Rosemary and feta scones (a recipe)

Close up shot of rosemary and feta scones. Image: Su Leslie, 2107

Rosemary and feta scones. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Ingredients (makes six large scones)

300g self-raising flour*

Good pinch sea-salt

50g very cold butter

220-260ml cold milk

100g crumbled feta cheese

Good handful (or about two tablespoons) roughly chopped fresh rosemary. If you’re using dried herbs, about 1-2 teaspoons.

* You can use plain flour and add 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder. Make sure it’s not bread flour, which has more gluten and the scones won’t rise as well.


Pre-heat oven to 220°C.

Sift flour into a bowl; add salt. Cut in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir through rosemary and feta.  Add enough milk to form a soft dough. Don’t over-mix.

Tip onto lightly floured baking tray and knead gently a couple of times. Roll or press dough until it is about 2cm thick.

I kept the dough in a round, and cut into 6 wedges, but you could use a cookie cutter for more traditional round scones.

The dough doesn’t spread much so you can bake them close together on the tray.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire tray (just long enough that they’re not too hot to handle).

Some additional thoughts

The basic scone recipe I used comes from the Edmonds Cookery Book. It’s a kind of bible of traditional Kiwi food, and I’d wager that most of the home-baked scones consumed here have their origin in an Edmonds’ recipe.

When I looked for alternative recipes, I found some that add extra baking powder to self-raising flour and some that use  baking soda and cream of tartar as separate ingredients. I found recipes that use buttermilk or yogurt, some with a mix of butter and lard as shortening, and even some that included eggs.

I’m intrigued by these variations and will probably experiment — with different leavening agents at least. I don’t think I’ll try adding lard though, and as for eggs? Doesn’t that just turn the mixture into muffins?

Do you have a favourite scone recipe? Baking powder, or baking soda and buttermilk? Butter or lard? Do you add eggs?

I’d love to know how these variations work. And of course, what extra ingredients do you add?


Delish of the day

Close-up shot of roasted golden beetroot and feta salad on duck-egg blue plate. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Roasted golden beetroot and feta salad. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Following last week’s #regularrandom post (Five Minutes with Three Good Things), here’s a shot of the finished dish.

Because the golden beetroot don’t bleed like the red variety, I was able to peel and chop these for roasting. That meant they got a little bit caramelised; and picked up the flavours of garlic and rosemary which I’d added to the roasting dish.

With quite a lot going on taste-wise in the beetroot themselves, I kept the dish simple with just a few salad leaves, some crumbled feta and a bit of balsamic dressing.

The verdict: pretty tasty. But given how long the beetroot took to roast (about 35 minutes — and they were small pieces), I’d probably only do this again in a vastly scaled-up form — for a summer lunch party maybe.

The Changing Seasons: autumn on a plate

Close up shot of poached peach half and halved figs, caramelized and served with nut crumb and icecream. Image and recipe: Su Leslie, 2016

Caramelized peach and fig with hazelnut crumb and ice-cream. Recipe and image: Su Leslie, 2016

I hadn’t intended to post another recipe for Cardinal Guzman’s Changing Seasons challenge, but this one arrived — fully formed — at precisely 3.18 this morning (I checked). As I’m not often woken by ideas this tasty, it seemed silly not to make the dish and share the photo.

Golden Queen peaches and figs are both in season here, and while I have to buy the peaches, I’m lucky enough to have a fig tree that is bearing about four fruit a day at the moment.

Golden Queen peach half and home-grown fig. Dessert in the making. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

Golden Queen peach half and home-grown fig. Dessert in the making. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

I poached both the peach half and the fig halves in a syrup flavoured with stem ginger and lemon jest, then popped the peach — cut-side down — in a frying pan to caramelize it. If I were making this as a proper dessert (rather than an experiment), I would roast the peaches to soften and caramelize them in the same process.

The crumb topping was made of finely chopped hazelnuts toasted in a frying pan with a bit of butter.

The icecream was Kapiti vanilla bean.

The Big T was my (surprisingly willing) taster, pronouncing it pretty yummy. Since I asked for constructive feedback, he said the poaching syrup needed more ginger and the crumb a bit more flavour.

I’m working on MK #2 for the boy-child to try later.

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman. There are two versions:

 Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

In praise of the fabulous feijoa

When Tish Farrell (Writer on the Edge — check out her blog if you don’t already know it) commented on my post ‘Summer No More’ that the approach of winter means time for baked stuffed apples, I immediately thought (and replied),  “feijoa and apple crumble.”

I did wonder — knowing that Tish lives in England — whether she’d be familiar with that most deliciously, deceptively unassuming fruit, the feijoa. She wasn’t, and so this post is by way of enlightenment.

When I lived in the UK in the 1990s, feijoas were not only unavailable, but requests for them in fruit shops or supermarkets were met with puzzled looks and the odd suggestion that I must have the name wrong. A Kiwi friend recalls an English workmate insisting that such a fruit did not exist, and that perhaps “feijoa” was just her family’s special name for another, real fruit. “An apple, perhaps”  was apparently his suggestion. Annoyed at being so patronised, she drove half way around the M25 to borrow a New Zealand recipe book from me, which she took to her workplace to demonstrate the reality of feijoas to her colleague.

Feijoa, or Acca sellowiana is a species of flowering plant in the myrtle family, native to South America (Wikipedia). I’m not sure how or when it was introduced to New Zealand, but it grows extremely well here and is widely planted in domestic gardens. Growing up, everyone seemed to either have a feijoa tree, or knew people who did, so that during the months March to June buckets of the fruit could be found in every pantry.

Feijoas; creamy flesh inside firm bitter green shells. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Feijoas; creamy flesh inside firm bitter green shells. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Feijoas seem to be one of those things that people either absolutely love or totally hate (like Marmite and Vegemite). My mother loathes them — likening the smell of the uncut fruit to wintergreen (methyl salicylate). Because of this, she tended to discourage neighbours’ donations of the fruit, so my brothers and I compensated by scrounging them from every source possible. One consequence of this was that we always ate ours raw, scooping the sweet creamy flesh straight from its slightly bitter green shell. It is only as an adult that I’ve discovered the pleasure of cooking with feijoas.

The first house I bought had a huge and prolific feijoa tree in the back yard. A Kiwi friend who has lived in Edinburgh for over 30 years visited one afternoon and we (literally) sat under the tree and gorged ourselves.

It’s only since we returned to NZ in 2000 that I’ve noticed feijoas for sale in shops. Before that, it seemed to be very much a home grown or donated fruit — although sometimes enterprising small children would set up roadside stalls selling what was probably grandma’s (hopefully excess) harvest.

This season, feijoas seem to have become — in culinary circles — the new black. Last weekend, I saw feijoa cake in a couple of cafes, the host at the B&B where we stayed baked us a feijoa cake as a welcome, we had the fresh fruit at breakfast and feijoa jam for our croissants. Since then I’ve found a plethora of recipes for cakes, muffins, crumbles, jams, chutneys and cordials, and while I don’t have any feijoas growing in my garden, they are ridiculously cheap at the local fruit shop so I decided to have a go at making a feijoa cake this afternoon.

I’m experimenting with dairy and gluten-free baking at the moment, and I’ve found a local (Auckland-based) food writer, Eleanor Ozich, whose book My Petite Kitchen Cookbook, has lots of useful recipes. One I’m particularly fond of is an orange almond cake; which I modified by using feijoa pulp in place of the oranges. The cake uses almond meal instead of regular flour, and is sweetened with a couple of spoonfuls of honey. I added the zest of a lime for a bit of extra zing, and (I must confess) did mix some icing sugar and lime juice to create a drizzle icing on top. But compared to my usual slathering of buttercream frosting on cakes, I feel I’ve been quite restrained.

Feijoa-almond cake, with lime drizzle icing. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Feijoa-almond cake, with lime drizzle icing. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

The result doesn’t look as glamourous as the cafe cakes, but the Big T assures me it tastes great.

If anyone is interested in the recipe, I’m happy to bake another cake (purely for research purposes) with a bit more attention to quantities and technique, so that I can actually generate a recipe.

Meanwhile, I’m off to try a slice (purely for research purposes, naturally).


Defining nationhood: we are what we eat?

anzacs on tray

Cheap and easy to make, delicious to eat. If they make it into a biscuit tin in our house, it means the boys are unwell.

First of all, thanks to Seonaid at Breathofgreenair for inspiring me to write this post with her comment about Anzac biscuits on my recent post about Anzac Day and remembrance in New Zealand and Australia.

For those of you who don’t know –  Anzac biscuits (think cookies North American readers) –  are a delicious sweet biscuit made with flour, rolled oats, coconut, butter, sugar and golden syrup. Legend has it that the biscuits are so named because they were sent by women in Australia and New Zealand to their men-folk serving in World War I.

From what I can gather, this isn’t quite true; the ANZAC troops were issued with an army biscuit (known at the time as a ANZAC wafer or ANZAC tile), but this bears no relation to the biscuit we know now, and according to the Australian War Memorial website:

is essentially a long shelf-life, hard tack biscuit, eaten as a substitute for bread. Unlike bread, though, the biscuits are very, very hard. Some soldiers preferred to grind them up and eat as porridge.

It seems that the first recipe for the biscuit we know today appeared in 1921, according to Professor Helen Leach, of the Archaeology Department of the University of Otago:

The combination of the name Anzac and the recipe now associated with it first appeared in the 9th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book (Dunedin, 1921) under the name “Anzac Crispies”. Subsequent editions renamed this “Anzac Biscuits” and Australian cookery books followed suit.

ANZAC biscuits are commercially available in Australia and New Zealand, but frankly I don’t know why anyone would bother to buy these when they are so cheap, easy and quick to make. In fact, here’s a recipe.

Anzac Biscuits*

1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
1 ¾ cups desiccated coconut (the coarsely shredded type is great for texture)
1 ½ cups rolled oats
100g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
NB: this recipe also specifies ¼ cup chopped walnuts, but these are not traditional and I tend to omit them
Preheat the over to 160 degrees Celsius. Mix the flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats in a bowl.
Melt the butter and golden syrup together.
Stir the baking soda into the boiling water, then mix the butter and baking soda mixtures together (NB: either do this in a new bowl, or make sure you’ve melted the butter in a large pan as the mixture bubbles up. I find that adding the baking soda to the butter then immediately pouring this over the dry ingredients works fine).
Combine wet and dry ingredients thoroughly.
Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture (NB: I use a dessert spoon for bigger biscuits) into balls and place on well-greased or baking-paper-lined oven tray.
Press flat, allowing room for them to spread.
Bake for 25-30 minutes (NB: maybe my oven is hotter, but I find they are cooked after 15-20 minutes – even the larger biscuits I make).
Cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container.

* This recipe comes from Jo Seagar’s All Things Nice. Random House, Auckland, 2002.

coffee and anzacs2

Latte and biscuits. I didn’t actually eat both of them; that’s just my attempt at food styling.