Strawberry and yoghurt scones

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On Wednesdays we now have to grab a quick bite at a weird time between getting home from school at 4ish going to gymnastics class for 5ish. My intention is to make this a regular high tea, with sandwiches and home-made scones. No doubt by the end of term we’ll be eating cold Heinz spaghetti hoops on an old Jacob’s cracker that the dog’s already had a nibble of, but for Good Intentions Week the first week of term, I made these.

Bert said ‘I don’t even want the rest of my sandwich because the other things are so very  very much nicer.’

Because of the yoghurt, they’re a bit more tender and slightly less risen than ‘normal’ scones, but very very much nicer.

Makes 12 small or 6 large scones

225g self-raising flour, more for dusting

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

50g cold butter, in small pieces

1.5 tablespoons golden caster sugar

140ml plain pouring yoghurt (or half and half milk and plain yoghurt)

60g strawberries, diced to about the size of raisins

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. ‘Breadcrumb’ the flour and butter by rubbing between your fingers and thumbs, or in a food processor. Stir through the sugar. Heat the pouring yoghurt (or milk+yoghurt) to hand temperature in a small pan, then take off the heat and stir the vanilla into it. Add the liquid to the flour and butter mixture and then very swiftly combine with a blunt knife to make a soft dough.

Flour a surface well and quickly press the dough into shape (about 2.5-3cm thick) on it. (The trick with scones is to touch the dough as little as possible.) It’s very soft but does hold together. Sprinkle the top with flour and then cut out 12 rounds with a champagne glass (get me) or 6 with a cookie cutter. Brush with beaten egg, pop on a floured baking tray and bake for 12-14 minutes, till golden brown. Eat the same day, with clotted cream (beneath the jam is the correct Cornish way) and jam.

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Hedgerow fool

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Bert’s been at school for two full days and he’s run through the full gamut of emotions. From a summer-long excitement, to hysteria the day before term began, jangling nerves on the morning itself, through to jubilance at the end of the first day. (‘It was brilliant. I don’t know why I nervous.’)

He then moved, after a total of 12 hours in school, onto a nonchalant confidence. When I picked him up today, I asked him what he’d been doing and he said, ‘I spent a lot of time working in the office, organising things’. Surely they hadn’t moved him into a paid administrative role already? Turned out he was demonstrating his ability to sort colours into the right piles and numbers into the correct order. ‘I got them all right,’ he claimed, and nodded at me that the road was safe to cross.

But by 4.30, the cheery confidence had shifted into a melancholic nostalgia for the old days. ‘We don’t laugh at the same things anymore, Mum,’ he said wistfully in the car on the way to the supermarket to buy the makings of home-made fruit lollies. ‘We used to.’ ‘What do you mean? I just laughed at about a hundred of your jokes.’ ‘Not the last one, in the car.’ He stared out of the window, mouth set in a straight line, remembering the good times, now irrevokably passed, before we drifted apart.

The day before term started, before it all went wrong, we picked blackberries and made a blackberry fool.

Serves 4

400g blackberries

100ml elderflower cordial

2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

150ml thick Greek yoghurt

150ml cold custard

Put the washed blackberries in a pan with the cordial and sugar. Heat till bubbling then simmer merrily for about 10 minutes, crushing the berries against the side of the pan to make a very rough, chunky sauce. Cool.

Fold the cooled fruit, yoghurt and custard together briefly till combined but still rippled. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving, more time if you have it.

Blackberry Frangipane tart

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Me and Bert peaked today.

After a busy day with Ray’s annual fat shaming health check at the vet, last bits of school uniform to buy and food shopping to do, we pulled into the drive and Bert, as usual, wearily nagged me to reverse park, exasperation exceeding expectation.

I wrong footed him by agreeing. As I turned off the engine he asked, suspiciously, ‘is it on the grass or gravel?’ Affronted, I replied, ‘gravel, of course!’, surreptitiously sliding a glance out of the car window. Bert immediately borrowed my phone and rang his dad at work with the news. I heard his dad say, ‘she’s done what?’ as I opened the front door.

This is my last week with a pre-schooler and I’m trying to be happy for my excited boy, while brushing away a bit of sadness at the end of our Thursday book shop ritual and Wednesday singing group and any day pulling him out of nursery at short notice to be my partner in crime.

One positive, though, is that we will walk to school.

Makes one large tart

1 sheet of shop-bought (as peculiar and tautological a phrase as pan-fried) puff pastry

125g butter

125g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

125g ground almonds

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 small punnets or a good haul of picked blackberries

Pre-heat the oven to 170 fan.

Lay the pastry onto a baking tray and fold in each edge about a centimetre, so there’s a raised edge to contain the Frangipane.

Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, almonds and ginger. Pour carefully into the pastry reservoir. Scatter the blackberries on top and bake for 30-35 minutes, till deep golden brown. The pastry will be crisp and buttery beneath.

Serve with thick double cream.

Raspberry and yoghurt muffins

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Some cakes shouldn’t pretend to be useful. This isn’t one of them. Bert pressed two to his face and digested them like a fly, innocent to the fact they contain spelt flour, yoghurt, almonds and not a huge amount of sugar.

Makes 6 muffins

90g plain flour

30g spelt (or plain brown) flour

70g sunflower oil

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

80g golden caster sugar

100g frozen or fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

Flaked almonds to scatter on top

Pre hear the oven to 190/ 180 fan.

Beat all the ingredients except the raspberries and almonds together. Fold through the raspberries then spoon the mixture into a case-lined muffin tin. Scatter each muffin with almonds then bake for 20-25 minutes, till firm to the touch.

The oil gives them a more delicate crumb than butter, and they’re not too sweet. I think frozen raspberries are less prone to sinking, but both work.

Jammy berry, lime and coconut cake

I was in the car with Bert yesterday, went to change gear and couldn’t find it straight away. Bert laughed and laughed. ‘Your driving!’ he said, overcome with mirth. ‘You drive like this!’ And he leaned forward, scrunched his face up, held an imaginary wheel and made a screeching sound.

Today, on an empty country lane, I went round a bend slightly wide. ‘Too fast!’ he chuckled. ‘Corner too fast!’

Despite this, I made him a coconut cake for pudding. ‘You!’ Bert laughed, ‘you put cheese on cake!’ He picked the berries off, stood up, emptied the plate into the bin, put it in the dishwasher and pressed start.

Makes a 25cm square cake 

110g self raising flour

110g golden caster sugar

110g soft butter

2 eggs

Zest of 1 lime, finely grated

80g dessicated coconut

To top:

Dessert of spoon jam (we used raspberry)

Berries (we used blueberries and blackberries)

Scattering of dessicated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180/ gas mark 4.

Beat together all the cake ingredients until smooth, then tip into a lined 25cm square tin. Bake at gas mark 4/ 180 for 25-30 minutes, till golden and springy to the touch. 

Let it cool in the tin for 15 minutes then remove to a wire rack. When completely cool, thinly spread jam over the top. Stud with berries then shower with coconut (not cheese).

Raspberry fool

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I pity the fool!

Serves 4 (or, in our case, two and a toddler)

1 punnet of raspberries

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

2 egg white

2 tablespoons golden icing sugar

About 300ml double cream (I used a 284ml tub)

Simmer the raspberries with the golden caster sugar for about five minutes, till they start to break down. Mash them with the back of a fork and leave to cool. You still want chunks in there so don’t mash too thoroughly.

Whisk the egg whites until they form peaks. Tip them gently into your serving bowl. Then whisk the double cream and icing sugar till they form stiff peaks too. (Instructions always say to whisk in separate bowls, but so long as you do the eggs first, since eggs are the more temperamental, you can use the same bowl and whisk for the cream.) Gently fold the whipped cream into the egg whites and then swirl the berries through to get a ripple affect. Chill before you serve.

Today Bert declared Ray (the dog) to be ‘beautiful’ and then asked if he was beautiful. I said he was and that we’re beautiful to everyone who loves us. By that logic, Ray is indeed beautiful. And yet…

Red and white jam tarts

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Bert had half a cucumber and two jam tarts for dinner.

I obviously cut the cucumber up, rather than just hand it to him like a banana.

He could have had some home made fishcakes. But no. Just cucumber.

We met his friends Fearne and Hugo for a play in the playground this afternoon. He proudly showed Fearne his plastic dinosaurs and let her play with the ‘green ones’. If you know Bert’s obsession with green, then this is even more touching. He then wrestled her to the ground over possesion of a bouncy mushroom. And finished off with an air hug and a kiss on the lips.

The guy’s got style.

Makes 8 tarts

1 block of puff pastry

Flour for rolling

Strawberry jam

A punnet of mixed red and white currants

Roll the pastry out till it’s about 1-2 mm thick and cut out large circles with a big mug (or something of about that size). Line the compartments of a cupcake tin with the circles – not the ones with the little, shallow indentations, but proper deep ones. Drop a generous teaspoon of jam into each, and scatter over currants to cover the jam like little jewels, alternating white and red with each tart. Put in an oven at 180 for about 10-12 minutes, till puffed up and golden. (That’s near the bottom of the Aga roasting oven.)

The fresh currants look pretty and they give a sharper tang to balance the sweetness of the jam, so these feel more grown up than normal jam tarts. Saying that, I told Bert’s dad I’d made jam tarts and he ran over to them in great excitement, saw that they had fresh fruit on and wandered off saying he’d ‘save them for later’. Meanwhile, Bert ate two.

This would have been a good one to make with Bert if he showed any interest at all in cooking with me wasn’t sleeping off his adult portion of lunchtime meatballs.