On my way back from the allotment at the weekend I called in to my local shop to grab some milk and made a lucky find of a fridge full of perfectly edible fruit and veg, reduced to pennies. I don’t mean by this that it was largely salvageable, I mean it looked perfectly fine – it must have been a date thing but I’d have picked any of it off the shelf and bought it without complaint if it’d been in with the other fresh stuff.
I spent the princely sum of £1.30 and came home with a bag of lemons (I am discovering the versatility of the lemon, they’re useful animals) three bags of gorgeous little russet eating apples, a kilo of carrots, a bag of pre-prepared broccoli, cauliflower and carrot and two packs of massive leeks. I felt a bit guilty buying so much but there was loads left for anyone else who wanted it.
I wrote about my adventures with what should have been a very straight-forward leek and potato soup yesterday. Soup is so easy to put together and it usually follows a broadly similar method of preparation so it’s easy to make up variations depending on what you’ve got, without having to go looking for recipes. Look, so easy. The thing I’d add to that, and I’m a relatively recent convert, is to add something at the end to tone down any acidity or just make it nicer.
You can use double cream (a tablespoon or two, not a slug unless you throw caution to the winds) but you can also use everything back from that, depending on your soup: single cream, Elmlea certainly works, all types of cows milk, goats milk, crème fraîche, natural yoghurt and anything else you can think of along those lines. The higher the fat content of the addition, the more likely the soup is to split if you freeze and reheat, although you can usually whisk that away and it doesn’t affect the taste. Milk’s fine, in my experience, though, although I don’t know that I’ve tried anything over semi-skimmed. No splitting at all there.
Once the soup was done, I turned my attention to the apples. I love russets and was actually pleased to see them since they don’t seem to be about as much as they used to be. I bought them intending to cook with them rather than eat three bags of them, although I’m sure I’ll have the odd one because they are lovely just on their own. I’m so tempted to make toffee apples, although I won’t because I’d end up eating them.
No, these russets (or pretty much two whole bags of them) became two (sterilised) jam jars filled with russet apple compote from this recipe, which is about as simple as it gets. Apart from using a bit less butter the only other place in which I deviated from the recipe was in substituting a quarter teaspoon of vanilla extract for the vanilla pod because I didn’t have any pods. It was a good addition and I’m glad I was cautious and only added the quarter measure and not half a teaspoon. It’s quite a sweet compote and too much vanilla would have taken it into sickly territory, whereas this is lovely and light and would work well on a scone, or all sorts of other things, like waffles and pancakes, or stirred into yoghurt.
Apparently, the compote will keep for up to two weeks in sterilised jars in the fridge. I somehow don’t see it lasting that long so could easily have stored it in clean jars or boxes that weren’t sterilised and saved some time. I’ll do that when I make a smaller batch for myself with the remaining apples.
I haven’t made scones nearly as often as I should, given that I have the beginnings of an inkling that I might actually be quite good at them. It’s something I tried making years ago and had average to unimpressive results so I thought that making scones, like pastry, was just something I couldn’t do well. Then my daughter learned how to make them and I very much enjoyed getting batches of cheese scones thrown together at midnight because she’s a nighttime cook too, and a seriously good one, in my maternal opinion.
Unfortunately, she’d rather get a degree than stick around and bake me scones to order, so I thought I might try making some. Really good scones are usually only found in tea shops, not on supermarket shelves, so I was forced into it really since we don’t have many tea shops round here.
I started with cheese, obviously, since everyone knows they are the best kind unless a cream tea is on offer. I used this recipe, with my only variation being that I added a rounded teaspoon of mustard powder rather than only half. I was right to do so, and produced something that actually had me feeling really pleased with myself because it was light, cheesy and very tasty. I appreciate my own efforts in the kitchen, but I don’t usually have a moment over something after putting in the effort of baking it! I did with these – they were at their best still warm from the oven, with butter, although they really didn’t need it and were very good without.
I replicated the recipe another time but used the metal knife they recommended rather than the palette knife I’d been taught to use. I don’t know why but it is better. The texture of the second batch was even better than the first. I don’t know why I didn’t take photographs of them because they looked amazing. I suspect it was something to do with being on the floor in a scone-induced coma about 30 seconds after they became cool enough to swallow without losing too much of my throat. When I came to, some utter bastard had eaten them all. Or I might have pressed them on my family, although I did completely convert them to my scone-making prowess so no arm-twisting has been required since then.
Anyway, I’ve done cheese scones a couple of times but haven’t yet tackled fruit ones, although I will. Nan, though, bless her, wanted plain scones. I must admit to being rather surprised at that, but she’s quite old so I let it pass and went to bake her some of those.
I followed this recipe to the letter, and got surprisingly tasty, light scones. No, they didn’t have lovely cheese in them but that wasn’t their fault. The recipe says it makes 6 – 8 scones but I deliberately chose a slightly smaller cutter and rolled them a little thinner, to take account of Nan’s reduced appetite and to try and keep it really light, since anything that is a bit denser to chew poses a potential hazard if you sometimes have trouble swallowing. The smaller cutter meant that I made 8 decent scones and then got 4 thinner ones from the scraps. I was suspicious of the egg and milk glaze but it was actually a really nice finish.
Immediately the scones were cool enough, I wrapped them in a tea towel, grabbed my cool bag with the rest of the stuff I’d made for Nan and did a hand-off to my father on the road by my house as he took her home. This meant that there were no photographs taken. I suppose that I could have taken pictures of the little ones. but to be honest, I pretty much just ate them immediately I could touch them, no butter required and forgot all about immortalising the triumph.
Given that I spent all that time cooking and got nothing more than a few portions of (really very nice the day after, actually) low-fat, low salt leek and potato soup, I feel inclined to make some stuff I actually get to enjoy, although I’ve loved doing it. You can freeze both scone dough and baked scones, although apparently the former gives a better result on defrosting. I’m going to do some of that, then, and try and find a way of storing them in batches but so that individual scones can be taken out and baked as required.
I quite like the idea of being able to just have a massive scone-making session, where I make up several different kinds and then freeze them. I’m sure my parents would prefer to have a variety to choose from and Nan will too. I’ll research baking them after freezing and whether they have to be defrosted or whether you can cook them from frozen. Defrosted ones would only take 15 minutes, though, and I do like the idea of just being able to grab one to have with a bowl of soup or something.
I will take lots of photographs. I will try hard not to make them rubbish.
Update: Apparently Nan had a scone with some homemade jam that my uncle had made and then topped that with whipped cream, for afternoon tea today. Not that I begrudge it but you have to laugh: sometimes until the rocking starts… She declared it delicious and she said the same of the soup, so that’s a result. Nan’s choice of plain scones was vindicated since I bet she immediately thought of making herself a cream tea when she made her selection, although everyone knows the scone is really a carrier for the cream and the jam isn’t that important so she got that the wrong way round. I’m really chuffed, actually, I don’t care what she eats as long as she does eat and she enjoys it. I’m calling this a massive win.
I also think I can probably write off about 75% of my childhood transgressions now my mum’s tried the compote.* She was very taken with it.
*possibly not the time I ran away to live off the land, aged 8…