Home cooking

Back in November I moved. The house has chipped blue woodwork, a red front door with frosted glass and a garden dominated by a rickety metal washing line. Each morning before work, the sky glows pearly pink while I stand at the kitchen counter making my breakfast. It’s a quiet and peaceful time, which, after the first few months of hostels, travel and general mayhem, I came to savour.

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Housemates have come and gone but a core group remain, all ironically British escaping to the other side of the world, and I have shared big occasions such as Christmas and my birthday with them. This far away they have become a second family, creating a home from home together with a high-cherished shared spice rack, olive oil and soy sauce collection. Most of the time life is far from glamorous; I drag myself home from work smelling of grease, some of us sit around in pyjamas all evening, we watch endless TikTok videos on the TV, and we all dosey-do around each other in the tiny kitchen. And now it’s suddenly time for me to move out and travel the South Island in a van with a Frenchman, so I will miss this stability, the comfort of cooking dinner and eating it at the dining table, and my housemates’ weird quirks. Like the fact Rich made kitchen knives from scratch (yes, knives. From scratch) at Christmas, Jenna’s incredible, dazzling stripey suit she wears on special occasions, Jasmine’s tendancy to bring home shells, plants, chunks of driftwood, to decorate her room, and Liam’s unrepentant Dad jokes (holding a bag of currants ‘I didn’t know we currently had these’).

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The house is homely, thanks to Jenna’s touch, and the living room is actually a living room without someone’s rusty bike leaning against the wall or a random throw showing Bob Marley and a leaf of weed. There’s actually a book case full of books and board games, and a shelf entirely dedicacted to booze. There’s a world map on the wall and, best of all, a dining table. It even has placemats. Many meal has been shared around this table, including last week’s lasagne feast in which we all ripped into the meal like starving wolves, although the food in question was a baguette of garlic bread not a dead animal.

While hostelling I fantasised about life in a house and all the foods I would happily cook and bake. That was a dark time of disappointing dinners, some better than others, and my cooking now is an improvement by far, however, there has been less than I anticipated. As a matter of fact, there’s been less cooking in New Zealand in general! It could be laziness (I write this as I lie lethargically in bed) or just life in all its blinding fast-paced brightness getting in the way. There have been a few trays of triple chocolate cookies in Auckland, cheese straws and brownies at Christmas, strawberry, blueberry and apple cobbler for Laura’s barbecue, lemon curd and pavlova, a failed focaccia, and these cheese scones.

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My head chef, Scott, came up with the recipe. He prepares the dough at the café everyday, usually in enormous quantities, producing nearly fifty scones a day at weekends. This is because they are unapologetically delicious and sell out every single morning. You have to be quick if you want a scone. The crumb is buttery soft and when sliced in half there a pockets of cheese crystals waiting to be melted on the grill. The surface has a thatch of grated cheese, baked until gold and crackly to touch. I covet every scone I’m asked to toast so instead of stealing a customer’s breakfast I decided to bake my own. Interestingly, this recipe requires cream with the milk instead of water creating a rich, cakey scone, the creaminess complementing the sharp cheddar. Be warned, there is an impressive rise on these little guys, so keep them small – they’ll double in height. I made two batches of these scones and they were all gone in three days, with only a sad corner left when I returned from work yesterday. And then that was eaten within a few hours.

This might be the last home-cooking I do in New Zealand. Luckily for me these are a showstopper. I’ve gone out with a bang.

Cheese Scones

Adapted from Scott Barrett’s recipe

Makes 8

450g self-raising flour
3 tsp baking powder
15g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
115g cold unsalted butter
125g grated sharp Cheddar cheese, plus extra for the topping
150ml cream
165ml milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Weigh the flour, baking powder, caster sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.
  2. Chop the butter into cubes and rub into the flour mixture until it has the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the grated cheese. Mix the cream and milk in a jug and pour most of it into the bowl, bringing the dough together with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the milk if it seems dry. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and quickly but gently knead it together then flatten it into a rectangle with a rolling pin. Cut the dough in half lengthwise then cut each half into four. Line them on the baking tray and top with extra grated cheese.
  4. Put the tray in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown, the scones are well-risen and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Best eaten warm with a little butter.

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