I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while, since my enthusiasm for festive food got the best of me far before it was acceptable, but the tightness of my jeans indicates it is time.
These little darlings are based on traditional Croatian Christmas biscuits – the inclusion of black pepper sounds a little odd but it gives a subtle warmth to the biscuits, which are similar to gingerbread and have a comforting softness to them.
As I inherited a slight walnut allergy from my mother, along with sturdy thighs and a love of food, I switched out the traditional walnuts in favour of pecans. I also used a tiny squirrel cutter instead of the wooden moulds they’d be made with in Croatia, because the tiny squirrel was too cute to resist.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m unashamedly a feeder. Pretty much anyone who has visited our flat will attest to that. It’s a trait that I get from my mother, and which means that no-one escapes through those doors without having been fed at the very least a custard cream, because this is the level at which we like to keep our biscuit tin. Continue reading →
A couple of weeks ago, my flatmate and I had a late night reminisce about high school. For both of us, it wasn’t a particularly positive chat: we were, predictably, a bit weird. But some of our biggest regrets were losing touch with the teachers we looked up to, the ones who imparted wisdom that wasn’t on the curriculum.
It’s strange, the things that stick with you. French and Spanish have both leaked from my memory now, verb formations jumbled beyond help; only nuggets of medical history remain; my hands no longer feel comfortable wrapped around a paintbrush. The lessons my teachers tried to give us are long forgotten, while fragments of conversation stick around.
The one that’s stuck with me the most came from my art teacher, a woman who encouraged us all indiscriminately and overlooked the fact that I occasionally sneaked supplies out of the classroom, inks and quills I still use now.
“You have to understand the rules before you can break them.”
As someone who was incredibly wary of most foods until about the age of 16, houmous was not a food that featured much as I was growing up, much less something that I ever saw myself making.
In England, our houmous flavours are pretty basic. We’re happy to eat lemon & coriander, sweet chilli, and plain houmous, but haven’t yet been adventurous enough to try the flavours seen in other countries, like peanut butter houmous and wasabi houmous. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love it. Sadly, a lot of people don’t realise how easy – and cheap – it is to make.
Admittedly, one stage is a bit of a faff. As recommended by Smitten Kitchen, peeling the chickpeas gives you a nice smooth finish, but it does mean popping each chickpea out of its skin, leaving you with a pile of skins that look remarkably like disposable contact lenses. But if you do it on a Saturday afternoon while watching the Six Nations, you’ll be too mesmerised by the thighs sport to notice the passing of the 10 or so minutes it takes.
The beauty of it is that you can dip your finger in and adapt the seasoning to your taste, to ramp up the paprika or lemon as your tastebuds tell you. It’s also super easy and yet is guaranteed to impress.
Roasted red pepper houmous
1 red pepper
1 tin chickpeas, drained (240g) (only costs about 70p!)
1/3 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Juice of half a lemon
2tbsp olive oil
1) Preheat oven to 180C. Slice pepper into two or three pieces, removing the stalk and seeds, and place in a small baking tray. Roast for around 30 minutes, until soft.
2) While the pepper is roasting, peel the chickpeas by squeezing them between forefinger and thumb.
3) Remove the pepper from the oven and put the pieces into a food processor along with all the other ingredients. Pulse until smooth.