When my sister was in second grade, the class was discussing manners and the teacher asked: “What do you bring the hostess when you go for a visit?” Now, at that time our parents led a busy social life and had visitors all the time, so my sister raised her hand and answered with confidence: “A bottle of wine!”
It turned out that the answer the teacher wanted to hear was “a bouquet”. My sister was rather angry with our parents about that…
So, now that I’m a grown-up (or pretend to be anyway), what do I bring the hostess when I go for a visit? More often than wine, I bring a bouquet. One of the reasons that I grow so many cut flowers is that I can give away extravagant fragrant bouquets, grown locally and organically. I once wrote an article on growing your own cut flowers, where, in the beginning, I pointed out how beneficial that is for the environment, since flowers are sprayed excessively and travel so much – and that sentence was cut because, you know, the Netherlands is number one flower-exporter (even though most of the Dutch flower growing businesses reside in Africa and elsewhere). But since nobody’s editing my posts, here you go!
The problem is, that in our climate, we can make bouquets from our garden from about April to September, but we go for visits in other months, too. I don’t dare to pick wine for my far more wine-savvy friends – a problem my parents’ friends hardly had, because they lived in a communist country where the choice of wine was very limited as was everybody’s income, and unless you had an uncle in Moravia with a vineyard, nobody had any expectations about the quality of the wine you brought them.
So: no wine, no flowers – what do you do? Bake cookies, of course. Because homemade cookies are always better than store bought cookies (unlike homemade wine). Or biscuits. And if your recipe comes from the great Ottolenghi, the biscuits will be better than good – they’ll be excellent. Melting as only an eggless combination of butter and cheese can melt. But the thing I liked most about these was the pretty crunchy poppy seed crust. And their compatibility with wine, provided by the hosts.
I have made many Ottolenghi recipes, most of them went on repeat in our household. As will this one. For the Cranberry walnut biscotti recipe see here.
One year ago: African pumpkin soup with curry
Parmesan and poppy biscuits
From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
Makes about 35
210 g (1 2/3 cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp paprika
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
165 g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
165 g (6 oz.) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
80 g (1/4 cup) poppy seeds
1 egg, beaten
Sift the flour, baking powder, paprika and cayenne into a bowl and add the salt and pepper.
Mix the softened butter with the Parmesan until they are well blended. I did this by hand, but you can also use a freestanding mixer with paddle attachment. Add the flour mixture and continue mixing until a soft dough is formed.
Put the dough on a well-floured work surface and divide in half. Use plenty of flour, both on your hands and on the work surface, to roll each piece into a long log, 3-4 cm in diameter. Wrap each log in cling film and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes ti firm up.
Scatter the poppy seed over a flat plate or a tray. Brush the logs with the beaten egg and then roll them in the poppy seeds until covered.
Refrigerate again for 1 hour (at this stage you can also wrap the logs and freeze them).\Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (Gas mark 3/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit). Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Cut the logs into slices 5-8mm thick and arrange them on the tray, spaced 3m apart. Bake for about 12 minutes. The biscuits should be dark golden and smell amazing! Leave to cool completely before serving, or storing in a tightly sealed container.