Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Thunder and Lightning

I cannot recall where I first came across this - the label on one of the ingredients? - but as soon as I did, it fell into the category of "Can't go wrong". The ingredients are very simple: Honeycomb and clotted cream - "but don't bother about the bread please", as A A Milne once wrote in relation to the honey part. Actually, I do bother about the bread. Ideally, a warm fruit bun. It is my Christmas breakfast of choice and a fitting prelude to the excesses which are to follow.

Further thoughts about clotted cream. I am filled with horror if anyone stirs in the crust on top. On the other hand, I am always delighted to meet someone who dislikes clotted cream, such as my godfather Douglas, because then I can have his share. My aunt Ce-Ce takes the view that there is only one fitting accompaniment to clotted cream: a spoon. She wouldn't bother with the honey. Uncle Brian, on the other hand, would let me have his share of clotted cream. He calls it "cow slime". Jack Spratt...

One of the things I recall about the first ever flight I took - Glasgow to Heathrow - was being presented with a small tub of clotted cream to have with my scone. My father, who had been given one as well, proposed (is that in the middle of suggested and insisted?) that we should share one of the tubs and take the other home for my brother. I agreed but not happily. I regret to report that the tub brought home went sour.

Nigel Slater has an interesting take on it which is that a much better concept than a scone with jam and clotted cream is a croissant with jam and clotted cream. As in so many other things, he is right. Scones are over-rated, a bit virtuous, tiring to chew: possibly a useful antidote to the richness of the cream - but frankly why bother?

Mum made her own clotted cream on a couple of occasions. It involved leaving a heavy flat dish to sit for several days, so she abandoned use of one bathroom which became the dairy. The result was extraordinary: clotted cream but even more so. The nearest commercial equivalent I have ever eaten is some "raw cream" I found once at Borough Market.

I have rarely ventured into Cornwall but when I paid a short visit there a number of years ago, I was determined to take home some clotted cream. I expected to find a modestly-sized, slightly over-priced tub illustrated with pixies or similar. What I found at the junction of a steep road in a very basic grocery store was far better: a large square litre-sized tub, more normally associated in my mind with vanilla ice cream. Packed to the top with thick yellow, granular clotted cream.

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