Lemon and Poppy Seed Scones

lemon and poppy seed scones2

I’ve not had a lot of success with my scone baking in the past, in fact they could be used as hockey pucks as they are generally so solid and dry but when a friend of mine raved about lemon and poppy seed scones from a nearby tearoom I decided to have a bash at them. Jack thinks that the browner scones looked overdone, I think they were supposed to be paler but they all tasted fine. I gave some to a friend and she says they tasted even better toasted – it enhances the lemon flavour – I’d never thought of toasting scones before.

I found a recipe online, but tweaked it a wee bit by adding a few drops of lemon essence to the lemon juice as for me there’s no possibility of something tasting too lemony. I’ve baked these scones twice now and they’ve worked perfectly, but I’m in two minds about the poppy seeds. They don’t add any flavour I believe but obviously add texture. They have a tendency to get stuck in your teeth though. I happened to have a packet of poppy seeds anyway but when they are finished I don’t know if I would bother buying more, I might prefer the scones without them. The ingredients below make 20 scones so you might want to halve the quantities.

900g self-raising flour
225g margarine
85g sugar
30g poppy seeds
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
a few drops of lemon essence
2 eggs
333ml milk

Mix the self-raising flour, margarine, sugar, poppy seeds, lemon juice and lemon essence in a bowl and rub together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then add the eggs and milk and mix to a dough.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to a thickness of 4 cm or 1.5 inches, cut into rounds using a 70 mm/ 2.75″ (ish) cutter. Put them onto a baking tray. Brush with milk ( I missed this bit out as I used my pastry brush for a DIY project a while ago!)

Put into the middle of a pre-heated oven at 160 Centigrade for 20 minutes. Gas mark 3, or Fahrenheit 325.

Delicious with butter but for a super lemon experience why not try lemon curd.

My garden in Fife

Last week at times in my garden it seemed that spring had really sprung, then the cold wind arrived again towards the end of the week. I have started the job of clearing and tidying up after the winter, but I still wouldn’t be surprised if we got snow at Easter.

spring garden

spring garden

I took the photos below from the guest bedroom window, the evening sun filtering through the gap between us and next door,

spring garden

but fully hitting the woodland at the back of us, my favourite time as it lights up the trees. It shouldn’t be long now before there’s a green haze instead of bare limbs.

spring garden

Two People by A.A. Milne

 Two People cover

A.A. Milne is obviously best known as the author of the Winnie the Pooh books which are beloved by people of all ages, but he also wrote quite a few books which were aimed at adult readers. This one was first published in 1931.

Two People must be the most autobiographical of his novels. Reginald Willard is wealthy enough not to have to work and he leads a perfect life, has a beautiful young wife Sylvia and a lovely home in the country. He adores his wife but when he tells her that he has just finished writing a book he’s understandably quite surprised by her lack of interest in it, she doesn’t even want to read Bindweed and says she’ll leave it until it is published. That seems unlikely to happen as far as Reginald is concerned, but Bindweed does find a publisher and the book becomes the must buy of the season, it’s wildly popular although nobody seems to have actually read it, it’s talked of everywhere.

Reginald is increasingly aware that his wife and he don’t share many things in common and her friends aren’t the sort of people that he wants to socialise with. He seems to be under the impression that Sylvia is a bit of an air-head, and is surprised when others find her interesting and amusing.

They decide to move to London for a while, but this just makes it more obvious that they don’t have much in common and Reginald seems to resent the fact that Sylvia makes a lot of friends of her own, males included.

I enjoyed the London based half of this book most, mainly because more interesting and amusing characters were introduced. It was an enjoyable read.

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

I’m continuing with Judith at Reader in the Wilderness‘ meme Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times which I’m really enjoying, particularly because I actually finished reading one of the books that I wrote about last Friday. This might be a great way for me to concentrate on reading my own books. Mind you the fact that all of the libraries are shut has helped too! I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Flowers in the Grass by Monica Dickens soon.

So this time around I’m again featuring just three books that have languished on various bookshelves of mine.

Dolittle

Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary is a book for children written by Hugh Lofting, it’s quite a big series, written for children but suitable for all ages. The author illustrated his own books.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk belongs to Jack, Pamuk is one of his favourite authors but I’ve never read any of his books. I think it’s about time that I did.

The Century's Daughter

The Century’s Daughter by Pat Barker is one that I bought fairly recently. I’ve read a few books by Barker and really liked them, this one seems quite different though and it’s a Virago publication.

More Armchair Travelling – Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs/Islands

I’m not finding it too difficult to be stuck at home, I’m a home bird anyway and as we’re retired it hasn’t made an awful lot of difference to us, but speaking – at a distance – to my neighbours, the men in particular are finding it very wearing. On the plus side, one of the men said that he and his wife hadn’t murdered each other yet! But as he said that he was dragging his lawnmower out of his shed, and I had just been thinking that his grass was looking scalped. It’s looking even more so now as he’s mowing it every second day.

Anyway, if you’re also feeling a bit antsy you might enjoy settling down to watch the You Tube videos below

Series 1 episode 1 of Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotlands Lochs. Legends of the West – Argyll and Loch Etive. This one is a cracker, history, geology and beautiful scenery – what more can you want?

Don’t miss Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands – Northern Skye.

If you fancy  something different from gorgeous scenery you might like to take a wee look at some of Scotland’s Treasures in  – The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh . This is a BBC documentary, eye candy of a different sort.


I hope you enjoy these ones.

 

 

A Sense of Belonging to Scotland by Andy Hall

A Sense of Belonging to Scotland cover

We were recently given a copy of this beautiful book – A Sense of Belonging to Scotland by Andy Hall. It contains a collection of sumptuous photographs of Scottish scenery – the favourite places of Scottish personalities. The book was first published in 2002 and features a real mixture of people who have written about their favourite place and the photograph that Andy Hall has taken of it is on the facing page.

Most of the personalities chose beautiful scenery as their favourite place but I had to laugh when I saw the photo of author Ian Rankin’s favourite place – it is the pub sign of The Oxford Bar in Edinburgh.

It features fifty people’s favourite places – Kirsty Wark, Iain Banks, Jimmy Logan, Barbara Dickson, Sally Magnusson, Sir Ludovic Kennedy, Gregor Fisher, Rikki Fulton, Evelyn Glennie, Hannah Gordon, Richard Wilson, Cameron Mackintosh, Ewan McGregor – to mention just a few and some of the places featured are: Castle Campbell, Dollar Glen in Stirlingshire, Ettrick Valley, Langholm in Dumfriesshire, Plockton in Wester Ross, Mull, Loch Morar.

This book is a real feast for the eyes, a lot of the places I’ve visited but there are an awful lot that I haven’t. So I’m adding to my long list of places that I still want to visit in Scotland. I somehow think it will be a good few months before there is any possibility of getting on the road again, but until then I’m happy to read this book and admire the photos.

The photo on the front cover is Loch Morar and it was the choice of Cameron Mackintosh.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e.l. konigsburg

 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler cover

This book was first published in 1967 and it won the Newbery Medal. I was lucky enough to be given it by Jennifer and until I received I hadn’t even heard of the book but it was just perfect reading for these strange and unsettling times.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg begins in a suburn of New York City where Claudia, the eldest of four children is thoroughly fed up with things as they are. She has three younger brothers who never have to do any chores around their home, not that all her work is appreciated, in fact they try to make her life even more difficult.

Claudia decides that the time has come for her to run away, the only problem is that she has very little money, she can’t save her pocket money as she must have her hot fudge sundae treat every week. Her plan will only work if she can persuade her brother Jamie to go with her as he is a tightwad and consequently has quite a stash of money saved.

She doesn’t want to stay away from home too long, just long enough to make her parents worry and pay her more attention in the future. She’s not keen on roughing it so plans to stay somewhere where they can be fairly comfortable and she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Claudia and Jamie manage to dodge the museum guards for days and they are able to wander around the museum and sleep in a 16th century four poster bed. Claudia has it all worked out, they bathe in a fountain and manage to eke out their money and even wash their clothes at a launderette. Then Claudia becomes obsessed by a new exhibit of a statue of an angel – is it by Michelangelo or not?

This is a lovely book and I so empathised with Claudia’s situation at home, a common one for girls of my and Claudia’s age back in 1967. Although this is a lovely light read it also shows how the siblings become aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and they learned to appreciate each other more.

Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg

 Blood on the Mink cover

Blood on the Mink by Robert Silverberg was first published in 1962 and at 156 pages it’s a really quick read. I’ve been having trouble settling down to read and had tried and failed with a few books before this one unexpectedly hit the spot.

The setting is 1950s America, starting in Chicago before moving on quickly to Philadelphia – apparently the City of Brotherly Love. Someone is printing loads of counterfeit US money in Philadelphia and it’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The government sends Nick an undercover agent there to infiltrate the gang responsible and to find out where the currency is being printed.

It all gets very complicated and more than a wee bit dangerous, but Nick is a good guy always aiming to wing not kill, which is more than can be said for the gangsters. This is well written but very much of its time so there’s quite a lot of 1950s style sexism, if that bothers you then this might not be for you. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, I just find it quite amusing and quaint nowadays. There’s quite a lot of humour. It all helps to set the scene. Philadelhia is portrayed as being a very strait-laced and boring place, you can’t get a drink after midnight and nothing at all is open on a Sunday – very similar to Scotland until fairly recently, but apparently unusual in 1950s America.

Robert Silverberg is better known as a very successful writer of science fiction, but he wrote all sorts of things when he was starting out in his career. He wrote a very interesting afterword to this one which had initially been rejected, it was a difficult time for writers and publishers (when is it not?) and magazines were going to the wall. A magazine publisher decided he might have more luck publishing a novel and Silverberg offered him this old one of his. He was paid $800 for it which apparently had buying power of about $8,000 then. How lucky was that?!

This book also contains a couple of short stories – Dangerous Doll and One Night of Violence.

Armchair Travelling in Scotland

I’m always saying that the future has been such a disappointment to me as we still can’t teleport around the world with Scotty beaming us up. On Star Trek – The New Generation when people were in need of a change of scene they had an afternoon off on the Holodeck. Sadly we can’t do that, wouldn’t it be great if we could, but as we’re stuck at home for the duration, however long that might be we can only have a trawl through You Tube and do some armchair travelling.

I love Paul Murton’s TV series ‘Grand Tours’ of the Highlands, Islands and Lochs. If you fancy a change of scene away from your living room you can admire the change of scenery.

Below there’s an episode of Paul Murton’s BBC series Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands.

Now here’s one of Paul Merton’s Grand Tours of Scottish Lochs.

And I found this interesting film featuring the Western Isles.

No tickets, traffic jams, delays or bad weather problems!

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

In common with most book lovers I have stacks of unread books awaiting my attention. Judith at Reader in the Wilderness has decided to start her Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times MEME – talk about three of the books in your TBR stacks. For me anyway this might be a way of reacquainting myself with books that I was keen to buy at the time, but for some reason have languished in the piles. I’ve been having trouble concentrating on reading, in common with loads of readers so I might find something to pique my interest here.

Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett – I started collecting this series while I was reading the author’s Lymond series which was a few years ago. I think it’s the thickness of the book that has put me off beginning it, but having finished reading The Mirror and the Light at over 800 pages, this book now seems quite slim.

Niccolo

Flowers on the Grass by Monica Dickens. I have no idea how long I’ve had this one which according to the blurb is: perhaps the gayest and most entertaining novel yet written by an author whose work has always been unfailingly entertaining. The setting ranges from a country cottage to a holiday camp in Northern England, a Bayswater hotel to a modern ‘do-as-you-like’ school, and has a fascinating gallery of characters – apparently. I’m now wondering why I haven’t thought of reading it before now.

Dickens

Over the Mountains by Pamela Frankau has a World War 2 setting. It’s May 1940 and the British armies are retreating from Dunkirk. Reading the blurb I’ve just realised that this one is the last book of a trilogy, but I think it can be read as a stand alone book, and it seems like it might be right up my street.

Frankau

I’m going to read one of these books soon – if I can concentrate on one, I might have to dip into all three before I find one I can concentrate on!