20 February 2015

Terribly British Rhubarb & Custard Scones

Scones. Rhubarb. Custard. How much more British can one get?

As far as rhubarb and custard are concerned, these are a classically British combination. They're the heart of a very retro British pudding, and probably more famously as a boiled sweet! If you fancy a nostalgia trip, you can find rhubarb and custard sweets online at A Quarter Of. You can buy rhubarb frozen, tinned or you could find it fresh. Surprisingly you can find wild rhubarb pretty much anywhere in the UK, not just in the countryside as you'd expect. I grew up on the outskirts of the city and even there we could pick wild rhubarb as kids, whether from random bushes or just nicking it from neighbours' gardens!

Anyways, as for the scones: they are a no-brainer to bake - they're perfect if you're a bit of an anxious baker. In fact, scones were one of the first things I was taught to bake in school! You don't have to worry about yeast action or rising agents, and there's certainly no racing against the clock to get everything in the oven. You can just relax, get your countertops dirty, and enjoy the process (and the delicious results!)

You can make scones as extravagant as you like. You can eat them plain, you can add a myriad of dried and candied fruits - raisins, sultanas, cherries, apricots, blueberries - or, for the more decadent, chocolate, nuts and extravagant spices.

This rhubarb & custard variation is just my hyper-British hybrid which is sure to impress your granny if she's impartial to a good scone. If you prefer to choose a more elaborate flavouring of your own, or something more scaled-back and simple, just forget about the rhubarb and custard altogether, as though they never existed at all. This recipe will work fine without those guys.

The ingredients required aren't too taxing on your supplies. It's such a pain in the arse when I bake something and it has completely robbed me of my butter and eggs. This recipe should only use a chunk of your supplies, so you won't be left to eat dry toast for breakfast tomorrow!


+ What You Will Need + 
(for 8 very British scones)

225g Self-Raising Flour*
75g Butter
1 Egg
2/3 cup of Rhubarb chunks (tinned, fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons of milk
1 tablespoon of Vanilla Extract
+ A tub/carton/tin of custard (fresh is best)

*If you only have plain flour in the cupboard, simply add 3 teaspoons of baking powder to your 225g measure of plain flour.

1. Preheat your oven to 220°C/425F. Now that's out of the way...

Measure out your flour.

You know how much I hate measuring...

Sift your flour into a large bowl. Sift it from way up high to create a nice airy, powder.

2. Add in your sugar.

3. Butter time.

Add in your butter as little chunks. It's best if it is fridge-cold, as it won't melt and make your dough goopy.

4. Start rubbing the butter in with the flour/sugar. Rub everything in between your fingers tips and try and make sure there are no chunks of butter left lying around.

Try not to let your palms touch the mixture also. Your palms are pretty warm and you want to try and keep everything as cold as possible so the butter doesn't melt.

After a good finger shufflin', you should be left with coarse, buttercup-yellow crumbs.

5. Add your rhubarb chunks to the crumbs.

6. Briefly whisk your egg with your vanilla extract and your 2 tablespoons of milk.

Pour this mixture into your crumbs and it will all start coming together (well, literally!)

7. Roughly mix everything together with a knife, the handle of a wooden spoon, or anything else that's thin and rod-like.

Bring everything together until you have a soft dough. Add a little more milk if needed. It shouldn't be a sticky dough - if it is, simply add some sprinkles of flour until you've nailed it.

8. Once you have a nice, manageable dough, it's time to roll! I still don't have a rolling pin, so I just used an old water bottle!

Sprinkle your countertop with some flour and plonk your dough in the middle of it all.

Roll it out fairly gently until you have a dough that is about 2-3cm thick all around. Don't bother with rulers, just make sure it's between one and two fingers thick.

It is very thick, but it will give your scones plenty of momentum to shoot up in the oven. Because it's so thick, you probably won't need to roll your dough out very far. Don't worry, you will get more out of it than you'd think!

9. Take a cookie cutter and cut out as many circles as you can. If you have scraps left, simply bundle them up and roll them out again to get some more scones out of it. If you don't have a cookie cutter, you could use a small glass or even the cap from a jar of coffee!

10. Place your doughy coins onto a greased tray, about 1-2cm apart, and pop them in the oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown and puffed up.

11. Once they're nicely browned on top, remove your scones from the oven and set them on a rack to aerate and cool off.

Start preparing some tea to accompany your baked creations.

12. Once your scones are warm enough to handle, they're good to go!

Cut them in half. Spoon a thick dollop of fresh custard into each half, and tuck in.

You can eat them by hand, or on a plate with a spoon if you're nervous about the crumbs!


I hope you knock your granny's socks off!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony :)

17 February 2015

Pancake Day: An Idiot's Guide

So it's Pancake Day here in the UK.

Otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. It was traditionally celebrated as the last day you could gorge on delicious, fatty foods before a period of lent. Lent isn't strictly observed in the UK these days, but some people take it as an opportunity to give up something inessential, like chocolate, or takeaway food (I have a friend who once gave up looking at seagulls for lent!)

In the UK, Ireland, Canada and Oz', usually this day is celebrated by eating lots of pancakes, which is exactly how we're gonna get down today! I'll be showing you how to make American-style, thick pancakes. However, if you prefer the flat, English-style pancakes, I will show you how to modify the recipe to meet your taste.

As Jesus said, 'Thou shalt not buy ready-made pancake mix, or worse, the Betty Crocker bottles. They are a diabolical waste of your coins.' Jesus was right.

My recipe involves really basic ingredients that any sporadic home cook will have in their kitchen cupboards. There is no measuring involved (measuring is such a ball-ache), everything is simply measured with a cup, so you can just crack on and feed people.

You don't have to be a culinary whizz to make these pancakes; it's pretty hard to fuck them up. In fact, just last weekend I got home from a night on the town - rolled in at 6am, blinding pissed - yet still made perfectly fluffy American pancakes for my friends. I couldn't walk in a straight line, but I could make these pancakes. They're peasy!


What You're Gonna Need:
+ Makes 6 fluffy, American-style pancakes + 

1 cup/mug*
1.5 cups of Plain flour (you can use Self-Raising, for which, use half the required baking powder)
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder (leave it out if you want English-style pancakes)
Pinch of salt
1 egg (use 2 for English-style pancakes)
1-cup of milk (use 2 cups for English-style pancakes)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
oil (for frying)

*anything you'd drink tea from. 250ml of volume is ideal - doesn't have to be exact.

Let's get this show on the road!

1. Add all your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl - flour, sugar, baking powder, salt - all the jazz.

2. Fill your cup near the top with milk, followed with your vanilla extract and your egg. Whisk it all together roughly and add it to your dry mixture.

3. Whisk everything together sharply until you have eradicated all of the lumps. Ideally you should have a pancake mix with a consistency of yoghurt. If you're making English-style pancakes, the batter should have the consistency of double-cream.

4. Leave the bowl of pancake mix undisturbed for 1-2 minutes. In the meantime, we need to heat up our frying pan. Add some oil to the pan and heat it on the hob until it's incredibly hot.

5. Once you're there, start scooping in the mix. Use around 3 spoonfuls per pancake. Don't move the frying pan and don't touch the batter. It's tempting to swirl it around, but it will smear the fluffy texture of your pancake.

6. Once the batter starts to puff up and bubble around the outer edges, it's ready to flip.

Slide your spatula under and gently flip it over. It should take about 30 seconds on either side. If one side looks particularly blonde, just fry it a little while longer.

Once your pancake is browned on both side, flop them onto a plate, and get started on your next one. It's good to nominate a kitchen assistant to take this in turns with you!

7. Dig in!

You can have them any way you like. You can eat them singly, dust them with icing sugar or stack them and drench them with maple syrup. If you have made too many, just store them in something air-tight, and pop them in the toaster later in the week!

Pancakes are a real weekend winner. They're quick to make, they're cheap as buttons, and you can pimp them up in many ways! Here are some ideas I've tried (with much delight!) ...

Maple & Bacon Pancakes
I was revolted at this idea, but it's more popular than you would reckon! Simply top your pancakes with crispy-fried bacon, and plenty of maple syrup. It tastes like something you've never tasted before - please don't knock it until you've tried it!

Red Velvet Pancakes
+Simply add a teaspoon of cocoa and some red gel colouring. When finished, drench in runny icing!

Cinnamon Sugar Pancakes
+ Sprinkle the finished pancakes with a tablespoon of light brown sugar and a poof of cinnamon.

Fruit-packed Pancakes
+ Add a large, ripened mashed banana to your batter, and add berries (in my case, blueberries!)

Give them a whirl - your Sunday mornings will never be the same again!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony :)