On Monday night I was invited to an event by foodie campaigners Slow Food UK. They are on a mission to preserve our food heritage, and one of their aims is to encourage people to cook so-called ‘forgotten foods’. They invited chef Anna Hansen from London restaurant The Modern Pantry to come and cook with some of these foods, including quince and einkorn flour, to show us how it’s done.
I have eaten at Anna’s restaurant and have her rather wonderful cookbook, too. But seeing her cook in real life, and talk about how she approaches flavours and ingredients was inspirational. Her trademark style is to combine flavours from the ‘global larder’, so – rather than saying that wasabi is Japanese, and can therefore only go with Japanese food, for example, she thinks carefully about how individual flavours combine, and might add wasabi to a dish that we think of as being typically French, with surprising and delicious results – and trust me, I have tasted her food, it’s amazing.
At the demo she cooked a wonderful-smelling and delicious lamb dish, and used the most incredible array of herbs and spices, and I came home to my kitchen keen to try using spices with a renewed vigour. So, I was going to make lemon shortbread for you this week, but inspired by Anna Hansen, I bring you Orange Cardamom Shortbread, which is completely lovely (and actually quite addictive!), and the children and I have already devoured much of the shortbread Jenga you see before you. Good food is not a game!
Orange Cardamom Shortbread
Makes about 12 pieces (each one slightly bigger than a Jenga piece)
I’d like to start by saying that shortbread is Very Easy To Make, so perfect for the one-handed cook, who may be trying to do several other things at the same time while also trying to make shortbread (ring any bells?). Or if you have a window of time while the little one is happily watching Peppa Pig, say, this is very quick to whip up. Perfect for a bake sale, a coffee morning, for you, for your granny, hell, you could even wrap some in greaseproof paper then wrap in some pretty fabric with a bit of ribbon and give it as a Christmas present.
You need a hand mixer and a baking tin measuring approx. 8” x 8” x 1½” – assuming you have these, you can get this made and in the oven in about 10 minutes – I kid you not.
150g soft butter
60g caster sugar
250g plain flour
Seeds from 6 cardamom pods (split open, remove seeds and pound in pestle & mortar)
Zest of an orange, finely chopped
What to do
- Heat the oven to 170°C/150°C Fan/325°F. Grease and line your baking tin (or use Cake Release by Lakeland if you can’t be bothered with the faff).
- Cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
- Gradually stir in the flour and the ground cardamom seeds until your mixture is light and crumbly. Tip mixture into baking tin.
- Use your fingers to press the mixture into the tin and then the palms of your hands to smooth the top. Mark out fingers with a sharp knife, but don’t cut right through. Prick each finger a couple of times with a fork.
- If you have the time and the inclination, you can brush each finger with a little beaten egg and sprinkle more caster sugar on top before baking in the oven for 25–30 mins. Cool in the tin on a rack.
Leave Peppa Pig DVD playing, sit down and enjoy with a nice cup of tea.