I lived in Ireland for three months last year and if there was one thing I learned to appreciate while I was there, it was the importance of a good cup of tea. Every evening, after work, my housemates and I would gather together and churn through the day, sifting it for interesting nuggets, over pots and pots of tea.
But we couldn’t just have tea on its own. Gossip needs to be sweetened with something more than milk and sugar and this is where the scone comes into its own. The scone takes tea from a quick drink to an elaborate meal. Tea with scones, jam and cream is an occasion and means you can linger for an hour or two, chewing and jawing to you heart (and stomach’s) content.
So on St Patrick’s Day I’ll raise a cup of the black stuff (Barry’s Gold) and bite down on a soda bread scone, liberally buttered and topped with plenty of conversation.
450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda (or 1/2 tsp if using measuring spoons)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp caster sugar
11/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 medium egg
Milk, to glaze (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200°C/fan oven 180°C. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Sift in the bicarbonate of soda and add the salt, caster sugar, sultanas and caraway seeds. Stir to mix.
2. Beat the buttermilk and egg together until combined. Pour into the mixture and stir it together to make a soft dough – if it’s too dry, add a splash more buttermilk or milk.
3. Dust your work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Pat into a round approximately 3cm high. Cut out scones using a 61/2cm diameter cutter, reshaping and repatting the dough trimmings as you go.
4. Place the scones on a baking tray lightly dusted with flour and brush the tops with any leftover buttermilk or milk. Bake for 20–25 minutes or until golden, risen and they feel light when you pick them up. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving warm with butter and plenty of tea.