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Archive for April, 2012

When I was at school we were taught Home economics which included all the basic skills to run a home.  Some of the lessons proved not very useful but others did such as rough puff pastry.  It’s a recipe that can be used in so many ways.  Savoury or sweet and is much easier and much much nicer than anything bought.

Sausage rolls made with rough puff pastry was one of the delights that returned home with me from school after a hard afternoon at the home economics hot house that was known as Santa Maria.  Home economics took up a whole afternoon and we had a choice each term of sewing or cooking.  We all looked forward to those afternoons because they were easy and laid back.

Santa Maria was a detached slightly shabby Victorian house that sat alone in woodland.  We would have to cut across a couple of playing fields to get to it and of course none of us rushed.  So, straight after the lunch register we were free to make our way over to Santa Maria on our own.  We would break up into small groups of girls and take our time finding fresh interest in the surrounding flora and fauna.  A couple of the more flighty ones would disappear off for a smoke.   There was no register taking at Santa Maria so not everyone felt obliged to turn up.

The house itself was lovely;  there was a large light hallway with a large wooden staircase, which no one seemed to go up, what went on upstairs was a mystery to us girls.  The main bay fronted room to the front was the sewing room and the cooking went on in the kitchen and pantry area.  We were split into twos and worked at little tables.  The recipe and instructions were read out to us and we would have to write this down in a notebook in pencil and then work from this.  I wish I had kept my little instruction books as everything was so precise and had a reason.  We also used to doodle hearts with our names plus the boy of the moment on the inside of the covers maybe imagining how blissful married life would be cooking and cleaning for the chosen one!!

Rough Puff Pastry

8oz / 225g plain flour

Pinch of salt

5oz / 140g unsalted butter cut into little squares

Very cold to icy water

Sift the flour and the pinch of salt into a bowl.  Add the butter squares.  Without rubbing in the butter add the water – there is no real measure you will need to add the water a tablespoon at a time.  Start by adding 4 tablespoons and if the mixture doesn’t blind together add another – remember you can add water but you can’t take it away!

Use a knife to incorporate the water and then use your hands, knead very lightly you just want to bring the ingredients together to form one ball.

Wrap the pastry and let it relax in a fridge for 10 minutes or longer.

After ten minutes take the pastry out and on a floured board and a floured rolling pin roll the pastry into a strip 12” x 4” or 30 x 10 cm.  Take this stage slowly and remember to roll away from you.  Don’t roll back and forth just press down firmly with the rolling pin and push away trying not to over stretch or break the pastry.

Now turn the pastry so it is in a long strip in front of you, fold the left side over and then the right side over this so it’s like a book.  Keeping the pastry with the fold to your left roll out again to 1/2”/1 cm thick.  Now fold this again in three and put wrapped in a freezer bag in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes or more.

Repeat the same process again by rolling into a strip and folding over twice.  Place back into freezer bag and into the fridge to rest for 15 minutes or more.

Roll and fold again one more time.  The pastry should be flexible and there should be no big streaks of butter showing.

Roll into shape and rest once more before cooking.

I prefer to cut my pastry into a pie shape or if I wanted to be posh a chapeau and cook it on a baking tray adding it on top of my pie filling when cooked.

If you use an egg wash on the top don’t brush it all the way across to the edge as this will seal the edge and stop the pastry from rising.

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A cream tea is something quintessentially English. It consists of a pot of tea, a scone, a pot of strawberry jam and clotted cream.  A proper cream tea is with clotted cream; some establishments I have had the misfortune to visit have had the nerve to replace the clotted cream with whipped double cream or even more heinous – squirty cream, which is nothing short of an insult to the scone.  Nothing beats the thick heavenly, buttery clotted cream with its yellow crust.

Heating cream in shallow pans until a thick layer or clots of cream appear, creates clotted cream.  It has the texture and colour of soft butter with a slightly crusty top, with a very rich creamy taste.  It can be served with any dessert.  Clotted cream needs no whipping, its used straight from the container.    If golden syrup is added over the top it is known as thunder and lightning.

My brother used to live in Devon and whenever I went down to visit, top of our list of treats was a cream tea at Angel’s Tearooms.  We would sit outside in the enclosed courtyard looking across Lyme Bay.  A large pot of tea and a couple of clotted cream and jam scones were our regular order.  We would sit and watch the world go by whilst stuffing our faces, always discussing how our mother was missing out.  She hated cream teas.  Her choice would be to drink the tea and then with a swift and practised hand, would whip open her serviette and deftly wrap the scone into a neat parcel, which would then disappear into her handbag, to be eaten at leisure in the comfort of her home.  What actually happened was that the scone was forgotten and by the time it was found it was past eating so would end up stale and in the bin.  We don’t know where she got this nasty habit from because all of us, including my grandmother, were all great fans of the great English afternoon cream tea.

Scones

8oz/225g of self raising flour

pinch of salt

3oz/75g of butter cut into small squares

1 ½ oz/40g caster sugar

2 tbs milk

1 large egg

Put the flour and salt into a food processor and add the butter.  Whizz until it resembles very fine breadcrumbs.  Add the caster sugar and mix.

Beat the egg with 2 tbs milk and add to the flour mixture and whiz for a minute.  If it hasn’t formed a dough ball add a little more milk, you can add but you can’t take away so be sparing.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form a ball.  Roll the ball with a floured rolling pin to a 1-inch thickness this is not the point to be mean.  Better to have 8 fabulous scones than 10 not so fabulous.  I don’t guess I get out the ruler.

With a 2 inch/5cm cutter cut out the scones and place them on a baking tray.  Once the cutter has gone into the dough do not twist just make a clean cut and put them onto the baking tray.  I have found giving the cutter a squeeze or shake usually dislodges the scone.  When the dough is used up gently reform the left over dough and repeat until it’s all used up.

Brush the scones with milk and place in the oven Gas mark 7/425C/220C for 10-12 minutes.  After 10 minutes check to see how they are doing, they should be risen and a golden brown on top, if not leave them in for a few more minutes.   Remove and leave on a wire rack to cool.

Scones are lovely warm with clotted cream and strawberry jam.  I put a couple of slices of fresh strawberry on top of the jam so that I can fit a maximum amount of clotted cream.

The only down side is that they don’t keep well.  They tend to go hard and dry.

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