Yesterday was bleak and blustery, and somehow I drifted into the kitchen, a place I often leave to be Bill’s domain.
I made my first-ever batch of gluten-free scones. Scones, I believe, are the kind of thing you should bake every week, so that you can remember from one week to the next the little tricks to improve each batch. Decades ago when I worked at Michael’s Nook Country House Retreat in the Lakes District (UK), my colleague at the Singing Birds Coffee Shop in Grasmere made them every day. Her scones were legendary – the best I’ve ever tried. And she didn’t bother with a scone cutter. She could mould them in a twinkling, and they were always high and even.
Last time I cooked scones was about five years ago, and that was with “normal” flour. My gluten-free flour is made of a blend of ground maize, tapioca and rice, and it felt very silky to the touch as I rubbed in the butter. The recipe I was following to the letter, called for warming the milk and adding in a little lemon juice. The milk curdled the moment I did that. There’s a home-schooling science lesson, if ever I saw one. Anyway, I pushed on. Perhaps it was intended as a binding agent (maybe next time I’ll experiment with buttermilk and no lemon).
Well, they turned out okay. They had the required crumbliness, but the texture was fairly firm. I checked back on the recipe and mine looked the same, externally and internally. Okay enough for home consumption. I wouldn’t try selling any! And next time I’d make them twice as high, and probably use a wide-circumference glass as the cutter. After all, a batch is best consumed within a couple of days, and you want to be generous with the jam and creme~
And the best part of that experiment was they fitted into the cake tin that I’d found in my last spring-clean. It depicts The Big Ring by artist d’Arcy Doyle and features a couple of Australian brand icons of the era, Bushells Tea and Cerebos Salt.
I’d made fresh coleslaw a few days ago, and I still had a lot of cabbage left. I was tempted to poach it up with butter and bacon, but on its own that didn’t feel like a lunch. So I got out my trusty recipe book for ideas . . .
Well, I have never cooked Borscht, but hey! I had fresh beetroot in the fridge, too. So let’s give it a whirl, I thought. Off I started, faithfully following the recipe. There was a point in time when the kitchen resembled a slaughterhouse, and my soup wasn’t ready for lunch, but I pushed on.
The recipe called for caraway seeds, but I didn’t have any of those, so I substituted the closest family member I could think of. There’s another home-schooling lesson, biology or botany, I can’t remember which. Although when I went to school, I think they were rolled into one. Anyway, the bottom line is I put in dill, although I only had the tops, not the seeds.
By the time I finished, my mix was fairly fibrous, so after I faffed around with a skimmer for a while, I gave up and stuck a blender stick in. Within moments, I had something that looked like the raspberry coulis that a fancy restaurant dresses their desserts with.
I don’t know what happened to the cabbage, because my borscht tasted full-on beetroot. In fairness, I hadn’t weighed my beets, so perhaps I’d overdone what the recipe called for. So, pending further inspiration, I stuck my puree in the fridge for another day.
This morning I sauteed more cabbage, and added bacon, a spoon of brown sugar and some cumin.
Then I had another look at my recipe book. I hadn’t noticed the accompanying picture in yesterday’s haste. Well! My soup looks nothing like the picture! On the other hand, on the very few times I’ve eaten Borscht (and I think that dates back to Russia, 1978), I don’t recall it looking like a glass of cranberry juice. My recipe book is broken into seasons, the idea being that it is cheaper to cook what is in season. I wondered why it was in the Spring section . . .
Anyway, I’ve just come back from buying a loaf of crusty bread from our pop-up store downstairs (Bill “shouldn’t” eat it). Today is the shop’s last day, as the area is now being converted back to its original purpose – a restaurant (10 people per sitting, 2 per table, 3 one-hour sittings each). I’ve a tub of sour cream in the fridge, so hopefully that will tone down the soup, and I’ve just heard Bill come back in from trying to fix something electrical in the car. He was an electrician in a previous life. But he was never an auto-electrician. Then again, I was never a baker or a chef.
The things one gets up to in lock-down.
Okay, I’m off to serve him my experiment now.