Sunday, March 23, 2008

buttermilk scones by whisks

after making pumpkin scones yesterday, i though i'd give buttermilk scones a go. these scones are very good - the best i have ever had. i have always wanted to make scones, but have resisted because there is always talk of one having to have a light touch with them and i guess i didn't want to know what type of touch i had. i'm very glad that i've bitten the bullet and now know i can whip up a batch of scones with the best of them. i actually think that things like scones should actually be tackled with gay abandon - homemade ones should surely beat bought ones any day. so go ahead and be brave - give them a go and surprise yourself, because if i can do it, you can do it too!

2 cups self-raising flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g butter
100g sultanas (or dates, cranberries, dried sour cherries, chocolate chips)
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk soured with 1 teaspoon vinegar)

preheat oven to 200 degrees C and line a 20 cm square cake tin with some baking paper.

mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt), then rub in the butter with your fingertips till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. i very often use my hand held mixer and room temperature butter to do this step - it's fast, and i don't end up with messy hands.

add the dried fruit and toss to coat the fruit with the buttery flour.

make a well in the middle of the dry mixture, then pour in the buttermilk and quickly stir together until you get a sticky dough. sift a little flour onto the kitchen bench and tip the dough onto the flour. sift a little flour over the top of the dough and press the dough lightly to about 4-5cm in depth. dip a 5cm round cutter into some flour and cut out the scones, placing them closely together in the prepared cake tin.

bake for 20 minutes, or until the scones are golden and sound hollow when lightly tapped on the top.

remove the tray from the oven and place a clean tea towel snugly on top of the scones for 5 minutes before serving with some homemade strawberry jam and freshly whipped cream!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

pumpkin scones by whisks, not flo

whenever people in australia think of pumpkin scones, they think of flo (bjelke-petersen). and never mind the politics of politicians, is there another politician's wife more well known for something other than herself than flo? the names of political wives are flying through my head at the moment - jill wran, tammy fraser, margaret whitlam - the list goes on, but i can't think of anything like the pumpkin scone which makes tham famous. odd isn't it? jill wran (or hickson, if you prefer) is a brilliant woman. i know she has an MBA from AGSM, but this still isn't as widely known as the pumpkin scone. oooh...i just thought of susan rossiter peacock sangter renouf....she's not famous for scones, but she was famous for a time (haven't heard much about her, but then i don't read the gossip magazines unless i have to, ie, at the doctor's surgery) for everything else but scones. she won't be part of my ramblings for another time....

who knows whether it was some cheeky media person who thought it was funny to publisize flo's pumpkin scones as something daggy about the bjelke-petersens, or whether it was some clever well oiled PR machine which thought they would cash in on the wholesomeness of the pumpkin scone and hence the bjelke-petersens' (political) wholesomeness. who knows? but mention pumpkin scone and flo's name pops up. she will forever be famous for the pumpkin scone and the pumpkins scone will be famous because of her. never mind who came up with the idea of putting pumpkin in a scone. flo and that orange coloured piece of baked dough will forever be entwined.

that said, i wanted to find out whether this thing called a pumpkin scone was really worthy of all its fame and glory. was it as good as all that? so i guess in all fairness the pumpkin scone has to be made and put through its paces.

this is the recipe i used:

250 g mashed pumpkin (I used more than this)
2 cups self-raising flour
pinch salt
20 grams butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten

preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
combine the pumpkin, salt, butter and egg.
add the flour (i don't bother sifting) and mix together with a knife, or in my case, i prefer to use a pair of chopsticks. yes, chopsticks....i know....but hey, it works for me and i think you should use whatever works for you.
mix until the mass becomes a soft dough, then turn it out onto a floured bench.
try not to knead the dough or knead it as little as possible if you must as kneading toughens scones.
sprinkle the top of the dough with a little extra flour and pat the dough until it is about 4 centimetres thick.
flour a 5 centimetre scone cutter, so the scones don't stick while you're cutting them and cut rounds of dough out and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. place the rounds of dough right next to each other so they can support each other while they are baking.......isn't that sweet - scones providing each other with moral support? they bake better this way.
brush the tops of the scones with milk and bake for 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown.
split and butter. and top with whatever you fancy. because you can have these scones sweet OR savoury....with jam or ham, OR sweet AND savoury, with jam AND can have them however you wish
we spread ours with golden syrup.

verdict? yum. something simple given iconic status by a politician's wife. who would have thought?

by the way, this is flo's recipe, in case you want to try it:

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup mashed pumpkin (cold)
2 cups self raising flour

beat together butter, sugar and salt with electric mixer.
add egg, then pumpkin and stir in the flour.
turn on to floured board and cut.
place in tray on top shelf of very hot oven 225-250c for 15-20 minutes.

i haven't made flo's recipe yet, but i think it's quite similar to mine except i don't have any sugar in mine.

and just so you know, i sit on the political fence, so don't think i sway either way. especially where pumpkin scones are concerned.

Friday, March 21, 2008

beer bread

really simple and really quick, and makes a great grilled cheese sandwich the next day!

3 3/4 cups self raising flour
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
375 ml can beer

place the dry ingredients in a basin and stir to combine. make a well in the centre, add the beer and use a knife to mix into a soft, sticky dough. turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly.

place into a well greased loaf tin and brush the top of the loaf with milk if desired. bake for about 50 minutes at 180 degrees celcius. the loaf will sound hollow if tapped on the bottom when done.

Friday, March 14, 2008

sago with mango and grapefruit

this is inspired by a delicious dessert i had when i was in kowloon a few years ago. it was served chilled and was very unusual with the grapefuit scattered through the liquid. chinese sago desserts have tended to have coconut milk as their liquid normally (which i am also very fond of), however, replacing it with orange juice makes the conclusion to the meal much lighter and very refreshing.

4 litres water
1 cup sago

sugar syrup
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
400 ml water
400 ml orange juice

1 red grapefruit
1 firm mango

bring the water to a rapid boil. while stirring the boiling water, slowly sprinkle the cup of sago into the water. make sure none of the sago sticks to the bottom of the pan by stirring. once you have poured in all of sago continue stirring and let it boil for 1 minute. turn off the heat and put the lid on and let it sit for 5 minutes. stir the sago and turn the heat back on full for 1 more minute then turn the heat off and let it sit until the pearls are translucent, about 10 minutes. don't worry if you have a few pearls that are still white in the middle. pour the sago into a sieve and rinse under runnng water until the pearls have cooled.

sugar syrup
disslove the sugar in the extra water, then cool the sugar syrup in a fridge.

peel the grapefruit, remove the pith and then break the segments into small chunks. peel and cut the mango into small cubes.

combine the sago, sugar syrup, orange juice, mango and grapefruit and chill in the fridge before serving.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

layered garden salad

this salad is wonderfully tasty and easy to prepare, and as an added bonus, it can be made the day before it is required, which is useful when entertaining.
this recipe can be found in All-Time Favourites from the Australian Women's Weekly and Best Recipes from The Weekly, both sadly now out of print.
i'm really grateful to my friend, kris, for drawing my attention to this salad - if she hadn't, i'd still be in the dark and ignorant to its total yumminess. i was always aware of this salad, but never thought it was so good; i just categorised it as one of those salads which had its heyday in the 60s and 70s and shelved it as such. little did i know ....

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded
2 cups frozen peas
2 hard-boiled eggs
250g button mushrooms, finely sliced
1 cup (125g) grated tasty cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbs sour cream
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbs lemon juice
6 spring/green onions, finely chopped
4 bacon rashes, finally chopped
1 large tomato, sliced
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

Place lettuce into deep 3.5 litre (14 cup) dish; cover lettuce evenly with peas. Place the sliced mushrooms over the peas and push eggs through sieve, sprinkling the eggs evenly over the mushrooms; top with cheese.
Combine mayonnaise, cream, mustard, juice and onions in a small bowl and pour over cheese. Cover and refrigerate.
Before serving, cook bacon in a pan, stirring until crisp and browned; drain on absorbent paper. Arrange tomato slices over mayonnaise layer, and sprinkle with bacon and parsley just before serving.
serves 6 to 8.