An easy scone recipe
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It's probably one of the most popular traditional Irish recipes you'll ever come across as it uses buttermik, but I've given the option to use ordinary or sour milk if needs be. Obviously this does have some slight effect on taste, but you'll be delighted with the results whichever you use.
My Mam often made them with sour milk in the summer because the milk had often 'turned' before it reached our table. Although she, like most folk of her generation, could happily drink milk in any condition from skimmed, buttermilk to the thickest, most sour liquid us kids hated sour milk. So rather than waste it, scones were on the menu!
Come winter, we were back to the buttermilk option. And still no complaints!
Milk and superstitionIn ancient Ireland, milk and milk products were known as bán-bhia, meaning white meat. As the name suggests, milk played a major role in the early Irish diet whether as fresh milk, sour milk, buttermilk, cream, butter, curds or cheese. This meant that someone with healthy livestock and an abundance of milk supply was most likely prosperous. Someone who had neither was more likely to live in poverty.
Because milk was so important, the uneducated tended to blame witchcraft or the fairies from the Otherworld when their cattle dried up or their milk yield reduced for no apparent reason. Over time, milk became the subject of many customs and superstitions probably more so than any other food.
One of these superstitions survives today: the spilling of milk. It means bad luck, and it's had that conotation for centuries, whether it was spilt by someone by design or accident.
But if a cow upturned a churn, it meant the milk was needed by the fairy folk (and it was always best to appease them).
Find out more about Buttermilk and how our Irish ancestors valued it.
Make a well in the centre and add the beaten egg and most of the milk. Mix gently with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead very gently into a round shape. Roll this to about ¾-inch (2cm) thickness.
Cut into triangles of up to 2-inch wide or use a round fluted cutter.
Place on a floured tray, spacing well apart (you might need two trays for this quantity) and glaze with leftover milk or beaten egg. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the scones have risen and are golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack and serve, while warm if possible, with butter and jam.
For a fruity version, add 2-4oz (50-100g) of sultanas or cherries plus the same quantity of caster sugar and mix them with the other dry ingredients.