Since moving to Italy, the month of January has always been a letdown. It’s cold. It gets dark early. And, most of all, it’s lonely, especially after all the Christmas and New Year-related festivities and gatherings come to an abrupt halt. No sooner has La Befana delivered pink and grey candied lumps of ‘coal’ to the country’s children on the 6th January, it’s back to reality and a work-induced hibernation of sorts. Sickness in the form of a flu and a longing for home inevitably sink in, accentuating that sense of isolation.
This time round, I was lucky enough to be back home in Australia, at least for the first half of the month. But, as soon as our plane’s wheels made contact with the runway at Malpensa, I immediately sensed that, once again, January 2018 (or, at least the latter part of it) would be yet another gennaio I’d rather forget. There was our arrival time of 5:55 in the morning. That, in my personal long haul travelling experience, didn’t augure well for adjusting to the ten hour time difference. I also hadn’t slept much, another warning sign of impending jetlag.
Sure enough, over the next week, I found myself waking up at 3am every morning. The first couple of mornings, TT kept me company. On the floor of our living room, we put the pieces of her farm and princess puzzles together until TP joined us, complaining that he hadn’t been able to get back to sleep after waking at 4:30. Once TT returned to school though, her body clock reset to GMT +1 without any trouble. That left me with two choices for passing the time until dawn: 1. Finish the heavy-going Umberto Eco novel I was halfway through; 2. make scones for everyone for breakfast.
Obviously, I chose the latter. It had, after all, been the lone food-related obsession I allowed myself while pottering around mum’s and nonna’s kitchens during my holiday. Perfecting the seemingly simple breakfast scone I loved spreading butter and jam on for breakfast or morning tea.
Don’t go like a bull at the gate, treat the dough gently. Use straight, not crimped 6 cm cutters. Always use milk or cream brought to room temperature. Always sift the flour. Push cutters straight down for scones that rise more evenly. Twist the cutters down for higher scones. These were just some of the occasionally contradictory tips I’d picked up from the Country Women’s Association, my mother and Stephanie Alexander over the past month going through my head as I preheated the oven to the requisite high temperature as TP and TT slept, oblivious to the activity about to take place. I then placed a wet tea-towel underneath my wooden board, to prevent any slippages and unwelcome noises as I brought flour, baking powder, salt and milk together as gently as possible before the break of day.
Ingredients (makes about 15 scones with a 6 cm diameter)
- 500 g sifted plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 330 mL room temperature milk (or buttermilk), plus extra for brushing
- 10 g (2 tsp) baking powder
- a pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 220°C and line a large rectangular tray with baking paper. In a mixing bowl, bring flour, baking powder, salt and milk together gently until just combined. Transfer dough to a clean and lightly dusted work surface and roll or pat out gently until 2.5 cm thick. Using a 6 cm cookie cutter, cut into rounds and place close together on a lined baking tray. Brush tops with milk and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve warm with butter, whipped or clotted cream, a red fruit jam and tea, for breakfast or morning/afternoon tea.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed another slight deviation from this blog’s theme of Italian food and traditions. Travelling, even when it’s returning ‘home’, can be so inspiring. And, my way of going back almost always entails recreating the food I’ve encountered, or in the case of Australia, rediscovered. So, do stay tuned for the another seasonal recipe from my home country later this year. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some Australian snapshots and memories (not all food-related!) that bring me so much pleasure when looking back.
- Picking strawberries with TT at Turners Beach.
- Admiring the driftwood while walking along the shoreline in Leith before sunset.
- Being swept away by the wind in the town of Stanley.
- Visiting the stunning sandstone town of Ross.
- Taking TT on her first ‘hike’ in Cradle Mountain National Park.
- Trying my hand at Christmas wreath-making with Tea Tree leaves and branches.
- Seeing a colony of fairy penguins after dark in Lillico.
- Meeting fellow Italo-Australian bloggers Carmen Pricone of The Heirloom Chronicles and Paola Bacchia of Italy On My Mind in person at last over lunch in Fitzroy. Later this year, Carmen will be coming to Turin and Paola’s second cookbook about Adriatic cooking will be released, two things I’m very excited about!
- Eating some seriously good gelato at Collingwood’s Piccolina.
- Sampling De Chirico’s pastries and other baked goods in St Kilda.
- Going for leisurely walks along that beachside suburb’s iconic pier after sunrise.
- Eating more amazing icecream at Braddon’s Mr Frugii.
- Visiting the former shipyards and penal colony on Cockatoo Island, another sandstone marvel and part of Sydney I’d never seen before.
- Getting around Sydney and Melbourne so much more easily thanks to prepaid Myki and Opal Cards.
- Relaxing with family and friends across southeastern Australia like no time had passed since making my way to Europe over thirteen years ago.