Monday 31 August 2009

The old and the new – date scones and vego loaf

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. So we set out to prove this on Saturday. While some of the tasks on our list were thwarted, we did manage to visit a local bookstore to buy some of the books I loved as a child. Until Sylvia is old enough to have favourites, she will have to share mine. The books we bought her were The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Green Eggs and Ham, and Horton Hatches the Egg.

I have always had lots of books around me and E, with both parents being librarians, has too. In fact, E’s family have all had book related jobs so I am glad to have student jobs in a bookstore and library on my cv. Many years ago my dad catalogued his books using the Bliss System, which always has seemed an impressive achievement.

There is no doubt that Sylvia will have lots of books around her. Though maybe not quite as I knew them. I couldn’t find just a plain hungry caterpillar book like I read. There is one with a CD and a board book that I found and so Sylvia has a board book. Then with the Dr Suess books, I wanted hardback like I had but only flimsy paperback were to be found.

When we arrived at the train station on the way home, we had a few minutes before the train left so E headed over to buy a Krispy Kreme donut. They were foutering about and we worried we would miss the train. So E came home empty handed. I told him I would make him some scones to have with his cuppa tea at home.

I just so happened to have a scone recipe from the previous weekend’s Good Weekend Magazine in The Age. I had been meaning to make them for a week. Which seems the right moment to share with you a favourite quote from Horton Hatches the Egg that often comes to mind – “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”

Cath Claringbold had shared an orange and date scone recipe from a little café in Melbourne (the Martin Street Café and Providore, 147 Martin St, Brighton) in a piece about daydreaming about living in the country. You know that ideal life where you can bake your own bread, make your own jam and walk out the back door to collect fresh eggs from your chookhouse. It sounds like what is known in the UK as an Aga Saga. A life without mobile phones, internet and twitter sounds idyllic, but I’d miss my blog.

But it is a life that my great-grandmother lived. My mum was telling us recently about how she lived in the country and always had a kitchen table full of baking – scones, sponges and apple slices – whenever my mum visited. I don’t make sponges or apple slices, although my mum makes them splendidly, but I am very fond of baking scones. I love the idea that when I bake scones it connects me to generations of women in my family who have baked scones.

Just as Sylvia will not have the exact books I grew up with, I will not enjoy scones in quite the same way my great-grandmother did. For a start, my mum said she never sat down because she was always so busy. I might have days where I run about like a headless chicken but I manage to sit down and enjoy a scone. I love plain scones, which my great-grandmother would have made but I also love them with a modern twist. Date scones are quite traditional. My mum would sometimes make them. So these orange and date scones seem to blend a little of the old and a little of the new.

The scones were easy to make. They were soft and light when they came out of the oven and were still so good the next day that I ate them cold without butter. The orange flavour was quite intense and the zest gave them a yellowish colour quite unlike my mum’s date scones. But I did feel comforted by the smell of scones baking, wrapping the scones in a teatowel and watching the butter melting into the warm fluffy scone, so like in a the scenes of my childhood.

The pieces of dates weren’t very big and I would prefer them bigger next time. I suspect E liked them small. He was most pleased with the scones. “Did your granny make date scones?” I asked. “No only plain or treacle,” he replied. I’d never heard of treacle scones before but am now keen to try them.

Once the scones had quelled the hunger and satisfied the nostalgic yearning, I started on dinner. Here is where I radically depart from my childhood meals. I looked in the fridge and used bits and pieces that needed using to create a pumpkin, carrot and lentil loaf. It was very nice and comforting with a soft lentilly mush. I could claim that it had contained some remnants of my childhood because I loved mashed pumpkin and cheese when young. But I don't know what I would have thought of it!

The loaf was very nice and so I have included the recipe below as a work in progress. I decided to avoid breadcrumbs and nuts, which I usually put in loaves. Hence I was inspired to add pumpkin seeds to bulk it up a bit. They were surprisingly good, giving a slight crunch in the midst of the soft mush.

I think I liked it so soft but did wonder if I should have made it firmer to be a loaf. It was almost a ‘pudding’ that you should dig a serving spoon into. We ate it in chunky slices. The first night I served it with chutney and broccoli but it was much better the next night with a home made tomato sauce and a simple salad of capsicums, cucumber and lemon juice. Great comfort food and quite healthy too.

Orange and Date Scones

(Adapted from Martin Street Café and Providore – published in The Age Good Weekend Magazine on 22 August 2009)
Makes about 16 scones

  • 2 cups (350g) self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 40g unsalted butter, cold and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1 orange, juiced and zested
  • ½ cup buttermilk or milk
  • extra milk or buttermilk for glazing

Preheat oven to 220 C. Grease a medium baking tray.

Place flour, sugar, salt and chopped butter into a medium-large mixing bowl. Rub butter into flour with hands until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Use a knife to stir in remaining ingredients to make a soft dough. Using floured hands scoop the dough out onto a floured board and lightly knead briefly til smooth – this should be only a minute or so as the less you handle it the lighter they will be.

Use your hands to flatten the dough to about 2cm high (or ½ inch) on the floured board. Dip a scone cutter (or the lip of a drinking glass that is about 5cm in diameter) in flour and cut out scones with it. Lightly knead the scraps, flatten and cut out more scones til you have used all the dough.

Use a pastry brush to brush a little extra milk on each scone. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 220 C (I baked mine for 10 min at 200 C and then 10 minutes at 230 C and then I put the scones from the middle of the tray back into the oven for 5 minutes at 230 C). They are cooked when golden brown on top and slightly browned on the bottom and sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Wrap hot scones in a teatowel. They are best served warm with or without butter. But they are still good the next day. They can be se can be frozen and reheated in microwave or oven.

WIP Pumpkin, Carrot and Lentil Loaf

Serves 4

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 400g pumpkin, peeled chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 egg
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 200 C. Grease and line a loaf tin (about 13 x 25cm). I used a silicone tin and didn’t grease or line but the mixture stuck to the sides a bit so next time I would use a metal tin.

Place lentils, stock, shallots and garlic in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed and lentils are soft. Meanwhile steam the pumpkin in the microwave til soft – for about 5 minutes. Drain well (water is released during steaming even when no water is added to the pumpkin) and mash pumpkin with a fork.

Mix lentils and pumpkin with the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Spoon into prepared loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. This is a very soft loaf and was even better the next day when reheated at 180 for 30 minutes. Serve with a good tomato sauce and a simple salad.

On the stereo:

A Compact Compilation:


  1. Ah - a recipe for buttermilk, I adore dates so might have to add this one to my list.

  2. Just catching up on your recent posts. You know how much I enjoy scones! And your choice of reading material for your little one is wonderful. To this day, I still enjoy reading children's books!

  3. thats a good selection of books :)

  4. Both sound remarkably good! I love the combination of dates and orange. And Dr. Seuss w/o hard covers? I can't even imagine! Though I was surprised they have Krispy Kreme your way--a shop opened not far from where I live, and after the first week (with lines around the block), they got less and less busy until they had to close 6 months later--a first, I am sure, for that company!

  5. I love your posts about Sylvia! So cute and thoughtful.

    The two recipes here are so yummy. Date scones, yum! We have a lot of dates around so i will be making those. And the rice & lentil loaf is such a perfect lunch time item!

  6. Thanks Lisa - it is an easy way to use buttermilk

    Thanks Lisa - I am sure you would love these scones - and I know what you mean about kids books - too good to just be read by kids!

    Thanks Fleur - am having fun reading them (mostly to sylvia)

    Thanks Ricki - we have had the krispy kreme 'phenomenon' where everyone was so excited by them - were they on seinfeld? I don't understand the allure - they don't taste that great to me - much prefer a home made scone!

    Thanks Anh - definintely a good way to use the dates - and the loaf is quite good cold for lunch - it slices better cold!

  7. I made those orange and date scones, too! An interesting thing that happened - I used dried dates, and then some of the scones got left for a few days. The scones got stale of course, they dried out - but the moisture went into the dates! So they became all soft and luscious. Funny.

  8. Mmm I can never turn down a scone!

  9. We were struck by the same thing when we went out to buy some books for our new nephew - they all have cds or singalong books or something whizzy. Or they're about poo (have you read The Mole who Knew is was None of his Business?). But it's lovely that Sylvia will be able to read the same books that you read as a child.

    I really like the idea of dates in scones, and the lentil loaf sounds very good too. I tend to use seeds instead of nuts as a filler and I like the extra crunch you get from them.

  10. Wow your scones rose perfectly. Love the sound of the veggie and lentil loaf. Will try it as you suggested for lunch with salad.

  11. Thanks Cathy - did you also get caught out by the oven being too cool for the scones (it was 180 in the recipe but I found I needed it a lot hotter)? I just used dried dates too rather than fresh and hope to make the ginger sponge cake on the same page

    Thanks Ashley - am really into scones right now

    Thanks Lysy - it is strange to revisit childhood books especially when they look so different - and E and I have different childhood memories - was surprised he had not encountered any of these books in his childhood

    Thanks Katie - hope you have a lovely lentil loaf lunch (just having fun with alliteration) :-)


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