One of the only subjects I actually had any natural aptitude for was Home Economics.
I really wasn't lacking in intelligence, but I struggled to apply myself and, even as a teenager, my tendency to fall left of centre had me in trouble quite a lot.
Turns out a County Antrim grammar school is not the place to try and debate feminism with teachers. Or absolutely ace the dreaded 'bleep test' every single term, yet be completely incapable of hitting a hockey ball in the right direction.
But along with the music department, the latin classroom with a teacher as leftfield as I was, and a maths teacher who had the ability to use my constant questioning to teach me new things, for a few years Home Economics was a safe place.
The learning about vitamins and minerals.
The weighing, and measuring, and keeping things orderly.
The workbenches, with their laminated lists showing the contents within.
The prospect of learning how to cook things.
Yes, a safe place indeed.
So safe that it took me almost a full term to figure out that we didn't actually do any cooking.
Our first 'practical' lesson was in the art of preparing a Cup-A-Soup; to make sure we could switch on a hob and measure some water, obviously.
By the time we actually learnt how to make scones I was somewhat overcome with excitement, subjecting my family to flavour experiments for weeks, months and years to come.
And scones still have a place in my heart, genuinely ready in such a short timeframe I have been known to make them for what proper food writers would call 'unexpected guests' but I call 'my Mother In Law staying for coffee after she has walked the dog'. This savoury variation on a theme also works well when I'm serving leftover soup for supper and need to provide something to make the offering seem like a proper dinner.
These scones bring me back to a safe place, a place where even those who are somewhat left of centre belong, and for that I am thankful.
Weigh out some self-raising flour.
And some butter.
Grate some cheese.
Place in a food processor and add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
Admittedly the addition of dijon mustard has been discovered in my own free time, not within the confines of Ballymena Academy, but it takes these scones left of centre and into a very good place indeed.
Actually the food processor is the same. Back in the day we had to rub the flour and butter together by hand. Which i sometimes do because I'm a bit tragic and find things like that soothing, but sort of takes the recipe from 'ready in a flash' to 'you need to put your apron in the wash', so feel free to choose whichever method works for you.
Whizz up the ingredients (or rub together) until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Add some milk, fairly slowly. Sometimes the mixture needs a little less milk, sometimes a little more.
You want the dough to look like this, the crumbliness of the dough showing you that the end result will be nice and crumbly, not something that would survive being hit with a hockey stick (although I would probably miss the shot regardless).
Tip the dough onto a floured work surface. If you are really clever, use a chopping board or something.
It saves having to scrape random bits of dough and avalanches of flour off the worktop.
Your apron might even stay clean.
Press the dough down so it is all at about the height of your index finger.
If using a rolling pin makes you feel all Mary Berry and domestic goddess, knock yourself out. However, there really is no need.
Use a cutter (or an upturned glass if you don't have one) to cut your scones.
You will need to squash the dough back together to be able to use it all.
And your last scone might not be the prettiest.
But they will taste good.
(Also, this recipe makes enough for 4 scones. They really are best eaten soon after baking, and only TV chefs end up with unexpected guests, never mind 27 of them. If you do have hoardes to feed, the recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.)
Sprinkle a little flour on your baking tray....
And cheese on your scones.
Bake the scones for 15 minutes.
School memories optional.
Makes 4. Cooking time 20 minutes.
- 225g self raising flour
- 50g butter
- 70g cheddar cheese
- 75ml milk
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
- Place the flour, butter, 50g of the cheese and mustard in a food processor.
- Blitz until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the milk slowly, until the mixture starts to form a ball.
- Tip onto a floured surface and pat down until the dough is about 1cm high.
- Cut out your scones and top each scone with a little of the remaining cheese.
- Sprinkle a baking tray with flour and place the scones on top.
- Bake scones for 15 minutes, until golden brown.