Britain, Class, Downton Abbey and Scones

Scone with jam and cream

It was the American finale of Downton Abbey last night, leaving my friends bereft and concerned that Sunday Nights will no longer hold the possibility of joy or distraction. Even the upcoming Oscars can’t lift their spirits.

“Did you live in a house like that in London?” they ask, wistfully.

No. I tell them, not exactly. New Malden, with it’s rich heritage of cheap shoe shops, charity shops and awesome Korean food, might as well be a million miles away from Bampton.

“Oh. Huh.” Disappointment reads all over their faces.

Luckily, Jon has real-estate heritage enough to raise the flattest of spirits. He was brought up in a farmhouse featured in the Doomsday Book, complete with arrow slits and a resident ghost.

“It’s just so vintage!” our friends tell him. “Ah” they sigh, “Britain. Health Care, Shakespeare, Historical stuff, Kate Middleton being Pregnant, it’s all just so civilized and classy.”

“Yes,” we agree. “Apart from the whole horse meat thing.” But they’re not listening.  I’m pretty sure most of my friends think I grew up wearing a bonnet, riding around in a carriage and taking tea at Claridges with Charles Dickens.

I probably don’t help my case by insisting on having proper tea at work, Earl Grey, which I bring in specially since the office only provides Lipton. On a side note, Lipton is the most popular tea in America, according to the box. Why?

Anyway, I was drinking tea and putting together a powerpoint of vintage Valentines images to project on the wall at the office party last week when I uncovered these Victorian rules for flirting. One of my colleagues looked over at my deck, “Do you still do that in England?” she wanted to know.

Flirting with handkerchiefs

Flirting with Gloves

Why fight it? I went home to bake scones.

2 cups of flour
¼ cup of sugar
2 tsp baking powder (check the date on your tub – if it’s not well in date there’s really no point)
1/3 cup of fat – a 50:50 mixture of unsalted butter and vegetable shortening (fridge cold)
1 egg
½ cup of milk
1 cup of whipping (heavy) cream
2 tsp confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar)
1 cup strawberries
  • Pre heat the oven to 375 f
  • Cut the butter and lard into cubes
  • Tip the dry ingredients into a bowl and add the fat
  • Using your fingertips (or a food processor on pulse) rub the fat into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs
  • Add the egg, mix gently with a metal spoon (or pulse once of twice in the processor) – you really don’t want to over mix now, or the glutens in the flour will develop and you’ll get rock hard scones
  • Add the milk a spoonful at a time until the mixture comes together – you might not need all of it
  • Tip onto a floured board and roll out to about 1 inch thick
  • Use a floured cutter or the rim of a glass to cut out the scones. Use a twisting rather than a pressing motion – it makes them rise better
  • Brush the tops with milk or egg and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar
  • Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, depending on the size of the scone until they are golden brown. Cool for 5 mins on a cooling rack
  • Add the confectioner’s sugar to the cream, then whip until soft and billowing
  • Slice the scones in half, dollup on some cream, and eat
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