St Patrick’s Day scones

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.

Buttermilk scones
Makes 7–8

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
100g sultanas
11/2 tsp caraway seeds
250ml buttermilk
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.

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16 thoughts on “St Patrick’s Day scones

    ian russell
    March 17, 2011 at 08:45

    You can’t beat a cream tea, especially when out and about, in the afternoon, by motor car, but I’m never sure how to ask for an extra scone – or is it a scon? And the jam question. My missus insists it should be raspberry. I don’t mind strawberry but we both agree it shouldn’t be blackcurrant.

      March 17, 2011 at 08:59

      Cream first or jam first?

        ian russell
        March 17, 2011 at 13:07

        I opt for cream on one half and jam on t’other but whether to cut the scone or pull apart the top crust from the bottom? This question was left unanswered on the Great British Bake-off.

    March 17, 2011 at 09:16

    Strawberry jam – and quite cheap stuff too, I don’t need it to be too fruity or posh – spread as if it were butter on toast, then clotted cream generously dolloped atop it.

    March 17, 2011 at 10:04

    Scones, that staple diet of the John Lewis’s restaurant yummy mummies, drop them on the floor and they bounce, the scones that is, not the mummies, greatest crumb creators since the froggies invented the croissant, jam supplied in those little glass jars requiring a crowbar to remove the lid, butter whose hardness registers Rockwell HRC40, all washed down with alleged coffee.

    Sequence of events…

    1/…take up 2 tables and park buggy on my foot

    2/…discuss schooling or movies whilst walking sprogs create havoc

    3/…eat scones and swill alleged coffee

    4/…whip out knockers and feed benappyed sprog

    5/…leave the joint looking like the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

    • Brit
      March 17, 2011 at 10:40


      March 17, 2011 at 11:50

      Blimey, had a few difficult shopping sessions in John Lewis?

      March 17, 2011 at 11:50

      Go on, go on, go on.

    March 17, 2011 at 10:45

    I spent 20 years of my life in the west country and I’ve never once had a cream tea! But I do think cheese scones are the greatest thing ever! Do other countries eat scones or are they a uk/Irish only thing?

      March 17, 2011 at 13:10

      Obviously some purist somewhere is waiting to denounce anyone who writes what I’m about to write – and the purist would probably have a reasonable point – but the ‘biscuits’ produced particularly in the more southern United States can in some ways be admirable in precisely the same way scones are admirable: as a demonstration of skill in making something light and cheering out of relatively ordinary ingredients, as an accompaniment to a hot drink, and as a vehicle for the consumption of unrelated additions, e.g. jam and clotted cream here, or indeed far too much butter, cheese or ‘country ham’ (leathery, salty, delicious stuff) over there.

      But here’s a question – do the Irish always put jam and clotted cream on scones, or are there other tactics too? Back in my publishing days I once shared an office with a lovely Irish girl, ancestral Fine Gael devotee, unselfconscious boozer, nonstop talker, occasional sleep-walker and generalised enchanting madwoman – but by far her two oddest qualities were these – she wouldn’t touch ‘spicy’ food (this category included anything involving soy sauce, tomato sauce or pesto) and when putting butter on anything, she would slice off great slabs of butter and absent-mindedly eat them, just as the rest of us might eat slices of cheese.

      Lovely if hunger-inducing post, by the way.

      • Gaw
        March 17, 2011 at 13:44

        Aren’t biscuits (US-style) often eaten with gravy? I can’t quite imagine it but I suppose you could eat a scone with bisto.

        So in your publishing days you shared an office with a sleep-walking girl? Does this provide us with an insight into the industry’s lost idyll?

          March 17, 2011 at 18:15

          I’ve certainly heard of biscuits with gravy, but never tried that one myself – it must be a regional variant. Anyway, for the bisto version – you first, Gaw, please!

          And as for Orla … we had missed the great years of publishing by more than a decade, for the company had long since sold out to a large German media conglomerate, although to be fair, legend had it that the chap who ran errands and carried heavy parcels was an otherwise unemployable by-blow of the family that had previously owned it.

          Still, I’m perfectly serious about the girl who sleep-walked. Although I’m making light of it, actually sleepwalking is, ahem, a bit of a nightmare in practice. She would suddenly awake, and be standing in the Gray’s Inn Road at 3 am, wearing pyjamas, her feet bare, her flat half a mile away and no keys, mobile phone or money on her person. This was not ideal. For some reason, electric storms made sleep-walking more likely. Her brother had epilepsy; she wondered whether there was a connection? And she did, truly, eat great fat slabs of butter, just like cheese – although whether as a form of self-medication or otherwise, history does not report.

    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    March 17, 2011 at 11:50

    I had scones when I went to South Africa, Worm, near Cape Town. The local cafe would serve them for breakfast. They’d achieved a reassuringly scone-like taste and smell, but got the scale slightly wrong – your scone almost filled a dinner plate and, confusingly, alongside the jam and cream, came served with a large bowl of cheese.

    March 17, 2011 at 11:52

    I think scones appear wherever Brit/Irish emigrants have arrived – Australia, America, Canada, South Africa, etc.

    March 17, 2011 at 16:52

    The Savoyard method of pierre aide, cooking with stones, could be seconded to produce the Scots version, ‘Stone of Scone’ or scones pierre for the more pretentious. Although acceptability north of the border would require 2 mins in the chip fat.

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