Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Striking and Scones

Today I am on strike. Academics around Australia are striking today after stalled negotiations at many universities. The National Tertiary Education Union is concerned about class sizes (some over 500 people for lectures), increased casualisation of workforces (with the attendant job insecurity, lack of decent conditions, leave or superannuation, often going on for many years and with over a full time person's workload for less pay), workload issues, job security, the rights of unions to represent workers in disputes and issues around the workload and classification of administrative staff.

Academics are not paid well compared to what many could earn in the private sector or doing research for private companies. (By the way, we also usually only have 4 weeks holiday a year, not the full uni holidays, as some people assume. Research, teaching preparation and social service requirements take up the time when students aren't on campus.) If the conditions of their employment erode so that the workload is unreasonably high and there is no proper respect and job security for a casualised workforce, there is little incentive for good people to stay in academia, where they benefit all of society by making the fruits of their research public and by teaching the next generation of graduates in all disciplines and professions.

I have a good boss and am not disadvantaged by many of the problems mentioned. But I am a member of the NTEU and support the right of my fellow university workers to decent conditions. So, I am on strike, to support the action.

On a happier note, let's talk about food!

The Australian version of scones is much more old fashioned and plain than the version that I see in American recipe books. They are a round, plain, slightly sweet, heavy bread-like product, a bit like an American biscuit. (By the way, biscuit in Australia = cookie in America). In fact, Australians explain American biscuits by saying "They are a bit like a savoury scone."

Australians put very few flavourings in scones. Common flavours are plain, raisin, date or pumpkin (usually unspiced). Anything else would be viewed as a gimmick. You certainly don't see the wide variety of flavours that Americans seem to put in the wedge shaped sweets that they call scones. Australian scone are also usually round on top, though they may have squared sides from being cooked together. They are also tall, compared to the pictures I have seen of American scones. They are usually served with butter or jam and cream.

So, here are the Australian scones that I made last weekend, served with strawberry jam and Soyatoo canned whipped "cream":

The recipe is again from The Australian Women's Weekly Original Cookbook by "Food Editor Ellen Sinclair" (as it says on the cover).*

Here is the recipe, veganised from the cookbook. Other than vegan ingredient substitutions and the words "half and half", it is transcribed from the recipe in the cookbook.


2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
30g (1 oz) vegan margarine, very cold
3/4 cup mixed soy milk and water [half and half]

Sift flour and salt into basin, stir in sugar. Rub in margarine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Pour nearly all the liquid in at once and mix to a soft dough. (Flours vary in the way they absorb liquid; if the mixture is not soft enough, add remaining liquid.) Place on floured surface and knead lightly. Pat dough out to approximately 2 cm (3/4in.) in thickness, and, using a 5cm (2 in.) cutter, cut into rounds. Place onto a greased oven tray or into a lightly greased 28cm x 18 cm (11 in. x 7 in.) lamington tin, glaze with a little soy milk. Bake in a very hot oven** for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes approx. 12.

*This large omnibus style cookbook is an Australian standard. It covers many basic traditional Anglo-Australian recipe, with a few intermediate or simplified international dishes. I was given a copy pregan, when I first moved out of my parent's place over 20 years ago. It is a handy source of veganisable basic recipes for me.
** 270-190 Celsius or 525-550 Fahrenheit


  1. I was all ready to strike in solidarity with the academics here, but JCU's branch called off the strike because the uni is being surprisingly receptive at the negotiation table. 4% pay rise every year for the next four years! Still issues with work loading, etc. but at least they are getting somewhere.

  2. Loving the scones with jam and cream! Now you just need a nice cup of tea to go with it.

  3. Yum. I'm surprised that they have so little fat! I come from the land of pumpkin scones (Kingaroy).... :)

  4. Mmmm. My other half is a big scone addict (but if I recall correctly, the recipe I usually use has way more margarine!). I must try these one's!

  5. I always seem to have a hard time explaining what biscuits are to my friends.. then baffle it with a Buttermilk Biscuit.. and they think of some strange sort of "cookie".

    The scones look nice!