I don’t have the warm fuzzy grandmother memories that others do, but I DO have a cracker scone recipe from my grandma Rose.
A quick and overdue clear out of my fridge this morning resulted in a sudden batch of scones – and the realisation that, in some ways, I’m turning into my grandmother. The mother of seven, my grandmother Rose was blessed with a wealth of grandchildren, and my siblings and I were at the tail end of the tribe.
Unlike the others, we lived with her from her early 70s until she died at 82. We were very young (seven, five, and four) when three generations were abruptly jammed into the one tiny suburban house, and it wasn’t always a terrifically happy arrangement – especially for me.
Poor Rose hadn’t counted on spending her twilight years on coping with an emotionally fragile daughter and three young kids, including one whom she actively disliked (that would be me) on a criminally tight budget, and my memories of her are somewhat coloured by that complicated personal experience.
I certainly have strong memories of the food she prepared. Her zeal for cooking had long faded and, with Mum only bringing in 2/3 of a man’s wage (despite working full time), frugality, low cost meals and zero waste were the permanent order of the day. Think offal, and not in a good way – tripe in a white parsley sauce (shudder), brains in white parsley sauce (ugh), lambs fry (liver) fried to the texture of shoe leather, mutton chops (on a good day), grey, watery Irish stew, and a weekend roast chook or lamb which was eked out for several meals. And it was ALL served with vegetables that had been boiled to a uniform grey colour.
Dessert was only served at special occasions, and if we were still hungry at the end of a meal, bread and jam, bread and sugar, or (if there was any boiled rice left over) rice and milk were our only choices.
But, having lived through two world wars and the depression, she was a dab hand at making the most of whatever we did have. Using up any stale bread, she made a cracker bread and butter pudding and I still make mine in the same way today. Leftover boiled veggies were fried up in dripping the next night to make a very tasty concoction she called “bubble and squeak”. Leftover mashed or boiled potatoes were converted in to the most delicious potato scones, the like of which I have not ever been able to replicate despite years of trying – let that be a lesson to us all, write your recipes down!
But it was her plain scones that I remembered today when I discovered two seriously outdated jars of cream in the fridge. Like Rose, I never let use-by dates dictate the edibility of food. I judge by my senses – and these were well past their prime.
Rose had a couple of tricks up her sleeve when it came to soured cream. She used to make a very good plain sort of fruit cake with cream that had turned, but I have no idea how that was produced, and she could whip up a mean batch of scones. She had a very light hand, so hers always rose to lofty heights and were divinely soft and fluffy inside – and her technique was outrageously simple.
Self raising flour and soured cream, folks – that’s all it took.
Using a knife to mix the dough (another trick I learned from Rose) I simply combined SR flour and old, soured cream to whip these beauties up. When the dough got a little stiff, I added a splash of milk (actually that had also expired two days ago), kneaded the dough lightly on a floured bench, cut the scones, and baked in a very hot oven.
So Rose, you mightn’t have liked me much, but the relationship wasn’t a total disaster – you taught me a thing or two.