Cheese and Parsley Scones on Midwinters Day

20170618_094355
The shortest day at Fat Weka Farm, Otago Peninsula

I started the shortest day with a walk on the loop track that Peter has created on our land. In 45 minutes to an hour we can now climb up from the valley and take in the stunning views of our Otago Peninsula from many aspects.   I mention the shortest day because it was very close to the longest day when I last posted. I have been a busy person over the summer and autumn with setting up our Fat Weka Farm AirBnB and as co-ordinator of the Wild Dunedin Festival of Nature.  Now it is time to get back on the blogging horse, and do a midwinter post.

20170620_094924

With my Bed and Breakfast and cooking at the local Penguin Cafe I have become an expert scone maker. “Practice makes perfect” is certainly true when it comes to scone making. My Cheese and Parsley scones have proved very popular and are perfect comfort food and great to serve with a soup as a midwinter warmer. The recipe makes 9 large cafe sized scones but at home I can make 12 scones from this mix.

Cheese & Parsley Scones

Preheat oven to 220ºC or 200ºC fan bake – hot oven and they take approx 12 minutes to cook.

Ingredients:

3 cups of Self Raising Flour
½ cup of chopped parsley (large stalks not included)
1 cup of grated or chopped parmesan shavings

1 cup of grated tasty cheddar cheese and extra for topping of scones

½ tsp of salt

60g butter

1 egg

approx 1-1½ cup of milk to mix (at home I use kefir to get an even lighter scone mix)

Method:

Sieve the flour to add air through the flour, add salt, and work the butter into the flour.

20170614_065118#1

At home I chop the butter into cubes and use the pastry cutter to further cut and press into the flour finishing off with squishing the butter pieces into the flour by hand.

2017-06-15 22.08.34#1

This is important for adding air into the scones as the butter pieces melt leaving space that creates lightness (as it does for flaky and puff pastry).

20170620_092101

However in the cafe I need to shortcut this process and grate the butter into the mix and then smeer the butter through the flour by hand. You can use a food processor but this can easily make the butter too fine for scones.

20170620_091647

Now add the grated cheeses and chopped parsley.

20170620_092347

Whisk an egg into the milk.  The egg helps to add a richness to the dough and they keep for longer.

20170620_092859

Use a kitchen knife to mix in the milk and egg to make a wettish very soft dough finishing off using your hands to create a ball.  Make every knife action count and avoid over mixing. I use a folding action to mix rather than stirring. Over mixing at this point will make your scones tough and chewy.

20170620_093228

Sprinkle flour onto a board or your bench and with flour on your hands gently shape the dough to approximately 3cm height.  Cut into 9 or 12 pieces and place on baking paper on an oven tray. If you like the edges soft just place them closer to each other on the tray.

20170620_093417

With a little milk brush the top of the scones, top with grated cheese and a parsley leaf if desired.

Bake for approx 12 minutes.  To check if they are cooked look underneath and see that their bases are cooked and just like bread has a hollow sound when tapped.

20170614_090603#1

Variations:

  • Add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper to give a little heat either in the mix or very sparsely sprinkle over the cheese topping
  • Replace ½ cup of the flour with ½ cup of rolled oats soaked overnight to add a nutty taste to scones (this will reduce the quantity of milk for the mix)
  • Use this recipe as the base for savoury scrolls…but these I should cover in another post…

Parsley - a super food not simply a garnish

Parsley is a year round herb.  I am still picking bunches for the cafe at mid winter.  To have it available year round means you need to let it self sow.   It will be left alone wherever it wants to grow in my garden and encouraged because I wouldn’t want to ever run out of parsley for the picking.

 

 

 

 

Chickweed salad, pesto and gardeners first aid

Chickweed Stellaria media is a highly nutritious plant popular in Victorian times with the leisure class for use in salads and sandwiches.  Today it is called a weed.

I discovered this luscious patch of chickweed when searching for hen greens down our valley near the pond. A windrow of soil from the sediment was made when we reconstructed the pond in January.

20160115_182026
This is the pond in January – to the right and behind the pond is the long windrow or heap of composting soil – rather like a raised garden bed.
20160406_074649
Now the grass has regrown around the pond and the windrow is well covered with weeds.  On the right hand side are potatoes I sowed late January. Lexie our dog loves the fact that the pond is filling as she enjoys a swim.

Never curse the arrival of chickweed.  It indicates that your soil has a balanced pH and is fertile.  Apart from the sediment being rich in organic matter the chickweed has grown larger in the windrow because its location is moist and has some shade.

Not only will the hens benefit from this terrific patch of chickweed, so will I.

My first thought is to use it in a salad but unlike the previous salad posting it won’t just be an extra it will be the green star …because of it’s size and lushness.  I added some freshly shelled walnuts I purchased from Valda at the Otago Farmers Market, a few olives, and my favourite for lunchtime salads – fried Halloumi cheese. Dressing is just a squirt of lemon juice and a splash of avocado oil.

20160419_142612
These chickweed leaves are more the size of corn salad than the chickweed I would normally find growing in my veggie garden. You can replace the chickweed for either corn salad or miners lettuce as an alternative with this combination.

A warning though – chickweed doesn’t do well under refrigeration, you need to plan to use it on the day it is picked. So after my lunch I decided to use the rest with some Italian parsley that also needed to be harvested before being trampled to death by builders boots.

20160422_080015

 

I filled my food processor with around 50/50 chickweed and parsley – removing the long stems off both, so it was mainly leaf.

20160422_080915

This really reduces down when chopped. I crushed a small clove of garlic in salt and added it to the chopped greens.

20160422_080856

Then the freshly shelled walnuts (you can use any nuts you like). Pour in extra virgin olive oil to make a puree.

20160422_081525

Mix in a little parmesan if you want a more creamy texture and finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice.   The lemon juice prevents the pesto from losing it’s bright green colour and also adds an acid flavour balance.  Squeeze, then taste, then add more. You are better to be conservative and add to taste when it comes to lemon juice or vinegar.

2016-05-01 20.52.38

Finally drizzle over some oil to give the pesto some real gloss.

This pesto can be kept for at least a week in the fridge and there are lots of ways you can use this nutritious spread in a sandwich, pizza, added to pasta or as a flavour boost to any number of dishes.  

Chickweed is recognised for its medicinal qualities and a tissane or tea is used to reduce water retention in the body. It can be made into vinegar or an ointment and used as a poultice.  It has been called a gardeners first aid plant because it is said to draw out splinters in a much gentler way than a pair of tweezers will.  You can use  a poultice or dip your finger into a strong tea solution…and it is also good for relieving nettle stings.

20160419_112023

Raw it has a good helping of vitamin C and even has vitamin B, assorted minerals, and potassium and all for free in your garden.  It is most abundant late winter early spring and is best harvested before it produces it’s tiny star like white flowers and equally tiny seedpods.  Give it a go!