We have just returned from a short break exploring the bleak and beautiful scenery of Dartmoor as well as Devon’s stunning coastline. Parkers Farm (www.parkersfarmcottages.co.uk) is a family holiday park that I have been visiting with since I was a child. I have used it as a base in the winter months for white water kayaking trips with my husband and some of our more mentally unhinged friends.
With the rivers being low in the summer we decided to do some sea kayaking just out of Dartmouth. One of the reasons I love sea kayaking is that like caving or mountain climbing, it is one of the few ways you can truly escape from everyone and everything in todays modern world. I also have a strange fascination with sea caves and lighthouses which I blame on reading too many of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books as a kid. It is a privilege to get close to the marine life who inhabit the coastline, such as seals, peregrine falcons, dolphins, and otters. My favourite moment was seeing a dolphin less than a metre away from the bow of my kayak, while paddling back into Dartmouth harbour. (If you look very closely at the last photo on this post you might just see the dolphins finn. My boat is the blue one).
Another recommendation for Dartmouth would be Mitch Tonks RockFish Seafood, which won best UK fish and chip shop in the national fish and chip awards 2013. If you fancy something a bit different I would recommend the Fritto Misto, a mix of monkfish, gurnard, prawns, squid and whitebait, fried crisp the Italian way with no batter and just a little flour.
Devon has firmly established itself as having some of the best places to eat out in the UK, and lots of award-winning local producers such as Sharpham Wine and Cheese vineyard and dairy near Totnes. Along with fish, seafood, cheese, wine, pasties and clotted cream ice-cream, Devon wouldn’t be Devon without a cream tea. The exact origin of ‘cream tea’ is disputed, although there is evidence to suggest that the tradition of eating bread with cream and jam already existed at Tavistock Abbey in Devon in the 11th century.
There are regional variations as to how a cream tea should preferably be eaten. The Devon method is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted cream, and then add jam on top, or vice versa. Traditionally it is important that the scones are served warm and that clotted cream rather than butter is used.
Makes approx 8 scones
225g self-raising flour
60g mixed fruit
75g spreadable butter
40g golden caster sugar
1 large egg beaten
3-4 tbsp milk to mix
A baking sheet with a non-stick liner
A 5cm plain or fluted cutter
1) Preheat the oven to 220C, gas mark 7.
3) Sprinkle in the dried fruit, pour in the beaten egg and add 3 tbsp of milk.
4) Mix a dough with a knife, then bring the mixture together using your hands. The dough should be soft, but not a sticky dough, so add more milk a teaspoon at a time if it seems too dry.
5) Mould the dough into a ball with your hands. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.
6) Roll out very light to a thickness of about 3cm with a floured rolling-pin. The thickness is very important. The reason scones don’t rise enough is often because they are rolled too thin.
7) Take the pastry cutter and tap it sharply so that it goes straight through the dough.
8) When you have as many as you can cut out, knead the remaining dough together again and repeat.
9) Place the scones on the baking sheet, dust each one with flour and bake near the top of the oven for 12-15 minutes.
10) When they are done they will have risen and turned a golden brown. Remove them to a cooling tray and serve fresh. Split and spread with clotted cream and jam. Delicious!