“Although he greeted Donald with tea, sympathy, and some quite exquisite chocolate cake and buttered socones, Ronnie had some hard opinions to voice to the battered President…..Donald felt better for a problem shared. And now here he was face-to-face, over strawberry jam, with living, legendary, tangible proof that a situation like this could be dealt with and overcome.”
Daniel Topolski with Patrick Robinson, True Blue
Today is the first ever National Cream Tea Day, organised by The Cream Tea Society, a society formed by the Cornish clotted cream producer Rodda’s and fine jam producer Tiptree. I don’t need my marketing background to cause me to be a touch cynical regarding the motivation of these two companies, but I don’t begrudge them any success – both companies produce excellent products. Additionally I am a huge fan of Humbers Preserves if you can make to a local farmers’ market and Victoria Cranfield also makes a good conserve (there’s too much fruit and not enough sugar for her to be allowed to call it ‘jam’).
And I have other reasons for posting on scones this month – first, I’ve been treated to a cream tea in the, very appropriately (for this month of Waterloo celebrations) named Wellington Lounge, and one of the highlights of that treat were the scones and the selection of clotted cream, and clotted cream alternatives served with them.
Additionally my son, for Christmas, birthday and Mother’s Day all rolled into one, took me to see The Audience (see clip below) – a play which centres around the weekly meetings (known as ‘audiences’) between the Queen and the twelve prime ministers. And as we all know Her Maj’s regularly enjoys an afternoon scone or two.
I’ve been a bit of a fan of cream teas myself – in the days before the M4 was built (yes… some years ago) I used to drive down to my grandparents’ house just outside Bath via Marlborough. The high point of the drive was a stop at the Polly Tea Rooms – yes, they still exist, indeed they’re even better now – and a classic cream tea. Years later I was staying at the Beaufort Hotel in London. Recuperating from the exhausting business of shopping in Knightsbridge I ordered the full works tea there (their cream teas are complementary for guests), and it was heavenly. Their scones were so good that I asked them for the recipe and they were kind enough to send it. I think the use of the fromage frais is the reason these are better than all the others that I’ve tried.
There are two philosophies as to whether the jam or the clotted cream should go on first – in Devon they treat the cream as a sort of butter substitute and on it goes, below the jam. In Cornwall (my preferred approach) they put the jam on first, arguing that the scone should be hot and therefore the cream would slide off.
The clotted cream alternatives presented (in addition to the clotted cream) at the Intercontinental (the Wellington Lounge is in the Intercontinental Park Lane) were lemon curd with crushed pink peppercorns and bergamot-infused butter. They were served with alpine strawberry jam. We drank it with Lapsang Souchong tea (no milk of course) and the slightly bitter smokiness of it was a perfect match….wonderful.
These scones keep well in an airtight container.
Makes 24 – 30
- 2 tbsp margarine
- 500g/1 lb 2 oz fromage frais
- 2 eggs
- 1½ cups caster sugar
- 4 cups/600g self raising flour (or 4 cups of plain flour and 8 tsp, well mixed into the flour, of baking powder)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- beaten egg to glaze
- preheat the oven to 210ºC (use the aga roasting oven)
- grease and heat the baking tray
- mix all the ingredients together
- turn out onto a floured surface, flour your hands also, and flatten
- use a 5 cm straight-edged floured biscuit cutter to cut the dough into rounds
- brush with the egg glaze
- bake for about ten minutes (if you have an aga turn them around halfway through so that the back ones get to the front of the oven and vice versa)