You would be hard pushed to find a granny in Ireland that can't make the most delicious stews or a knit a onesie in one sitting. I don't know if you these skills or bestowed upon you once you reach the age of 60 or that they're skills that just aren't that cool anymore but I do know that all grannies have a signature dish which they are famous in the family for. For my granny it's definitely her chicken soup, known to have cured many colds, flues or just for times when us grandchildren 'weren't at ourselves'. For Andrew's granny it would probably be her buttermilk scones. I tasted them the first time I visited her bungalow in Monaghan and it took all my power not to inhale the whole plate of them in front of me and drink it down with her homemade raspberry jam. A while ago Andrew and I drove down to Monaghan to see Ruth and I had plotted a way to ask her for her recipe. I am a massive lover of scones especially the smell they create in a kitchen. But mostly the taste of them. You instantly feel like a successful human being when you have a tray of lovely scones cooling on a wire rack. I was a bit hesitant to ask for the recipe because asking someone for a recipe they are renowned for can go one of two ways:
- They could be flattered that you would think so highly of them and be delighted to pass the recipe on; or
- They could be quietly horrified that you even asked for it and shift uncomfortably in their chair thinking of ways to get rid of you
Luckily for me Ruth was the former and was more than willing to share her secret however I had forgotten that Irish grannies also don't use normal measurements. I got out my pen and paper that I just so happened to have on me and began to note down the ingredients and method which went along the lines of: Make sure to use Neill's soda bread flour and rub in a knob of butter and a fingerful of sugar then whisk an egg in a mug, not a cup but a mug, and then fill it to the top with buttermilk... I tried to act unperturbed by these non-specific instructions but I knew I would balls the whole thing up on my own. I thought to myself the only way I would learn would be to watch her and out of some miracle she then asked me if I wanted to make some with her. She must have seen the terror in my eyes; grannies can also smell fear. I was amazed at how she was able to bake so easily despite her being constrained by arthritis in her hands. She has adapted a canny way of moving utensils so she doesn't have to strain herself too hard and it's an incredibly admirable thing to witness because baking along with other domestic skills is something that is so obviously engrained in her. If she lost that ability then I suppose it would be a massive loss to her. Fortunately for me the whole recipe was much easier to follow and she taught me some great techniques to ensure the best scones e.g. make sure to get lots of air in when rubbing the butter in to the flour! It was a special moment because it made me feel part of the family and it was so generous of her to share it with me. I feel like I've almost mastered the recipe although I know they'll never be quite as good as Nanny Moffett's. Andrew is fairly happy to play guinea pig in the meantime anyway and the house smells AMAZING.
Nanny Moffett's Buttermilk Scones
- 1lb Neil's Self Raising Soda Bread Flour (nothing else apparently)
- 1 - 1.5 oz granulated sugar (or 2 fingerfuls)
- 4-5 oz soft margarine
- 2 eggs beaten in a mug (specifically a mug)
- Buttermilk - add to mug of beaten eggs and fill to the top
- Preheat oven at 230 celsius
- Weigh out the flour and the sugar together
- Rub in the butter bringing the flour up from the bottom and getting plenty of air through the mixture.
- Once all rubbed in (your wrists might be aching at this stage - I have to take breaks!) make a well in the mixture and slowly pour in the buttermilk an egg
- Beat together with a fork - not a spoon - until all the flour is absorbed
- Put the mixture on to a floured surface and sprinkle some flour on top
- Pat the dough in to an oblong shape and using a cutter take pieces out around the outside first
- Put the scones on to a greased tray and brush with some beaten egg
- Place in over for 10 minutes
- Let them cool for a few minutes when they're done
- Try not to eat them all and get found covered in jam and crumbs.