Sunday, April 25, 2010

Scones, Square Meals and TV licences - Bargain-basement Baking for Taxing Times

I found this simple recipe for scones this week from browsing two great cookbooks. One is the Square Meals cookbook from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) - an Irish public body which helps people in financial difficulty to manage their debts and finances. They are run off their feet these recessionary days and I know they do a great job at keeping the wolf from many a door - as well as keeping the moneylender and debtor's prison at bay.

Imagine in this day and age there is something so Dickensian and Micawberish as a debtor's prison in a so-called civilised country? Makes me wonder why so many white-collar embezzlers aren't locked up behind those bars, instead of some poor person who defaults on a hire-purchase or credit union loan, or the dreaded TV licence. Those ads on TV and radio imply there is no worse crime than not having a TV licence, which is supposed to fund Irish public broadcasting - yet we are all watching Sky and wonder why if RTÉ is commercial and gets load of dosh from its ads, we need a licence.

Even if you only use the TV for playing the Wii, you must have a licence per address, which makes it totally unfair as a hotel or business premises pay the same as a private household. I do not see why one has to have a licence to watch DVDs or play Wii or Playstation - but that's the law and it's enforced inefficiently, intrusively and at great cost through the courts of the land, and like debtor's prison victims, it disproportionately targets low-income earners. (Yes, we have one and so does our son who has no TV provider so only plays Wii on it - costly games!)

That's today's polemic rant - back to the scones. The other cookbook is Grandma's Best Recipes, one of those bargain-bin books from Eason's that turn out to be a real gem. The recipes differ in that one calls for self-raising flour and the other for plain flour with baking powder, and one has an egg and a pinch of salt, and double the butter quantity which makes for a shortbready scone rather than a doughy one - much nicer! But you choose.

I have taken the best of both and merged them. They are so quick to make that there's no excuse for not having a fresh batch made on a whim, if the mood takes you. They are delicious with butter, strawberry jam and fresh whipped cream - which totally ruins any healthy low-fat benefits of the basic scone, before you start feeling smug.

I usually make half the recipe portion unless the house is full, as I hate waste and stale scones won't do it for anyone. This recipe will make a dozen, which will last less than a day all going well, and you can make them every day you want them if you feel particularly domestic goddess-like, and are having a Rachel or Nigella moment. You can see the lovely digital kitchen scales Tandy gave Jan - another great Lidl purchase.

Scones - Basic Recipe


  1. 8ozs/225gm Self-raising flour
  2. Pinch salt
  3. 1oz/25 sugar
  4. 2ozs/50gm butter
  5. 1 egg (beaten)
  6. milk


  1. Chop up butter in flour and rub it in to breadcrumb texture
  2. Add sugar and mix
  3. Add beaten egg and mix
  4. Add enough milk to make stiff dough
  5. Turn onto floured surface and knead lightly
  6. Roll to half-inch/1cm thickness
  7. Cut with cookie cutter or cup (I used round cutter)
  8. Place on floured baking tray (I used a silicone baking sheet on a baking tray)
  9. Glaze with leftover egg/milk if you like a glazed top (I did half glazed and left half plain - catered for all tastes!)
  10. Bake in preheated oven at 180 degrees Centigrade/350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes
  11. Cool on a wire rack


Add any of the following to the dry ingredients after Step 2:
2 ozs/50gm raisins/sultanas/mixed dried fruit/glacé cherries (washed and halved)/blueberries.
For savoury scones add grated cheddar cheese.

...and finally...

While cooling, make the tea, and then enjoy the fresh baked scones with
  • Butter (no substitutes please!)
  • Strawberry Jam (preferably homemade or good quality)
  • Freshly whipped cream or clotted cream.
Pure indulgence - and you can feel virtuous as they are low in fat and sugar (or were, before you pimped them with the butter and cream!)


Stephanie V said...

Oh, yum! I love scones. They are something that I make quite often and I'll definitely try your recipe. Quick homemade treats are always the best.
Sunday tea sounds like a good excuse.

I can't imagine a TV tax. But we probably have some that your couldn't imagine either. But debtors' prison seems extreme.

menopausalmusing said...

Don't get me on the subject of how aggressive/instrusive the TV Licensing people can be....... My son's girlfriend survives happily without a television, but the licensing people continue to question. The scone recipe looks good and 'tis great to see another person who loves Lidls! :O)

FoodFunFarmLife said...

Delicious - please put the kettle on, I'm coming right over ;) I agree with you about shortbread-y scones being much nicer than their doughy sisters, too !

talesfromagarden said...

What a coincidence Catherine, I just bought that book in Easons in Mahon Point yesterday! I could not resist it as it has nice ordinary recipes of all the good old comfort food, even sheperds pie which I usually make on a weekly basis,and the price was right too!

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine,I will have to try this recipe although it does not seem to differ too much from the one I usually use but I am still using your pastry recipe which is light and always gets great comments even from a french student I have at the moment!
A tip for day after or even 2 days after scones if you have one of those George Foreman healthy grills.Heat the scones in it for 3 mins and you have hot fresh scones! I gave up using it until I tried this and now that is its only function.Totally agree on the licence fees for such a commercial station as RTE

Catherine said...

Thanks for the comments - glad you liked the scones!

STEPHANIE V - yes they are yummy aren't they, hope you had a chance to make them, Sunday or anyday afternoon tea - quite posh! As for the TV licence - seems to be a unique Irish and UK tax for so-called public service broadcasting - at least the BBC is non-commercial unlike RTE Irish TV. There is war about the Debtor's Prison aspect of custodial sentencing for such "crimes" as it is filling up prisons for a few days at a stretch and costs a fortune to the taxpayer - way more than the licence would accrue.

Catherine said...

MENOPAUSAL MUSINGS - Yes you know about the TV licence and its intrusiveness - my son has a licence but no TV as he gave it to his brother - and he only ever used it for the Wii! and as he can't transfer the licence (unused portion) it's wasted - it goes with the address and isn't transferable. So his bro has to buy a licence now. Glad you like Lidl - isn't it great and Aldi too - I don't have Aldi near me but go in Cork occasionally. They have sewing machines in Lidl now for €69 or in UK £59! Isn't it mad? My old Singer cost about £400 25 years ago!

Catherine said...

LYNDA - I thought it was just me about the scones as the shops always have the doughy ones. Then a colleague who's a great baker brought in the nice ones like these for tea break at work and they were so yummy. Never looked back!

Catherine said...

KATHLEEN - I just got the book too in Eason's for Jany! So it is doing the rounds and I have my own copy. It's a lovely one and there are many recipes my granny wouldn't have heard of so the Granny in the title is quite a trendy one! (Bit like me I suppose - though I think son and d-i-l-in-waiting think of me as ageing hippie granny type!)Nothing like a good bargain to make you feel smug! I know the Mahon Point Eason's - go there sometimes as the son and family live in Blackrock. I would love to go to the Farmers' Market there on Thursdays. It seems to be a great one.

Ann said...

Love those scones.

TV license, yes I have one even though I don't have cable and only watch my own films. The films I bought no less. But TV license people said if I want to watch my DVDs I must have a license. Grrrrr.

Catherine said...

PEGGY - what a good idea about freshening up the scones - sadly don't have a George Foreman grill and don't think I'll get one for that purpose. I try to steer away from paninis and wraps too much or I'd be as big as a house. I am trying to maintain a healthy BMI but baking and BMIs don't always go together!
Thanks for the compliment on the pastry - I have started using the food processor to mix it now - and it is a gem. It is so fast and makes really light pastry as there is virtually no handling and you can use the butter from the fridge. I don't like margarine, even though I had to get it for teen daughter's home ec. (stork soft marg, awful looking stuff - not impressed!)

Catherine said...

ANN - just saw your comment as I was replying to the others - do you need TV licences in the States? Stephanie V from Vancouver didn't seem to know about them so maybe they don't in Canada! They are really infuriating here and the link I put to them from Wikipedia calls it a regressive tax that penalises the poor. Typical of the govt to do that - they are all being shamed into giving up their pensions that they draw while working as TDs(those who were former Ministers and have "entitlement" to pensions while still in the Dail. Yes, like I said, my son has a licence even though he only played Wii and now he gave the telly to his brother who now has to buy a licence as first son's isn't transferable! Grrr indeed. Oh well, Immrama launch tomorrow night!

Irish Mammy said...

Thanks for the receipe they look delish! Do you have a good receipe for brown bread, it is something that has alluded me for years it either comes out too gloopy, too hard, too tasteless........agghhh the list goes on. Will defo try these on my visitors. Thanks for the comment on my blog btw it's nice to know other people have these scares and get through them. The poor little mite it's so hard when they are so little and can't tell you where the pain is all the best x

Jeannette StG said...

I LOVE scones, and I collect recipes of them -thanks for sharing, Catherine!
My daughter and son in law played the Wii at our house at Christmas 2008, and I don't know about needing any TV license...?

Catherine said...

TREASA - Thanks for that request and I will try to find a good brown bread recipe - I presume you mean soda bread? I have a colleague whose bread is the best, I will ask for her recipe and am sure she will share it for you too! Hope the kids are well now - laughed at the comment on your current post about shopping for boys vs. girls! I had 3 boys to shop for and as they tell me they ended up wearing the curtains when I would make them clothes from local cloth when we lived in Africa - as it was often the same as the curtains! Traumatic or what? They've survived. Teen daughter on the other hand is now only doing her own shopping as I have no taste whatsoever. Oh least she's not borrowing my stuff!

Catherine said...

JEANNETTE 0 I am glad you can add my recipe to your collection! I'll keep 'em coming. As for the Wii, I love it but don't keep too good a record of playing the Wii fit often enough. Sadly we all need TV licences here or the govt. comes after you with threats of fines or jail or both - our prisons are totally overcrowded and yet they will throw someone in the slammer for 10-20 days for non-payment of a tv licence while giving non-custodial sentences to drunk drivers who kill people. No wonder the country is gone mad at the govt. of the day.
All the best, Catherine

Marilyn Miller said...

Love scones, made them this morning with my tea. Thanks for visiting me at Delights of the Heart. I am enjoying your slides shows here.