Scones and the Scullery Maid


For a short time during one of my stints living in  Great Britain, I worked for a duchess who held her late  husbands’ seat in the House of Lords.  I worked, naturally, on her rural estate doing many household jobs but primarily baking for her hearty country appetite when she came back from London each weekend. The head gardener and I had the same sense of humour, and he often called me the scullery maid when he came in to find me cleaning Lady M.’s silver, or ironing her clothes, or rolling dough.  This week I have found, on top of the regular renovations and all the planting, weeding and watering going on in the garden that I am becoming much like that scullery maid once again. Only it’s of course much more pleasant when it’s for oneself.

As we are trying hard to be as organic and natural as possible, as well as not spending money on unnecessary things, I had to research how to clean all the copper I have that shines in the kitchen, and my collection of horse brasses that hang on the mantle and from beams in the living room, just like a British pub. I discovered that the most natural, simplest and most effective for my desires (which is to say NOT as shiny and perfect as my mother might choose to have them) was to use simple catsup.  Other acidic, citrus fruits will work too in various forms (rub lemon and some salt on!) but as we’ll be eventually canning lots of tomatoes, the catsup seems like the best decision. The more you can glob on and leave for a minute on the surface, the better it will eat away at the tarnish. Then, just rinse it off and rub and buff it.  No need for gloves, or to ventilate the room or any of that nonsense, AND it’s much better for the environment as well.


I also made my favourite scones (another British favourite) this week, as I am no longer buying anything at all that can be made in my country kitchen from scratch.  This is a simple and quick recipe and while they aren’t as light and fluffy as the top chefs might produce in the u.k., they are dandy for a quick grab for a snack with butter/jam, or even sliced in half as a sandwich.

Preheat the oven to 400 (can’t wait to try these on my wood cookstove in winter!) and lightly grease a baking sheet. Then combine 3 cups flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 5 tsp. baking powder (that’s the secret – use more b.p. than you’d think!)  and that generous pinch of salt to activate it.  Then cut in the butter 3/4 of a cup, mix 1 egg and 1 cup of milk together and blend it all until you can put it out in a lump on your bread board (lightly flour the surface first).  Knead for 3 or 4 minutes, and then roll the dough out (in my photo). Keep it about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut them into wedge-shapes, or triangles, and place them on the baking sheet, then cook for 15 min. Couldn’t be simpler and they are yummy, esp. right out of the oven!

The scullery maid worked her hands raw

While the gardener sat with his loose-hinged jaw.

He sipped his tea and gossiped aloud;

She cooked, cleaned and ironed as she was most house proud.

(I imagine the above to be true of most instances in any house of the gentry going back many centuries!)





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