There I was, fully prepared to launch into a little rant about cooking-vs-entertainment when, as irony would have it, I heard that I was nominated for one of this year’s Entertainment.ie awards.
Well now, that’ll teach me!
The awards are open to public voting so, if you should feel so inclined, please do pop over here, look for the best blogger section and do the needful for the Spud. They’ll even let you vote once per day until the 7th of January – I might make a specially extended advent calendar just for the occasion.
It goes without saying that I am more than honoured to have been nominated along with several luminaries of the Irish bloggerati and, while I’ve never thought of myself as an entertainer per se, I guess that at least some of what I do can be classed as entertainment (which is fine, as long as you don’t expect me to do any tap-dancing).
Chefs, at least those of the celebrity variety, might also be called entertainers. You need look no further than your favourite television cookery shows to see that. They don’t always stick exclusively to cooking, though usually I like ’em best when they do.
Which brings me to the “fantastic live theatre show” (sic) which ran during last weekend’s Taste of Christmas event in Dublin. The problem wasn’t so much with the entertainment value – which was, at times, questionable – but that I think the audience were shortchanged.
Hector Ó hEochagáin acted as MC, while celebrity chefs and others flitted in and out of the Christmas kitchen setting in a presentation that often had little to do with cooking and, in Gino D’Acampo’s case, more to do with cringeworthy inuendo.
The big draw for me (and I suspect many others) was that Heston Blumenthal was appearing at some of these theatre sessions. Unfotunately, they neglected to mention that this would not involve Heston – one of the world’s most fascinating chefs – doing any cooking. A minor detail would you say? And while it was still a highlight to hear Heston talk a little about himself and take a couple of audience questions, I could not help but feel duped.
Suffice to say that the rest of my time at the event was better spent touring the various restaurant, food and drink stands, not to mention witnessing the occasional scrum by attendees for free Marks & Spencer mince pies. Now that, my friends, is entertainment.
Cheesy Sage and Onion Scones
The method here is one that I saw Catherine Fulvio demo at Taste of Christmas, where she made a flavoured white soda bread dough, brushed the rolled-out dough with pesto, then coiled it up and sliced off individual scones for baking. A fabulously simple idea and endlessly variable.
This version here is inspired by one of my favourite Christmas foods: stuffing – that more-ish mixture of breadcrumbs, butter and onion, with maybe some apple, maybe some celery and always some sage. And while you wouldn’t really put cheese in your stuffing, I couldn’t resist adding some to the scone version because, well, the Taste of Christmas theatre show was nothing if not cheesy…
For the filling:
- 1 tblsp butter
- 1 tblsp olive oil
- 1 small onion (about 100g), very finely chopped
- pinch of salt
- 0.25 tsp dried sage
- 0.25 tsp dried thyme
- pinch of celery seeds (optional)
- freshly ground black pepper
For the dough:
- 450g plain flour
- 1 tsp bread soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 75g mature cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 small cooking apple, such as bramley, peeled, cored and grated (you’ll need about 100g once grated)
- 300-400ml buttermilk
You’ll also need:
- One or more large baking trays, depending on size
- To prepare the filling, place a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the butter and oil and, when hot, add the onions, a pinch of salt, the sage, thyme and celery seeds if using. Stir and fry for around 5 minutes or until the onions have softened but not browned. Season with a few twists of black pepper. Remove from the heat.
- Preheat your oven to 200C
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, bread soda, salt and sugar.
- Stir the grated cheese and grated apple into the flour mixture. Form a well in the centre and pour in about 300ml of the buttermilk. Use your hand to gently mix and bring together as a dough, adding more buttermilk if the mixture is too dry. The final dough should not be too wet or sticky.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Divide in two and roll each piece into an oblong around 30cm x 20cm – it should be around 3-4mm thick. Scatter the cooked onions onto the rolled-out pieces of dough. Roll each piece of dough up along the longer side and press the edges together (dampening with a little buttermilk to help seal the edges if they’re not sticking together). Slice each roll into pieces around 2cm thick. Place the slices flat i.e. cut side up, on one or more floured baking trays and bake for around 12-15 minutes or until golden.
- Eat warm or at room temperature. They’re just the thing to have alongside a wintry bowl of soup.
- Well of course you could add some fried, crumbled bacon to the filling if you like. You can also leave out the cheese and apple and just have sage and onion scones (in which case I’d probably add some chopped fresh herbs to the dough).
- Makes around 30 small scones.