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Posts Tagged ‘milk’

Treacle scones are traditionally made with a bit of cinnamon, but I thought I’d try ginger for a wee change.

This is the recipe I used, although next time I’ll alter it a bit and you’ll see why below. Sometimes it can be helpful to see mistakes and then possibly avoid making them yourself.

Ingredients and Method (all in a oner because I’m lazy)

1. Switch your oven on (with a shelf near the top) at a high heat. I used 210ºC in a fan oven, which I think is 230ºC in a normal electric oven and about gas mark 8.

2. Using your fingertips (you can use an electric mixer but I prefer the old-fashioned method), rub together:

6oz self raising white flour

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2oz butter/margarine (I used solid baking margarine)

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Flour and fat – I don’t bother sieving the flour, just shake it in a bit above the bowl and then some air gets into it as it falls

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Rub the fat into the flour, very lightly. If you lift your hands as you pick up the flour and fat you bring more air into the mix. You’ll see that there are lumps of yellow that haven’t been rubbed in much, that’s what you want. If you rub in too much the scone will be heavy and solid.

3. Add:

1oz soft brown sugar

2oz (1 tablespoon) treacle

1 teaspoon ground ginger (or more if you like it fiery, or cinnamon if you prefer)

some crystalised ginger chopped up (optional, I used about half an ounce)

1 beaten egg (retaining a little – a level teaspoon or so – for brushing on top of the scones before they go into the oven, if you like them to come out shiny)

2 tablespoons milk

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Bung everything into the bowl, adding the milk and egg last (they haven’t yet gone into the bowl in the picture above). Then mix it all together with a spoon, knife or other implement of your choice.

What you should end up with is a soft, pliable dough, not like this (apologies for poor focus, my hands were sticky), which is too wet:

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Too wet – determined to stick to the sides of the bowl

It was at this point that I realised I should have used less milk, or possibly omitted it altogether. I used a large egg and the treacle gave a bit of moisture too. This is how I would tweak the recipe above, just add a wee spot of milk at a time if you think the mixture’s too stiff. It should be soft and dampish but not so wet that it sticks to your hands.

To rectify the situation, I added a bit of flour, to get a consistency that was still a bit on the damp side but at least prepared to come away from the bowl:

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Damp but manageable dough

4. Take the dough out of the bowl and plop it onto a well floured work surface.

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5. Handling it lightly, flatten it out on top so that it’s more or less even all over and as thick as you fancy making it. I tend to make mine about the thickness of the height of the scone cutter, probably between 2cm and 3cm thick.

6. Shoogle the cutter into the flour on the work surface and plunge it straight down into the dough without twisting:

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If your mixture’s very wet, as mine was, you might have trouble getting the dough out of the cutter:

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I’m shaking it but it won’t come out.

I had to resort to turning the cutter upside down and gently persuading it to fall out of the top:

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Come on, oot wi’ ye!

When I managed to get it out I popped it on a baking tray:

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Now you just sit there nicely while I get your bedfellows.

7. Cut out the rest of the dough (there is invariably a wee bit at the end that doesn’t make up a full size scone, in which case I form it lightly into a sconeish shape) and put all scones onto the tray.

8. Brush the tops (and sides, if you’re feeling meticulous) of the scones with the leftover beaten egg (you can use milk instead but egg gives a shinier finish):

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If you cook the scones at a lower temperature than I did you might find that they don’t get crispy on the outside, and I know some people prefer a chewier textured top, in which case use a lower heat. I like mine crisp outside and soft inside, however, which is why I go for the high heat.

For the last 4 minutes I turned my oven down to 190ºC (210ºC/gas 6 or 7) because the scones seemed to be getting quite brown. I don’t always do this, but I was cooking these for a couple of minutes longer than I might have done with a drier mixture.

The finished result demonstrates what happens when the scone mixture is too damp – the scones have keeled over instead of rising up:

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The poor things tried their best to rise up but the damp mixture meant they burgeoned more outwards than upwards.

The tops were crisp but the inside was soft and, most importantly, there were lots of air holes that made for a light texture. The scone I had melted in the mouth in a way that my scones don’t always do, and I think that was due to using a higher than normal ratio of fat to flour.

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Air holes: a result of not rubbing in too vigorously.

Not too bad for a morning snack, particularly with a nice pot of jasmine pearls tea:

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I recently received an email from a company offering to send me some free Twinings tea of my choice to review.

Looking in the kitchen tea cupboard, I observed that there were already 7 boxes of different Twinings teas lurking there, 5 black teas, 1 herbal and 1 green tea:

Taken in the context of the 115 varieties on offer from Twinings, this is a very small sample.

A quick squiz at their website suggested a few others I’d like to try, so I wrote back requesting some teas and a couple of days later a substantial box arrived.

The box contained not the handful of individual selected teabags I had been expecting, but no less than four full boxes of Twinings tea. Also enclosed was a high quality ‘with compliments’ card, adorned with a gold lion:

It felt a bit like Christmas.

Of all of the teas enclosed, the Yunnan tea was perhaps the one I was most excited to try, simply because I had no idea what to expect and it sounded intriguing.

According to the blurb on the box, “Yunnan, in South West China is well known for it’s* magically fertile land and spectacular fields of beautiful flowers. It may be no surprise then to learn that Yunnan is where tea was born over 2000 years ago, and many of the ancient tea trees are still nurtured and picked from today.”

(*A superfluous apostrophe; when I saw this mistake I was reminded of just how difficult it is to achieve perfection. When I was writing my tearoom guidebook I read and re-read the text numerous times, checking for errors. I also had two other proofreaders, and yet when it was published several mistakes were discovered. Frustrating, but part of life!)

The front of the box showed a golden land and an appealing description of the tea inside:

The tea came in teabags:
The first time I brewed this tea, I made it for myself and my two most delightful assistants. I should have taken photographs at the time but I’m afraid I was too intent on the tea consumption.

Brewing it again for myself this morning, I had a second bash at the tasting.

The instructions on the box say that you should “drink it black, or with a drop of milk”. When tasting with the delightful assistants, we all started off trying it black. The thing that struck me most about it was a smokiness that reminded me of Lapsang Souchong.

It reminded me of Lapsang Souchong again today, although the smoke was less prominent than I’ve found it to be in Lapsang Souchong. The other thing that struck me was a silkiness, which was perhaps my interpretation of the “mellow” alluded to on the packet.

When I first tasted it black I found it a little too bitter, but tasting it today I wasn’t put off by the slight bitterness.

In my mind, I was whisked off to the lounge of some quiet country house hotel. The room contained good quality, but comfortably worn, soft furnishings and a log fire producing sweet smelling wood smoke. A grandfather clock ticked soothingly in the corner, there was the gentle murmur of background chatter from other guests, and time slowed to a pleasantly relaxed pace.

I had been fully intending to add milk after the first couple of sips, but looking into my teacup I found that I had polished off the whole cupful before getting round to it.

Luckily I still had some in the teapot for another cup:

During our first tasting, both assistants declared that the flavour was improved by the addition of milk. It then improved for both of them again with the addition of sugar. I didn’t go that far myself, having tasted a sip of a sugared tea, and stuck to the addition to milk only.

Although I would have been completely happy to drink another cup black this morning, there was something nice about it milked up.

The taste became smoother, and the little bitterness present when black disappeared.

Drinking it with milk transported me to the grounds of the aforementioned country house hotel, where I sat in an elegant outdoor chair on a patio, looking out over beautiful gardens under a bright blue sky and blissful sunshine. The twittering of small birds and the buzzing of bees filled the air.

Being ever ready for a small snack, I didn’t drink the tea without a little comestible. A piece of fruit cake slipped down just as well with milky tea as it did with the unmilked version.

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What I deduce from these tea tastings is:

a) I initially enjoyed Yunnan with a splash of milk
b) On second tasting, I found I enjoyed it just as much black
c) I am utterly delighted to have been given a free box of this delightful beverage

I still have another three teas to taste, but I’ll keep them for other posts. In the meantime, I raise my teacup to you, dear bloggers, and say a hearty thank you to Twinings for introducing me to the joy of Yunnan tea.

If you’ve never tried Twinings teas, or even if you have, you might like to know about the free samples you can obtain from their website. I don’t know if this is restricted to the UK or not, but I took advantage of it myself some time ago and it led to me buying a box of tea I might not otherwise have tried.

Incidentally, I wasn’t the only one taking an interest in the tea tasting this morning:

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, you might be longing for a bit of summer sunshine round about now.

The UK has been exceptionally wet in recent days, with numerous flood warnings and TV pictures of dramatic rescues by the Fire Brigade of people in cars stranded in deep water. It’s also been very dark, with constant heavy cloud, and all of this has made my thoughts wander back to happy summer days of sunshine and warmth.

Scotland is prone to a lot of cloud, but that doesn’t always mean it’s wet and cold to boot. One particular day in early August was quite cloudy, but it was one of those still, jacket-free days where the sun, when it does break through the cloud, feels gloriously warm on the skin.

My dear mama had told me about a tearoom in the little town of Thornhill, in Dumfries and Galloway, in which she and the pater had taken a very pleasant luncheon while on holiday in those parts.

Thornhill is a fair distance from where I live, and a bit further than I would normally venture on a day out, but since the weather was fine and we got an early start, I whisked the small assistant (said maternal parent) off south-westwards towards the Dumfriesshire hills.

This picture was taken on a different occasion, but as it happens to be en route to Thornhill, I’m bunging it in to give an idea of some of the scenery we passed through:

The Borders hills

We arrived there around lunchtime, but since we’d stopped for a snack on the way we took a stroll around the town to work up our appetites. I don’t appear to have taken any photographs of the main street in Thornhill and so I’ve borrowed this one from the excellent website, Undiscovered Scotland:

The main street, Thornhill

We ambled along the backstreets, which were quiet and had lovely views of distant hills, as well as some strange-looking trees:

Thornhill

Along one little street I was surprised to see a fairly impressive memorial, remembering one Joseph Thomson (Explorer):

Joseph Thomson, Explorer, Memorial

According to Wikipedia, this Thomson  (1858-1895) was “a Scottish geologist and explorer”, who not only has an African beast named after him (Thomson’s Gazelle) but avoided confrontations among his porters or with indigenous peoples, neither killing any native nor losing any of his men to violence.”

The same article claims that he is the originator of this apparently oft-quoted motto: “He who goes gently, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far.”

I can’t say I’m familiar with the quote, but at least now if I ever come across it I’ll know who said it.

Thomson was born in the village of Penpont, a couple of miles from Thornhill, and some time I would like to have a mosey round there to see if there are any references to him. I seem to remember that Penpont, despite its small size, also hosts an interesting looking tearoom, which gives me an added reason to investigate it.

The memorial has rather a nice bas-relief (if that’s the term I want) on one side, showing a lady holding an unfurled scroll displaying a map of Africa:

Bas-relief on Joseph Thomson memorial

Just beyond this memorial a sign caught our attention:

Coo Lane sign

The lane in question enticed us to walk down it:

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I’m assuming that the lane was named after the Scottish word for ‘cow’ because at the end of this lane there was a field, and perhaps in days gone by this was a busy highway for travelling cattle. There were no coos there when we visited, but there were some sheep, many of which were flopped out on the grass soaking up the rays:

Relaxing sheep

The delightful assistant and I were both very warm by this time, after plodding all over the place in the unusually balmy weather, and luncheon was calling.

The tearoom we were bound for was called “Thomas Tosh”, which I think has a splendid ring to it. I particularly like the idea of using the shortened version of Thomas and ending up with the name “Thos Tosh”. Unfortunately, I don’t know who Mr Tosh is, or was, but he’s given his name to rather a nice eatery.

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The building housed not only a tearoom, but an art gallery and a shop selling gifts, crafts and food.  I believe it used to be some sort of church hall:

Thos Tosh indoors

Each table had a little stack of blue serviettes packed into a rack made from two sets of crossed teaspooons. From a distance they looked quite like the Scottish flag. You can see them at the nearest table in the picture above, and close-up below:

Teaspoon racks

We both chose to have salads, which were large and packed with interesting ingredients. The delightful assistant had a chicken salad:

Chicken salad at Thos ToshAnd I had a tuna salad:

Tuna salad at Thos Tosh

We were so full after our salads that we didn’t have room for pudding (a tragedy, since there were delicious looking cakes and hot puddings on offer), and so we tootled off back to the car and headed north for home.

About half an hour after leaving Thornhill we felt the need of a cup of tea, and ventured into Starbucks, which is handily just off the road in a service station at Abington. I don’t often admit to going to places like Starbucks, but I must say they do a very lovely chai tea.

Not being a very frequent visitor to Starbucks, I forget each time that I need to lie to the baristas. When I ask for a chai tea, they ask if I take milk. Being a reasonably honest sort of cove, I say ‘yes’, which results in them giving me what I consider to be a measly half cup. The problem with this is that a) I love their chai tea enough to drink a large quantity of it, and b) I only take a dash of milk.

My delightful assistant prefers the chai tea latte, which comes sweetened and puffed up with hot fluffy milk and the cup filled, as a good beverage should be, absolutely to the brim.

Here, for comparison is the difference between our two drinks, my black chai tea with a dash of milk on the right, and her chai tea latte on the left. I hadn’t drunk any of mine when this was taken:

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I’m hoping that by reminding myself of this recurring misdemeanour, I will have imprinted the nightmare of it on my brain, so that the next time I visit Starbucks I go in fully prepared for their misleading and devious questions.

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I can’t claim to be an expert when it comes to tea, but I do drink several pints of the stuff most days.

My first tea of the day is taken in a large mug, which holds just over a pint. I fill it as full as I can, and so each day starts off with a nice big pint of tea:

This first tea is Darjeeling, brewed from a teabag:

It has just occurred to me while writing this that taking Darjeeling in a pint mug is a bit like wearing a silk dress with steel toe-capped boots. Somewhat incongruous, for Darjeeling is a very light, almost floral, floaty sort of beverage, also known as the ‘champagne of teas’. I think it would be the tea of choice for butterflies, flower fairies and water nymphs (this may be entirely erroneous and simply a figment of my imagination, then again it may not).

There have probably been many mountainous tomes written about Darjeeling tea, because it likes to think of itself as the glamourous face of hot beverages, attracting lots of attention and high prices for the first crops of the season. Perhaps I’m subconsciously trying to keep its feet on the ground by swilling it from a pint mug, I don’t know. All I do know is that when I wake up in the morning I am desperate for a large quantity of Darjeeling tea.

I like my first cup of tea to be black, and Darjeeling is perfect without milk. Because I take it black I can brew it slightly stronger than I want it and then add cold water to it, which allows me to drink it immediately without having to wait for it to cool down. This, to my mind, is the perfect scenario: a large quantity of instantly drinkable tea at the point in the day when I’m most keenly in need of it. Tea purists would no doubt be horrified by this ritual, and if I have offended you in any way I apologise.

About an hour or so after breakfast comes stronger leaf tea with milk. At the moment I’m in the habit of mixing two leaf teas that happen to be in the cupboard, because it turns out that they make a very flavourful and delicious blend:

The one on the left is my local supermaket, Tesco’s, cheapest leaf tea. You might think that since it’s so cheap (only about 95p for the box, I think) it wouldn’t be up to much, but it has some tricks up its sleeve. It’s a blend of African and Indian black teas and is quite astonishingly good, in fact I would say it’s even better than some other more expensive leaf teas. The one on the right is also a blend of African and Indian black teas, and was purchased in the Lancashire town of Carnforth, in the famous railway station refreshment room. Carnforth was the location for the film Brief Encounter, and they’ve jumped on the bandwagon by flogging all manner of film merchandise to anyone giddy enough to part with their cash. Being prone to a bit of giddiness, this included me when it came to their specially packaged tea.

I like to take this blended tea from one of my recently purchased tea-and-cup-plates (aka tea and toast sets, thank you for that information, Marian). Sometimes I accompany it with a scone, or a slice of cake, or some chocolate, and on other days I am a good girl and have a healthy snack instead (chunks of honeydew melon and sultanas sprinkled with cinnamon, in this instance):

My regular post-luncheon cuppa is English Breakfast (oddly enough), or occasionally Traditional Afternoon, both supplied by the inestimable Twinings:

Other black teas that are currently resident and sometimes get a look-in include the beautifully packaged and very flavourful Yorkshire Tea:

The somewhat suave and gentlemanly Earl Grey:

And Cafe Direct’s tasty blend of African teas:

One tea that is not currently residing in the tea cupboard is, strangely, one of my all-time favourite black teas: Assam. For information on this tea, I would like to refer you to the magnificent Shona Patel, a fellow blogger who was brought up on an Assam tea plantation and is a wealth of information on the subject.

If I’m not awake and drinking tea, then I like to be asleep. I’m a big fan of bedtime and look forward every night to getting into my jim-jams preparatory to falling into bed nice and early and allowing myself a decent long snooze.

In order to make the most of this,  after about 14:00 I switch to decaffeinated tea. I’ve tasted many woebegone tasteless decaf teas, but thankfully I have found two brands that do at least have a bit of oomph about them. My current favourite is Twinings Everyday Decaffeinated:

I drink this as I would most other black teas, brewed nice and strong, taken with a little cold milk and no sugar. If I fancy something a little lighter, or slightly different, in the evening there are several other decaffeinated teas I often turn to. One of these is Redbush, a beautiful red coloured tea from South Africa:

If I’m in the business of consuming a considerable quantity of chocolate (a not unusual occurrence)  there is a tea that I think is the perfect accompaniment. It’s called Kukicha and is made from roasted Japanese twigs. It’s taken black and has a sort of smoky, earthy flavour that I think is truly wonderful:

When it comes to tea on a worldwide scale, I feel I am dreadfully ignorant. I know very little about Far Eastern teas and one of these days I would like to visit Japan and attend a tea ceremony.

What I do know about tea is probably what most other Brits know. Tea is a big part of life in Blighty and, as far as I’m aware, I have only ever physically met two people who didn’t like tea. One of them didn’t like any hot beverages, and I can’t remember anything about the other one, I just remember mentally chalking up a second non-tea-drinker on my radar.

I’m not sure how widely travelled the concept of ‘Builder’s Tea’ is, but I believe it’s a British expression. It refers to strong tea with milk and lots of sugar in it, the sort that builders apparently prefer (along with a big plate of chocolate biscuits, cakes, scones, sandwiches and pies, if they can get them). I didn’t know, until yesterday, that it existed as a brand. I might not have noticed it at all, were it not for the fact that it wolf-whistled at me from the shelf:

It claims to be ‘tested and approved by real builders’ and, according to the side of the pack, the tea people are ‘proud to work in partnership with the Federation of Master Builders’. I almost bought a pack but then I put it back, remembeing that there simply isn’t any room in the tea cupboard.

There are many other excellent teas I haven’t mentioned here, some of which I only have occasionally and keep for tearoom consumption, such as Oolong and Russian Caravan, but since tea is such a massive subject any post I do will barely scratch the surface.

This afternoon, in an attempt to soothe my burning throat (all sympathy welcome, I appear to have caught a cold), I tried a sort of hot toddy tea, using this Yogic concoction:

I thought the spiciness might be good for throat pain, and to give it a bit more welly* I added some honey and a splash of whisky. The whisky was, for any interested parties, a 10 year old Macallan fine oak triple cask matured single malt. Adding this to a cup of tea might seem a disgraceful way to treat such a prestigious beverage, but it was the only whisky I had to hand, and I must say it produced a most satisfying throat soothing medicine.

*according to the Wiktionary this expression means to add fuel or power to an engine, but it’s generally used as a slang term in the UK to mean adding some ‘oomph’ to something

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Yesterday my lovely assistant and I headed off to one of our many local antiques centres to take morning refreshments. It’s not just one antique shop, this place, it’s like a huge aircraft hangar full of different antiques companies, each selling their wares in their own little area. There are specialist sellers of furniture, books, pictures, jewellery, ornaments, postcards, clothing, china, cutlery, and a lot more besides.

It’s so big that my assistant and I, having mooched off in different directions for a while, then spent about 10 minutes just trying to find each other again. There was no mobile phone reception so we couldn’t even text or ring each other. Fortunately, they have a tannoy system so if I hadn’t found her when I did I might have gone to the front desk and ask them to put a call out; I feel sure this must happen to missing companions frequently.

Anyway, before all that happened we took ourselves into the tearoom:

I only had my mobile phone camera on me, but I snapped away all the same. The cafe here is more of a restaurant really, with a large dining area and a very nice lunch menu, but there are a few sofas as well, and we flopped onto a couple of them and ordered English breakfast tea (me), an Americano (my delightful assistant) and a cream scone between us. The nice waitress even brought us an extra plate and extra cutlery:

Cream scones are not something I allow myself to have very often, but I just felt in need of a little treat on this occasion, and since we were sharing one it wasn’t so bad. I was a bit unsure about the cream at first, it being that air-filled fluffed up stuff, but in fact it slipped down a treat with the strawberry jam.

En route to the toilets, I noticed some antlers being put to good use:

After our refreshments, and before we lost each other, we enjoyed a leisurely amble round some of the antiques stalls. Quite often when I’m out for a walk, especially on a warm summer’s day nowhere near a tearoom, or sitting in the garden feeling extremely lazy, I dream of having a butler appear out of nowhere with tea on a silver tray, something like this:

Ideally I would like him to present me with a pretty cake stand full of small sandwiches, scones and dainty cakes, but failing that I might be interested in chocolate bars full of sweets:

Especially the one full of chunks of Cadbury’s Twirl, although I worry that the background chocolate might not be as good as the Cadbury’s bits:

On the way out of the antiques centre I passed this beautiful old till, which isn’t used as a till any more but adds a bit of class to the reception area:

I wanted to visit a tearoom in the very Scottish sounding town of Auchtermuchty and in order to work up an appetite for lunch we had a little walk in the hills above the town.

On our way to park the car on a quiet bit of road we passed a garden with a notice in it that caught my eye. I am very fond of rabbits and this little sign made my day:

I was quite surprised to find that they have a website (my assistant thought that perhaps it was put up by an indulgent parent with a rabbit-loving child) and that it appears to be a well established little business. The website contains advice about keeping rabbits that was completely new to me (although I’ve never kept real rabbits, myself). This advice includes the following:

“Your Rabbit needs daily exercise outdoors in the sunshine. Around 4 hours a day is best, maybe split up into morning and evening. Remember to give them a bolthole to run into if they want to hide and also a shady spot if they get too warm. Your rabbit may be cooler in their hutch in a shaded place in the garden when it is very hot. Supply some toys for them to play with, and lots of fresh water. Provide tunnels for them to play hide and seek and watch them have fun.”

Some of the toys suggested for rabbits are: old telephone books, plastic keys and rolled up newspaper. I was particularly surprised to learn that 99% of a rabbit’s diet should be hay and that you should not feed your rabbit with lettuce. I thought lettuce was a close second to carrots when it came to what bunnies like to munch, but it seems I’ve been misguided for all these years. Even carrots, apparently, should only be given in small amounts as a special treat.

Beyond the rabbit rescue place we had a walk along a small road. It was a very dull dark day but I took a few photos in the gloom:

I always like a dry stone wall:

I thought this looked an interesting house. It had a new bit added onto the right hand side, but I left that out of the photo because it didn’t really enhance the building, to my mind:

It was quite an energetic walk and by the end of it I was very ready for a bite to eat in Auchtermuchty.

It often astonishes me that people manage to get through the posts on this blog, because I’m afraid they do tend to drag on and become quite intolerably long. In light of that fact, I’m going to save the Auchtermuchty tearoom for a separate entry.

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I imagine that most bakers have their own favourite recipe for scones, and this is the one I base my scones on, altering it depending on what kind of scones I’m making. It comes from the small Be-Ro baking book my mum used a lot when I was growing up, and to my delight I found a copy of the same book in a second hand shop. Here’s the Be-Ro book atop my current favourite cookbook, The MacMillan Coffee Shop Recipe Book:

When I made spiced pear scones the other day (click here) the following recipe is more or less what I used. (Because I’ve made scones so often I’m afraid I don’t always accurately measure ingredients).

I use the rather old-fashioned imperial measures because it’s what I was brought up with, and since the numbers are smaller than measuring in grams, they’re more practical for my easily confused mind.

Ingredients

4 oz self raising white flour

4 oz self raising wholemeal flour

1 heaped teaspoon baking powder

2 oz margarine (you could use butter instead, but I use Flora spread)

2 oz soft brown sugar (any sugar would do, I just fancied using the soft brown stuff, and I think it was 2 oz I used, although I usually only use 1 oz, but I thought it might need more with the pear in it, in any case they weren’t too sweet)

1 level teaspoon of mixed spice

1 level teaspoon of cinnamon

1 rounded teaspoon of nutmeg (I don’t honestly know how much spice I used, I just shook it in, but I think I used more nutmeg than anything else)

1 Conference pear, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into chunks

1 egg, beaten

A little milk (again, guessing here, but it may have been a tablespoon or two, it depends on how big the egg is and how wet the mixture is before you add the milk)

Method

1. Set the oven at about 220 degrees Celsius (I used a fan oven at 220 and then turned it down to 210 after the first few minutes of baking so that my scones wouldn’t burn) with an oven shelf ready at the top of the oven.

2.  Mix flours and baking powder in a bowl, rub in margarine (you could use an electric mixer for this job but I always do it by hand because I find it quite therapeutic).

3.  Add sugar, spices and chopped pear to flour mixture and mix well.

4.  Add most of the beaten egg (keeping just a little aside to paint onto the scones before baking – this gives the scones a nice shiny glaze) and enough milk to make as wet a mixture as you can handle without it sticking to your hands and the rolling pin.

5.  Spread the area you’re going to roll the scone mixture out on with a bit of flour (I have a flour shaker filled with plain white flour, but you could use self raising, it really doesn’t matter).

6.  Divide the dough into two and, handling lightly, roll out each blob into a round about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick (this was a bit of a squishy job for me because my pear chunks were quite large).

7.  Cut each of the rounds into quarters (you could just mark the round and cook it all as one, dividing the scones once cooked which would make for more triangular scones, or you could press each scone out using scone cutters, which is what I normally do) and put onto a baking tray.

8.  Brush the top of each scone with the beaten egg using a pastry brush (I have occasionally smeared egg on with my fingers if I haven’t had a brush to hand) and bake at the top of the oven for 11 minutes (it could be 10, it could be 12, but I generally do it for 11 because I’ve found that this is what works with my oven).

The picture below shows how mine turned out. I did open the oven door quickly after about 7 minutes and turned the oven tray round but that’s only because my oven doesn’t cook evenly, you shouldn’t have to do that.

Happy baking! :)

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The Queen (aka our dearly beloved Sovereign of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle) (just in case you were mixing her up with some other monarch; there are still a few of them about, after all) has rather a nice gaff in Royal Deeside, known as Balmoral Castle.

In search of a nice cup of tea and some sunshine this morning, my charming assistant and I headed north to Royal Deeside, driving through the barren but lovely countryside of the Cairngorms national park:

We drove past the Glenshee ski centre, which was almost entirely devoid of snow, and were reacqauinted with a sculpture I always enjoy saying hello to:

The sculpture is by Malcolm Roberston and is entitled “Tommy and Wife”. They seem to me a very British sort of couple, the wife gazing up to the north:

While her husband looks longingly in the opposite direction:

Our first port of call was the sleepy village of Braemar, where we had a choice of tearooms and opted for one we’d never tried before.

It was very Scottish, if Scottish means tartan tablecloths at every turn:

Whenever I’m in a completely new place I’m tempted to try the scones, but I’m always a bit nervous about it. However, I’m delighted to say that I had one of the best scones I’ve had for ages (and I have had quite a few over the past weeks). My delightful assistant and I decided to share one as they were quite big and we wanted to leave space for luncheon in rather a nice place a bit later on. By the time I’d got my camera out, half of it had mysteriously vanished:

Some years ago, quite possibly as many as 23, my assistant and I had a weekend break in this area and it was quite an eventful little trip. On the way to Braemar the car’s radiator exploded (not strictly speaking true, but I thought it had at the time and I use the word now for dramatic effect) and we got a lift in a police Range Rover. At Braemar we had to get a new radiator cap and while the local garage was helpfully sourcing one for us, we took shelter (it was snowy) in the wonderful Fife Arms Hotel, where they were very kind to us and plied us with steaming hot cups of tea. Now, whenever I pass through Braemar and see the Fife Arms, I look upon it very fondly (my apologies for the squintness of this picture; all day I had problems taking photos because of the strong winds combined with my unprofessional camera technique (no tripod)):

After a few freezing minutes of being buffeted by an icy wind taking photos and wandering around like tourists, we took refuge in the car again and drove on to the village of Crathie, famous for Crathie Kirk and its proximity to Balmoral Castle. Crathie Kirk is where the Royal Family apparently attend church of a Sunday when holidaying up in Balmoral, and I can’t say I blame them as it’s presumably the cheapest day to get in.  If you go on any other day of the week they charge you £4.00 admission. At least, I assume you can get in for free on a Sunday, I’ve never tried it myself, although I imagine they expect you to cough up for the collection, so perhaps it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.

On the up side, at this time of year you can park in Crathie car park for free, and we took advantage of this to have a walk around some of the perimeter of the Balmoral estate. You have to cross the river Dee to get to Balmoral from Crathie, and there’s rather a fine iron bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel that takes you the short hop across the water:

When you get over the bridge there’s an impressive gateway, leading to Balmoral Castle, in one direction:

In the other direction is a small road, along which we walked in the sunshine, until we reached another bridge that took us back over the Dee. This bridge is very different in design from the first one, but beautifully elegant and pretty in its white paintwork:

On the way back to the car park I spotted a purse hanging on a tree. It was emtpy, so some honest soul had obviously handed any cash, etc. into the local police.

By this time I was becoming ravenously hungry, after only half a scone at morning tea time, but fortunately we already knew where we were going to have our lunch, and so I drove off with some gusto, and not a little impatience, to our next stop. It’s another of these matches made in heaven – a farm shop and a tearoom combined:

It was lovely and sunny inside the tearoom and we both ordered one of their soups of the day: carrot and leek. It was thick and delicious, served with both brown artisan bread and oatcakes, with little butter curls, and my only regret was that the bowl wasn’t bigger:

After our soups we found room for some tea and a cake each. I went for Victoria sponge, having missed out on one in a cafe recently (see Tearoom of the Week (4)) and my assistant chose a piece of tiffin:

The sponge was nice but the tiffin, in particular, was excellent. It had been made with dark chocolate, so it wasn’t too sweet but it was incredibly chocolately and delicious:

As you may have noticed in the Victoria sponge picture, there was some attractive hand-painted china in the shape of tea mugs and a milk jug. Both the mugs and the jug had two holes for holding them with, rather than the usual one. This made lifting and pouring/drinking a very stable experience:

When it comes to covering Aberdeenshire, as it appears I have already begun to do (maybe I should just soldier on and put everything in one guide book to tearooms in the whole of Scotland?), this farm shop and tearoom will definitely be one of my top picks.

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