I think it was the late great James Barber I first heard say "do the best you can with what you've got."
Many are taking the meaning of that advice to heart, even if they'd never seen his TV show The Urban Peasant: some hang on to their current car or eschew the once de rigueur gas-guzzling behemoths, brown-bagged lunches replace cafeteria or some restaurant lunches and (unfortunately) people are paring back on their charitable donations.
It's a sad reality: When money is tight, the "extras" go away. And to many people, this includes donations to charity. Unfortunately, it's times like these where community organisations such as food banks and soup kitchens are hit especially hard: increased usage and decreased donations. They too, must do the best with what they've been given.
I think Supertramp sang it best:
So give a little bit
Give a little bit of your time to me
Now’s the time that we need to share
So send a smile, we’re on our way back home
I'm pretty proud of being with a group of people who believe in community. Each year a gang gets together and participates in a Habitat For Humanity build. Each year they seem to get involved in different stages of the build. Sometimes they frame, sometimes they landsape, sometimes install windows. Notice I say "they."
Truth be told, I'd love to participate, but allergies and a bad back keep me from weilding a hammer, filling a wall with insulation or cutting bits of wood. Whenever I'm asked if I'll participate, I answer "What, do you really want me with power tools?" Ironically the mental image of me with a table saw or drill seems to strike panic in the hearts of many. Here's a secret: I may not be the best with corded tools, but I'm not the worst...definitely not worst...but I don't like to tell people these things.
Since I can't be on site, I still find a way of giving a little bit to the effort. I bake for the crew. Each time I've done this, I try and come up with a batch of something sweet and another batch of something savoury. My thinking is a) not everyone likes sweet (or savoury) and b) since these builds can happen on very hot days the savoury is probably a good alternative to the inevitable bar cookies and tarts that the very lovely and diligent church ladies provide as part of lunch.
This year's H4H build took place a couple of weeks ago. Instead of doing sweet and savoury muffins, I decided to play with my basic scone recipe. Well...it's not my basic scone recipe...it belongs to Tamasin Day-Lewis. The first batch was a pretty standard currant scone, sprinkled with sugar. Don't get me wrong--it was good and people liked it.
But apparently it was the savoury version that won the day...well, snacktime.
This year's savoury was an impromptu treat--put together with what I had lying around...doing the best with what I had, so to speak. Curried apple with cheddar.
Although I think of it as a pretty standard flavour combination, it was a pleasant surprise to many. Spicy, tangy and just a little sweet, these scones are a nice change from the same-old, same old.
Curried Apple and Cheddar Scones
Makes about two dozen, depending upon the size of your scones
butter and oil for sautéing
1 dspn curry powder, divided
1 onion, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 garlic clove minced
1 Tbsp sugar
150ml plain yoghurt mixed with 150ml milk
1 dspn cream of tartar
450g plain flour
85g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 dspn bicarbonate of soda
100g cheddar, grated
one well beaten egg
Heat the butter and oil and then stir in one teaspoon of curry powder and fry for about 30 seconds. Add the onions and keep stirring until soft. Add the apples and cook until soft. Add the cinnamon, garlic and the rest of the curry powder. Let everthing cook through and taste, adding as much sugar and salt as your palate dictates. Take off the hob and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F. Line and butter a baking pan.
Mix the cream of tartar with the liquid and set aside as you sift together the flour, 1/2 tsp salt and bicarb. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers, as if making pie crust. Add all the liquid to the flour to make a spongy dough.
Spread the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and spread the curried apples and cheddar. Lightly knead the dough so the apples and cheese are well contained. Roll out to about a 2cm thickness and cut with whatever sized cutter you wish.
Transfer to the buttered baking pan and brush with the beaten egg. Let stand for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes before cooling.