This month for what’s on your plate I was going to tell you all about Hainanese Chicken Rice, one of my Desert Island Dishes – the dish I’d eat before being cast away to a desert island. (When I say one of my desert island dishes, fresh Mooloolaba prawns and bacon sandwiches would also be on the list, but that’s by the by).
It’s something I cook relatively often – although I can never get it exactly the way you can get it in a Singapore Hawker stall – and this time I even styled it. Then we put the Christmas tree up and my thoughts turned to festive baking instead.
So as not to waste the styling effort, here’s the pic of my Hainanese Chicken Rice. The recipe I use is Adam Liaw’s and you can find it here.
Okay, that taken care of, let’s talk about potato scones – traditionally the first of the Christmas bakes in our house. Now, before we start, I’ve written about potato scones before – and this recipe appears on BKD – but it’s Christmas so I’m writing about them again. Okay?
My husband, Grant, is Scottish. Even though he’s been in Australia for about 50 years he was born in a place called Falkirk in Stirlingshire – but he can’t even fake an “auch aye” these days. Nor does he like whisky. I know, it’s tough to imagine such a thing. Thankfully I’m happy to contribute (generously) to the profits of Scotland’s distilleries on his behalf.
There are, however, some things from his heritage that remain constant – one of these is potato or tattie scones. (In Ireland, they’re known as “fadge” or “farls”.)
To refer to these as “scones” is, however, a misnomer. They don’t look anything like what you’d have at tea with jam and cream. For a start, they’re flat. They’re a little like a pikelet or a blini but rather than the batter being dropped into the pan, the dough is rolled flat – like a flatbread – and cut into “bannocks” (round plate-sized circles) and then “farls” (triangle-like segments). The farls are then cooked on a griddle – or “girdle” – or a pan. You can still have them with jam and cream or, as I prefer, butter and jam, but you’d roll them up to eat them.
Traditionally these would have been made with leftover potatoes.
“In cottage homes, these scones are usually made just after the midday meal when the left-over potatoes are still warm.”F. Marian McNeill, Recipes from Scotland (1947),
It’s important that the potato is warm but not too hot – hot potatoes can absorb too much flour. Warm potatoes give you a light and floppy scone and yesterday’s cold leftover potato results in an entirely different texture to the end result – something more like the ones that you buy in the supermarkets in England and Scotland. Still good, but different.
The type of potato you use is important too – the more floury the potato, the better. A waxy potato can result in a gluey, sticky dough.
If you’re cooking your potatoes from scratch, after they’re cooked and drained, let them sit in the pan for a little while to steam so they’re as dry as it’s possible for them to be before you start working with them.
So, how do you eat them?
I can only imagine what a treat these must have been on a cold Scottish afternoon – spread with butter and jam and eaten with a cup of strong tea by a fireplace…preferably a fireplace that had a dog lying in front of it. We eat them like that – minus the cold Scottish afternoon and the fireplace, of course.
In Scotland they’re commonly served as an essential part of a cooked brekky – they fold beautifully to mop up runny egg and bacon fat. We eat them like that too.
Mostly though, we eat them at Christmas – with smoked salmon, sour cream and a little dill or red onion, maybe some capers.
They’re on the table (with savoury pinwheels and champagne) when we put the Christmas tree up; we take them to the beach at 6am on Christmas morning to enjoy (with champagne) after we have a Christmas Day swim, and we have more (with savoury pinwheels and champagne) for breakfast while we’re unwrapping presents. They’re an essential part of our Christmas ritual.
For those of you who’ve read Wish You Were Here, I lent Max the recipe – she prepares some of these in Chapter 2.
Anyways, without further palaver, here’s how they’re made.
What you need…
Just 3 things – the quantities of which are guesswork:
- About 250g of well-mashed potato – hubby puts them through a potato ricer, but this isn’t essential.
- 1 tablespoon butter, about 25g I suppose
- about ½ cup of plain flour
…oh, and some salt and pepper…
What you do with it…
When the spuds are slightly cooled (see my note above about the potatoes being too hot), stir in the butter, and the seasoning.
Work in as much flour as the potato will take to become a pliable dough. I do this with my hands, but hubby doesn’t like getting his dirty. It’s best to start with half the flour and then add a little more until you get the right consistency. Too little flour and they won’t roll, and too much and you’ll get a raw, floury taste rather than a light potatoey taste.
Divide the dough into smaller balls and roll each out thinly. If you want to, use a plate to cut into a round bannock but, we tend to take a more free-form approach. Cut into farls and prick the surface with a fork.
Heat a heavy-based frying pan, brush the surface with a little oil – although traditionally you wouldn’t have needed any fat on the girdle. Is it just me or does that sound very wrong? They should take about 3-4 minutes on each side – or until golden.
Once cooked, cool in a clean tea-towel…or eat immediately with lots of butter – or smoked salmon and crème fraiche.
Linking up with Donna from Retirement Reflections and her co-host Deb The Widow Badass Blog in their #whatsonyourplateblogchallenge. Check out also contributions from my stunning bookclub buddies Sue and Deb.