Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread Biscuits

It’s always good to have a go-to biscuit that is straightforward and not too time consuming to make, but also has an added complexity in taste that makes it stand out from the crowd. This shortbread biscuit ticks all those boxes with flying colours. The flavours of cardamom and pistachio sing to me and the partnership is one to be jubilant about. I find it’s great to make a batch and freeze (before cooking) some of the dough, wrapped in cling film, that you are not needing, until you want to make another batch at a later date. At this stage simply remove from the freezer and let it defrost before making incisions into the dough to make your biscuits.

With the festive season almost upon us, I also find that they are a great offering to give to friends that you are visiting either wrapped in brown baking parchment, tied with some vintage twine or red ribbon, or placed in a sealed jar. Either way, the effort and initiative will definitely bring a smile upon the receiver.

Pistachio and Cardamom Shortbread Biscuits

sourced from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

Makes around 30

8 cardamom pods

200g unsalted butter

25g ground rice

240g plain flour

1/2 tsp of salt

35g icing sugar

60g shelled pistachio nuts

1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp vanilla sugar

1. Crush the cardamom pods, using a pestle and mortar and once the seeds have been released remove the skins and then crush the seeds into a fine powder. The smell is sensational.

2. Place the butter, ground rice, flour, salt , ground cardamom and icing sugar in an electric mixer and whisk until the ingredients have bound together to create a ball shape and immediately transfer the dough onto a cold surface sprinkled with a little flour. (see photo below)

3. Using your hands roll the dough into a log shape. If you want really large round biscuits then keep the the log short in length, however, if you would prefer small or medium sized biscuits then elongate the dough further. There is no hard and fast rule on how large the biscuits need to be. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for over an hour.

4. Meanwhile, place the pistachio nuts into the electric mixer and give them a quick wizz so that they are broken up slightly. If you do it for too long they will become too fine!

5. Place the crushed pistachio nuts on a flat surface and take the cling film off  the dough (and place the cling film to one side) and brush the log with the beaten egg. Now roll the dough over the top of the pistachio nuts; you may need to give a helping hand and place a few pistachio nuts into the side of the dough. Put the same cling film back on the dough log and place back into the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Remove the cling film and using a sharp knife cut the dough log into even slices and place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, placing them 2cm apart. Dust the biscuits with vanilla sugar and place in the oven for around 20 minutes so that they are golden, but not bronzed. Keep a close eye on them.

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely as they will harden as they cool. If you pick them up before they are cool they may well crumble. Once they have cooled store in a sealed jar or container for up to a week.

Rolled out the dough log on a cold surface sprinkled with flour

Roll out the cold dough log over the pistachio nuts

Place the biscuits slightly further apart (2cm) than I have done above or they will begin to join together.

I was pretty lucky but it got close ;0)

Baked and ready to eat


Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

Foodies in London will be very familiar with the names Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who first set up the successful deli/bakery/patisserie cum restaurant  called ‘Ottolenghi’ back in 2002 in Notting Hill.  Their passion and flair for cooking was evident from the start and their venture soon became a food lovers magnet, in particular I remember the mounds of mouth watering salads piled high on large dishes for you to help yourself to. We are not talking about a few lettuce leaves with tomatoes and cucumbers thrown in. Oooooooooh no, their salads were, and in fact still are, on a whole different playing field. They are the most imaginative and more-ish that you will come across, to the extent that it is actually hard to decide which to tuck into. Decisions, decisions!

In 2010 Yotam published a book dedicated to vegetarian food called ‘Plenty’ and a number of his salads were put into the book. It’s beautifully put together and I am convinced it would persuade even the most carnivorous amongst you to try some of the recipes. He has in many respects made vegetarian food, and indeed salads, look sexy.

Today they now have four delis as well as launching a very successful restaurant called, Nopi.  Basically they are on a roll and London cannot get enough of their talents. That is not to say that Yotam and Sami only cook vegetarian food, far from it. Their cooking is heavily influenced from their childhoods in Israel and their style of cooking definitely has a Mediterranean edge to it, with wonderful meat and fish dishes to whet the appetite.  They cook all the kind of dishes that I am attracted to – basically ones that are full of bold flavours, which they describe rather endearingly as the ‘noisy’ flavours: ‘lemon, pomegranate, garlic and chilli’. The other cookbook, which is a definite must for those who like their style of honest cooking, is ‘Ottolenghi, The Cookbook‘. They also have a new book,  ‘Jerusalem’, in the wings, launching later this year, which I am looking forward to buying.

It was from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook that I discovered ‘Roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey’. I was immediately attracted to the recipe as it had a wonderful range of interesting ingredients – in particular I like the fact that it had ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon, hazelnuts, honey and rosewater. I had never cooked with rosewater until I started cooking this recipe; I love the fragrance  and subtleness that it brings to the dish.  The  exotic smells coming from the oven takes me back to happy times exploring Morocco and the Atlas mountains.

 Roast Chicken with saffron, hazelnuts and honey

Sourced from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

Serves 4

10 chicken thighs (or a combination of wing, leg and thighs)

2 onions, roughly chopped,

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g unskinned hazelnuts

75g honey

2 tbsp rosewater

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

1. Trim the fat of the chicken thighs and then mix in a bowl with the chopped onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, pepper and salt. Leave to marinate in the fridge for over an hour –  or overnight if you are really well organised. I wasn’t so left it in the fridge for a couple of hours!

2. In a preheated over – 180 degrees if using a fan oven (10 degree hotter if not), place the hazelnuts on a tray to roast for 10 minutes.

3. Roughly chop the roasted hazelnuts – I give them a quick wizz with my hand blender and set aside.

4. Place the chicken, skin side up, in an ovenproof dish/roasting tray in the oven with the onions and juice surrounding it and leave to cook for 35 minutes.

5. In a new bowl mix the honey, rosewater and nuts to create a rough paste. When the 35 minutes cooking time for the chicken is up, spread the paste over the chicken and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown.

6. Whilst the chicken is cooking for the final 10 minutes, put on the rice/or prepare the cous cous.

7. Serve the chicken with either rice or cous cous and garnish with spring onions – I preferred to do this over the cous cous. There will be plenty of sauce full of deliciousness to serve over the chicken.