one part treacle to one or two parts lovely golden syrup. This gives you all the spiciness and complexity from the treacle (it’s surprisingly like liquorice when you mix it), but the taste is milder and is likely to prove more popular with kids. If you’re feeling very ambitious and want something that is a little less like a syrup and more like a caramel, add a little melted butter and a pinch of salt. But I assure you, it all end up in a giant sticky mess whatever you do!

That, and many a Scottish granny would frown on such frivolity when good old-fashioned treacle would do!

Happy Halloween!

To make treacle scones (makes 6 large or 12 small scones):

• 275g self-raising flour
• 75g butter
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 egg, beaten
• 125ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Rub together the flour, baking powder and butter until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Mix the egg and milk, and add to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined – be careful not to over-mix. It will be quite soft and wet.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll out to around 2 cm thick. Use a cutter to form the scones. Place on a well-floured baking sheet a few inches apart and brush the tops with a little milk.

Bake for around 15 minutes until the scones are risen and golden.

Serve the scones with butter, jam and honey, or with a side of treacle or 50/50 treacle mixed with golden syrup.

Worth making? This is a super basic scone recipe. But go on – there is a part of you that really wants to try eating them, covered in syrup, hanging from a string. You know you do.

8 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Scottish Food, Sweet Things

Scones and a visit to Scotland

I like to keep my posts limited to food and restaurants, but this week I am in Scotland and wanted to also share a few pictures. These are from the area around Pitlochry. It’s still quite “fresh” in this part of the world, and while Spring is clearly a few weeks behind London, there are still some amazing plants if you look for them. I loved the pink baby pine cones and a curiously photogenic fungus growing on tree stump amidst the moss.

But, as always, there needs to be a foodie element. No trip to Scotland is complete without some decent fresh scones. You can of course buy them in stores, but that is something of a scandal given just how simple they are to make and just how good they taste. Just flour, butter, eggs and milk.

These are great paired with lots of butter and either some local raspberry jam (another local favourite from great Perthshire raspberries) or heather honey, which has a fudge-like consistency and rich, intense flavour. I really recommend getting hold of either if you can.

For 12 scones:

• 275g self-raising flour
• 75g butter
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 egg, beaten
• 125ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Rub together the flour, baking powder and butter until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Mix the egg and milk, and add to the flour mixture. Stir until just combined – be careful not to over-mix. It will be quite soft and wet.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll out to around 2 cm thick. Use a cutter to form the scones. Place on a well-floured baking sheet a few inches apart and brush the tops with a little milk.

Bake for around 15 minutes until the scones are risen and golden.

Worth making? This recipe is super-easy and always goes down a storm. You can also vary the recipe is you want – either add a couple of handfuls of sultanas, or if you like them savoury, add 50g of grated strong cheddar. The secret is to keep the dough quite wet, so that the scones puff up in the oven.

4 Comments

Filed under Recipe, Sweet Things