I love autumn, but my immune system does not.
Throughout hot summer months, I long for chill, brisk walks, and occasional torrential rain, and the arrival of the hot chestnut sellers on the approach to St Paul’s. But then they appear, and without fail, I am poorly. If I’m lucky, it’s just a cold, that drags on interminably, slogging its way alongside me through the months.
When I was little, my mother read to me every night.
One of the last books she read to me – before I began Reading On My Own – was What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. The book was a gift from my mother: it was a one-volume Katy trilogy. It was a very big book for a very little girl. The book was fat and the pages were wafer thin, with no pictures at all breaking up the long prose: aged seven, it felt Very Grown Up indeed. I adored it. I’ve written before about my life being punctuated by books; memories of people I love, and loved, are hidden in their pages. I will always hear What Katy Did read in my mummy’s voice; I still quake at the thought of her finding out that I occasionally leave the house with wet hair.
I have fallen in love with scones.
Quite suddenly, all at once, head over heels. All scones. Cheese scones (sometimes with marmite, sometimes with walnuts and mustard), saffron, honey and sultana scones, cherry scones, stilton and cranberry scones. I can’t get enough of them. But this is my current favourite: a grown up, not-too-sweet scone — the only added sugar is the crunchy Demerara on the top — that is sufficiently handsome to present to friends, but simple enough to knock up for yourself at 10:30 to go with an 11 o’clock coffee.
My life is punctuated by books.
Is it possible for silly little bunny-shaped biscuits with fluffy tails to be elegant? Probably not. But I’m confident that this is the closest we’ll ever get.
I am irreparably clumsy and lacking in artistic talent in and out of the kitchen. Since I started baking, this has really irritated me. When I’m cooking comforting, hearty meals, it’s not really a problem; no one ever expects an oxtail stew to look like anything other than an oxtail stew. But sweet bakes are a different kettle of fish. These biscuits are my secret weapon. If you can scatter glitter over pritt stick, you can make these biscuits look utterly charming.
Suet pastry is a lovely pastry. It’s filled with flavour, it’s comforting, it’s softer than shortcrust, and far quicker and easier to make than flakey pastry or even rough puff pastry.
It is in fact incredible easy, I promise. You can read the recipe below, but in terms of ‘method’ you’ll just be shaking some pre-cut suet into some flour, and then mixing some water into it. That’s pretty much it.
I accidentally created the best strawberry jam in the history of the world by misreading the recipe.
Two years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of making my own jam, and would have scoffed at anyone who peddled the yawn-worthy line that homemade tastes better. But, unfortunately, it turns out they were right. And jams and chutneys are a really good way to use up left over fruit before it goes off. In all honesty, I tend to make it because I don’t know what else to do with the seen-better-days strawberries in the fridge, and because anything that can be slathered on toast is welcome in my house. But most importantly, it makes you feel smug, and I love feeling smug.