Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Savoury Scones for the Six Nations

One of the very different things about living in Wales as compared to England is the strength of feeling invested in rugby. In England, yeah, plenty of people like rugby, but it's not a patch on the all-consuming, national pride inducing, mass tear provoking, beer fest PASSION that it is here in Wales.

For a start, EVERYONE is involved. I mean everyone. When I went to London on the train last November, everyone between Carmarthen and Cardiff was either going to to the game or talking about the game and using it as an excuse to have a drink at 10.00 a.m. And I mean EVERYONE.

At the start of the Six Nations tournament a couple of weeks ago, the kids came from school engaged in a very serious conversation.

"Did you sing?"


"I opened my mouth but I didn't sing the words"


Apparently, the school had assembled to sing the Welsh national anthem in advance of the competition, and specifically the opening match against England. While I haven't asked about this year, I can attest that in their primary school in Hampshire, there was no singing of the English national anthem prior to the Six Nations in the years before we moved.

Despite the grumblings of the Husband, I haven't investigated this further to find out exactly what happened, and much as there's a worrying voice at the back of my mind questioning whether such displays of patriotism are strictly necessary, there's another part of me that admires this devotion to their national sport that the Welsh have. True, I haven't been on the receiving end of this passion in any negative sense (not that I'm aware of anyway - my welsh skills being nascent and distinctly wobbly), and I can see that taken to the extreme, it could lead to all sorts of unpleasantness, but on the whole, the passion seems to be a good natured and healthy love of Wales and the Welsh rugby team. The children do tell me that on the board in school featuring pictures of the different national rugby teams involved in the 6 Nations, the English players do seem particularly Neanderthal-like. Whether those responsible did that on purpose, or whether the English rugby team is simply looking a little Neanderthal these days, I couldn't possibly comment...

Anyway, given this background, you'll appreciate that it's not as surprising as it might otherwise have been to have a baking event themed to the Six Nations. Branching away from cakes (although there will still be clandestine cakes), the Cardigan Bay Bakers has formed to bake beyond the boundaries of a cake tin, and the inaugural meeting had 'Six Nations Savouries' as its theme.

Now, despite having an idea that I'd make 6 kinds of flavoured savoury scone each reflecting a different nation, the reality of doing so was slightly traumatic given that I'd been back in England, in Leeds to be precise, for my school reunion involving 12 hours driving and an extremely late, riotous and thoroughly enjoyable evening on Saturday. Visions of 6 differently and delicately flavoured scones went out of the window when I realised I had hardly any flour in the house, nor much to add to create the '6 nations-ness'. I did have a leek, some parmesan cheese and some cold mashed potato, but such was my panic that I didn't take many pics, preferring to concentrate on actually cooking something.

I made leek & parmesan scones using welsh butter & leeks (doubly appropriate given St David's Day) and also some pesto (Italy again as well as the parmesan) potato (Scotland & Ireland) scones, some to serve with goats cheese (France) and some with smoked salmon (Scotland) which I purchased on my way to the event. So I figure I got most nations covered given that the flour I did have was English, and there's some mustard powder in there. Nothing like being organised, is there?

Leek & Parmesan Scones

makes 10 medium sized scones

1 small leek, trimmed and finely chopped
50g butter
75g plain flour (I ended up using 00 which was all I had)
75g wholemeal self raising flour
1 tsp English mustard powder
a pinch of cayenne
1 tsp baking powder
good pinch of salt
about 80g parmesan finely grated
1 large egg
3-4 tbsp buttermilk

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (Fan) and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Make sure you have your biscuit cutter (I used a 6cm one) to hand.

First, melt 12g of the butter in a small pan and sweat the leeks till softened. Don't let them catch. Set aside.

Combine the flours, mustard and cayenne, baking powder and salt in a bowl, then add in the cooked leeks and the grated cheese and stir together.

Combine the egg with 3 tbsps of buttermilk and stir into the dry mixture - add the extra tbsp of buttermilk if you need it to make a soft dough.

Pat out the dough on a floured surface and use a 6 cm cutter to cut out your scones, reshaping the dough if necessary to get more scones. 

Bake for 15-20 mins until browned and ready to eat. Serve with good, salted butter. Preferably Welsh...

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