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Queen of scones

13 July 2022
Category:
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One of New Zealand’s most loved and familiar food industry faces, Annabelle White has been a foodie fixture since first appearing on our screens in 1989 as the (self-described) “crazy” food reporter for TV3’s Nightline.

A guest chef at this year’s Food Show, we caught up with the popular cooking personality and author of 11 cookbooks on career highlights, supermarket savings, South Island favourites and her legendary buttermilk scones. Interview Josie Steenhart

What have been some of your career highlights?

All the highlights involve people – either great audiences with a cooking demo here or overseas or when travelling – like leading a Vespa tour around Tuscany or Umbria with a great bunch of Kiwis on little yellow Vespas with cooking classes and wine tastings – or gourmet tours of NYC – full-on joy.

But in all these activities the secret is that the people you’re with must really get something from it – beyond the obvious – for example when someone says genuinely, “That trip was the best thing I’ve done in years,” or “That cooking class was great, I learnt so much,” it makes me so happy. Even someone stopping you at the supermarket and saying, “Your cookbook, Best Recipes, I use heaps!”

It’s too easy to say interviewing Nigella Lawson for TVNZ, working with Jamie Oliver, snorkelling with Jean-Michel Cousteau in Fiji or proposing marriage to the late, iconic international chef Robert Carrier on radio (and he accepted!). These are very personal delights but the “making a difference to others” is the lasting and most important memory.

What’s your go-to dish when you really want to impress?

Cooking is all about showing you care and you want to look after people – so make your favourite comfort food to share with friends, as trying to impress leads to performance anxiety – who needs that?

My buttermilk scones drive most people crazy when I place them in a tea towel-lined basket, steaming hot, with my homemade jam and butter.

With the price of groceries so high at the moment, what are a few tips/suggestions for smart shopping?

Let what’s a great price determine what you’re cooking. For example, a bag of reduced-price mushrooms makes a great sauce or soup, and pumpkin soup is very affordable with a little bacon – pumpkins are cheap at the moment. Think underground veggies – carrots, parsnips, swedes etc – and be mindful protein is expensive so try to fill up on vegetables.

Spend more time searching out good food bargains and less time cooking – chicken drumsticks are often a great price and popular: marinate in soy, honey and sesame oil, or the marinade for lamb for the barbecue in my cookbook Best Recipes will work a treat.

Another good budget option is comfort puddings – everything from apple crumble to rice pudding can be delicious and inexpensive.

And with all your cooking try to use everything – for example cooking broccoli for dinner – chop up the thick part of the stalk and add to the soup pot. Soups are a great way to use up leftovers and help keep you feeling full!

A favourite/memorable dish or product you’ve had in the South Island?

Where do I start? I love all the South Island seafood and lamb… but years ago I met Rangiora’s Lynda Bellaney at the Christchurch Food Show selling her terrific Billies herb seasonings. This incredible lady teaches cooking and creates all these amazing pantry essentials, and having got to know each other over her great products she now helps me with my cooking demos at the Christchurch Food Show. You will
love meeting her.

On that note, what can we expect to see from you at The Food Show?

Fun-filled, informative cooking tips and simple delicious ideas you can easily make at home for friends and family.

My goal is for everyone to leave feeling they can easily make the dish presented and hopefully learn perhaps 10 tips that will help them in the kitchen.

See Annabelle White at The Christchurch Food Show, August 19-21, Christchurch Arena.

Annabelle White’s fruit buttermilk scones

(MAKES 15 SCONES).

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups self-raising flour (always use a good flour, such as Champion)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 80g very cold (from freezer) butter
  • 1½ – 1¾ cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup dried fruit (craisins, currants, sultanas, raisins and thinly chopped dried apricots work well)

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C fan bake. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt in a bowl and grate in butter, and with clean hands work the butter into the flour until the mixture is fully integrated and resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Shake the buttermilk. With a knife add the buttermilk, with the dried fruit. Keep the mixture wet. Add more buttermilk if necessary. Use knife to mix. If the mix is too wet for you to work easily – simply add a little flour. If you are getting more confident go with them slightly wetter, you can always add another drop of buttermilk.
  3. Place the mixture on a floured bench and gently pat out into shape with a quick knead (about 3 pats only) and cut into pieces and place on a baking tray, close together.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Once they are coloured they are done! Serve with butter and good jam.

COOK’S TIPS

  • Don’t use the food processor for this recipe – make the scones by hand – it produces a better result.
  • Have the mix slightly wetter than you would think is normal – it should be borderline “I think I need more flour” stage rather than dry, but you do need to cut and handle easily.
  • Fan bake does work best with scones – but any good hot oven… whatever you have! Place the scones on the tray fairly close together. If they join up in the baking process you will have a very moist scone, and on the softer side.
  • Have buttermilk on hand in the fridge – it has a long fridge life and you can use it even two to three weeks past the best by date without any problem in a good cold fridge.
  • Use a knife and turn the bowl to mix the liquid with the flour – saves over-working the gluten in the mix. This will produce a lighter scone.
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