Last week was a baking blitz. I spent hours upon hours in the kitchen, preparing for a small family goodbye party. My only brother, his wife and three adorable children are going back to England for a few years. They are going to do important community work there and I am very proud of them, but they will leave a big hole behind them.
I can’t imagine them not being here. I will miss their warm hospitality, advice and chats, and my gorgeous nieces and nephew, who dazzle me with their intelligence and joyful silliness; and who often greet me by throwing themselves on me yelling, “DODA DOH DODA DOH” (a derivative of Aunt Jo in Hebrew).
The party provided the obvious excuse for me to put on my apron, get busy in the kitchen, and try some new recipes along with those tried and tested favourites.
We served desserts, nibbles and drinks including: crudites with various dips, parmesan and poppy biscuits, pitta triangles and humous, mocha bars, white chocolate and cranberry biscuits, plum dimple cake, lemon tart with a chocolate crust, Mango and coconut muffins, raspberry and rosewater meringues, cherries, grapes and watermelon…
Is your mouth watering? Mine was on Thursday…
Despite a few disasters, everything turned out well. I was especially pleased with the parmesan and poppy bicuits. They look elegant, taste delicious, and are somewhat addictive, making them perfect with drinks at cocktail parties, or as an appetizer with dips. A little fiddly, but definitely worth it for a special occasion.
PARMESAN AND POPPY BISCUITS
from the Ottolenghi Cookbook
For the freshest of biscuits, alway keep a log of the dough in the freezer ready to defrost and bake. The poppy seeds are not essential but they do make the biscuits a bit more celebratory.
210g plain flour, plus plenty extra for dusting
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp paprika
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
165g unsalted butter, at room temperature
165g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
80g poppy seeds
1 egg, beaten
1. Sift the flour, baking powder, paprika and cayenne into a bowl and add the salt and pepper.
2. Mix the softened butter with the Parmesan until they are well blended. I did this by hand, using a spatula, but you could use a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the dry ingredients and continue mixing until a soft dough is formed.
3. Put the dough on a well-floured work surface and divide it in half. Use plenty of flour, both on your hands and on the work surface, to roll each piece into a log, 3-4cm in diameter. Wrap each log in cling film and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm it up.
4. Scatter the poppy seeds over a flat plate or tray. Brush the logs with the beaten egg and then roll them in the poppy seeds until covered. Refrigerate again for an hour (at this stage you can also wrap the logs and freeze them).
5. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Cut the logs into slices 5-8mm thick and arrange them on the tray, spaced 3 cm apart. I found this part tricky; you need to be very light-handed.
6. Bake for 12 minutes. The biscuits should be dark golden and smell amazing! Leave to cool completely before serving, or storing in a tightly sealed container.
Next up…Lemon tart with chocolate crust and the mystery of the delicious orange crisps with a strangely bitter aftertaste…