Scones and Agatha Christie

I don’t think I felt any kind of culture shock when I moved to Italy. I was rather in my element, I did not have to adapt or alternate my habits significantly. The warmer weather, the tastier food, the less stressed lifestyle were definitely not difficult to adapt to. The major challenge was the language: I could not speak Italian almost at all, the foreign languages I knew were of German language group so I could not find any similarities. I was in the environment, where I had to talk non-native English and listen to non-native Italian, without even grasping the meaning of the latter. I did not expect, but it was quite challenging psychologically. My brain came up with an unconsсious solution: to read Russian classic literature, so during  my first months in Italy I had read all Dostoyevsky.  

On the other hand, when I came back to Russia for a short stay with my family, I was reading nothing but detective stories. I read Simenon, Chesterton, some less famous authors. However, Agatha Christie has always been my favorite. She was extremely prolific and I am keen on the diversity of her oeuvre: she wrote about England, exotic Middle Eastern and African trips, and one of her stories took place in Ancient Egypt!

The best fit for a food blog is the story called “After the Funeral”. One of the heroes, Miss Gilchrist, used to own a small tea shop but got bankrupt during the war. She had to become a companion to a rather eccentric woman Cora Lansquenet, who got brutally murdered in her sleep. When Miss Gilchrist was questioned by police and family members of deceased Cora,  her memory “seemed to be almost wholly culinary”.

Here is the small abstract describing Miss Gilchrist’s culinary ability:

“There’s a Mr Guthrie here, and I’ve asked him to stay for tea.”

“Mr Guthrie? Oh, yes, he was a great friend of dear Mrs Lansquenet’s. He’s the celebrated art critic. How fortunate; I’ve made a nice lot of scones and that’s some home-made strawberry jam, and I just whipped up some little drop cakes. I’ll just make the tea – I’ve warmed the pot. Oh, please, Mrs Banks, don’t carry that heavy tray. I can manage everything.”

However, Susan took in the tray and Miss Gilchrist followed with teapot and kettle, greeted Mr Guthrie, and they set to.

“Hot scones, that is a treat,” said Mr Guthrie, “and what delicious jam! Really, the stuff one buys nowadays.”

Miss Gilchrist was flushed and delighted. The little cakes were excellent and so were the scones, and everyone did justice to them. The ghost of the Willow Tree hung over the party. Here, it was clear, Miss Gilchrist was in her element.

My husband thinks that the scones are the best of English cuisine and the most remarkable food  discovery of the last years. I do love scones as they are extremely easy to prepare and it is impossible to screw them.

Scones

Scones Classic British scones with Cornish clotted cream and raspberry jam

Ingredients

For: 4 people
Preparation:
10 min
Cooking:
10 min
Ready in:
20 min

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 220C (440F) with the baking tray inside it
  2. Warm milk, but do not allow it to boil. It should be just slightly hotter, than lukewarm. Add vanilla and lemon juice and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add diced butter and rub it until you get small crumbs. Add the sugar.
  4. Make a well in the dry mix, pour in the milk and combine quickly. Flour the work surface and tip the dough out. Dust some flour on the dough and on your hands. You don't need to knead the dough thoroughly, just fold it two or three times, so it becomes smooth.
  5. Roll the dough out in a small circle our just spread it with your hands. Don't make it too thin, the 3-4 cm of depth will be ideal. Make the scones using the cutter. Put together the remaining dough, cut scones, repeat this steps until all dough is used.
  6. Brush scones with the beaten egg and put them on a hot baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes until risen and golden on the top. Serve with jam and clotted cream

Notes

It may seem logic to form a ball from what is left after first scones are cut. However, it is better to put the remaining dough in layers, one on another, and then to flatten the tower with hands. This will prevent ready scones from falling apart

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