Tuesday, 4 March 2014


The best bit of graffiti I ever saw was on the wall of a lift in an old apartment block in Bondi.  It read "I love scones". I couldn't agree more. I love a scone. And by scone, I mean the kind that rhymes with "Ron",  as opposed to the kind that rhymes with "phone". To be clear: I love both kinds, but they're different things. The former - round, modestly size, served with jam and cream, or slathered in butter and honey - are the traditional sort, as found in England and its far-flung colonies, like Australia. The latter, the giant triangular kind embellished with fruit, nuts and different kinds of flour and grain, are distinctly American. The first time I visited the United States I saw those then-foreign objects in the cabinet of a Starbucks with the familiar label stuck to them and curious, ordered one to go with my coffee. I may as well have been speaking Farsi as the woman behind the counter had no idea what I was saying. I quickly realised my mistake and tried a few alternate pronounciations before finally hitting on the right one, only to run into further difficulty with my own name when it was requested for the order. Server: Name?  Me: Alice. Server: Alex? Me: No, Alice. Server: (louder) Alex? Me: (accepting defeat) Yes, Alex. 

These days, I am bilingual in scone ordering. But these ones require no translation. At least not for me. They're Australian and the recipe comes from a cookbook written by my mother, and a good friend of hers, Judith McKay. There's not much in there I can make as it's an historical cookbook and it's not often I have a spare kangaroo tail on hand for a stew. But scones I can make. I like knowing that generations of women (let's be honest, they were all women) made this recipe before me: rubbed the fat with the flour between their fingertips, gently pressed out the dough, cut it into rounds and swaddled the baked result in a teatowel to keep warm.

Adapted from A Good Plain Cook: An Edible History of Queensland by Susan Addison and Judith McKay
These are lovely warm, but I like them best at room temperature, so that the toppings stay on the scone and don't melt so much onto the plate or your fingers.

Sift together 2 cups self-raising flour (or 2 cups plain flour with 4 teaspoons baking powder) and 1 teaspoon salt.  

Rub 2-4 tablespoons of butter into the flour, using the tips of the fingers. Rub until it is well mixed in. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.  

Make a well in the centre and pour in about 1/4 pt (150ml) milk. Mix with knife to form a soft dough. Do not knead, but pat the mixture or roll lightly on a floured board to about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick.  Cut into rounds with biscuit cutter and place close together on a lightly floured baking sheet so they will rise upwards, not outwards.  

Brush the tops of the scones with some milk for a glossy crust or sprinkle with flour for a soft one. Bake the scones at the top of a hot oven, preheated to 425 deg F (220 deg C), approximately 10-12 minutes.  


  1. Oh Yum! what a pleasing image and story to waken to! I can smell them. My Mum always added dates for some reason. But let me assure you - no Starbucks scone (phone ... but I still make them understand me and ask for a scone - Ron!) comes near to these wonderful Aussie treats. Might have to break out the scone tray and make some today