Cheese, Onion and Olive Scones

There’s a scene in my new (as yet untitled) novel where the antique dealers from Chipwell Barn Antiques bring everyone together for a Christmas drinks party. Fairy lights are strewn and tea lights flicker in little jars. Trestle tables are fully laden with Christmas nibbles, there’s a pot of mulled wine on the heat and the speakers are blaring Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday.”

The thing is, I’ve always wanted to host one of those Christmas drinks parties, but never have. It’s always been too busy, or we don’t know enough people who are around, or it’s the last minute and nothing’s been planned, or someone else who knows more people has got in first. Plus, it’s usually so hot and the drinks party I have in mind calls for Christmas jumpers rather than humidity swollen ankles. Too much information?

Anyways, in lieu of being able to host the drinks party of my dreams, I wrote about it instead. Sad but true.

One savoury treat that I make at this time of the year that would be on my drinks party menu – and was on the menu at Philly Barker’s drink party at Chipwell Barn – is Delia Smith’s mini cheese, onion and olive scones. Delia’s are the perfect one bite canape; mine, I fear, is a tad bigger. This is partly because I don’t have a teeny scone cutter and partly because I like them better this way.

The olives give a saltiness that is so good with drinks, and the pepper – don’t be shy with the pepper, these are meant to have a bite to them – a moreish piquancy.

Delia recommends spreading them with creamy blue or herb cheese and I agree with that. They are, however, just as good with butter – as, indeed, are most things in life.

What you need

  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 medium onion, diced finely 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp mustard powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • 25g butter
  • 40g parmesan, grated
  • 40g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 6 black olives, stoned and chopped (I’m lazy and use sliced olives out of a jar, chopping them down a tad more)

What you do with it

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Fry the onion in the oil over a high-ish heat until it’s a lovely caramel brown and darkened at the edges – but not burned. Put it to one side to allow it to cool.

Into a large bowl tip the flour, salt, mustard powder, and both the peppers. Mix them with your hand to combine, and then rub in the butter with your fingertips. Once that’s done you can toss in the cooled onions and about two-thirds of the grated cheese (you need to leave some to scatter over the top). Using a table knife stir through to mix evenly. 

Still using the knife, stir through the egg followed by just enough milk to make a soft (not sticky) dough. I find using your hands (which, let’s face it, are already floury) to finish the job is best – it helps you feel the texture of the dough better.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently – taking care not to overwork it – then roll or press it out to about 2cm thick before cutting into rounds, placing each on the prepared tray. Delia says to use a 3cm cutter, but mine is probably double that. Handy tip – tap rather than twist the cutter; twisting it can cause the scones to rise at a lean.

Lightly knead and reroll any trimmings.

Once all the scones are stamped out, brush them with milk, scatter over the remaining cheese, and bake near the top of the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

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