Much and all as I love winter (and I really do, snuggly warmth, electric blankets, woolly hats to hide less than pristine hair, no worrying about shaving the legs every other day, Christmas, roast dinners and rich casseroles - fab), there is the issue of the children. Namely, they require more entertaining as the weather is worse just turfing them out into the garden with paddling pool and the like is no longer such a viable option.
|Two thoroughly over-excited little sous-chefs|
One thing we love to do in winter is cook together. Baking is a no brainer - cookies take up a whole afternoon and then of course you have a delicious result to deal with. We do make an effort to cook with the children as well, so that it's not just all about sweet treats: chicken schnitzel (or goujons or nuggets or whatever you call it your house) is a great one, as they love getting their fingers all gooey with the dipping in egg and breadcrumbs ritual. But the real treat is, of course, baking.
Cookies are ideal - they are quick and easy to make, the children are well able to help stir the flour and they especially love helping to roll out the dough (and sneaking it into their mouths when Mum's back is turned!). I posted a gorgeous chocolate cookie recipe here before, but we can't make the same thing every time. I was also looking for a handy dessert - it was meant to be "date night" and I had already vetoed Himself's selection of sticky toffee pudding in Superquin (having had a gorgeous one the previous night while on a rare night out with my DinnerLady partner and some others). He was so crestfallen, I had to make something, but of course I had feic all ingredients to hand and also not a lot of time. Flicking through Nigella Lawson's "Domestic Goddess" book, I considered the peanut cookies I'd made before that I know he loves - but I wasn't feeling the love for peanut. There's also the Snickerdoodles recipe, but again, I didn't have the love for the nutmeg and cinnamon flavour. And then I noticed this recipe, for "Granny Boyd's Biscuits". What dragged me in was the mention in her little recipe intro piece that she, Nigella, doesn't "think there is any more chic an accompaniment to a tub of good vanilla ice cream ... dark, smoky and melting". I knew we had a tub of the seriously yummy Lidl stractiatella (or "scratch-me-telly", as the girls call it!) ice cream in the freezer - so decision made.
Oh lads n lassies - they are lovely! Now, the chocolate chip cookies are still fabulous, but these are a little bit more sophisticated. I only cooked half the batch of dough last night, but still there were only three cookies left this morning. And this morning at about 9.30am, sitting up in bed with the papers (Himself was gone for his weekend sea swim - yup, certifiable) the two little minxes landed up with the three cookies - "one each, Mummy" - how could I refuse?! It was a naughty and nice little treat for us! So tonight I cooked off the other half, and we had them with some more ice cream after our roast chicken... what can I say, I was very popular!
So, here's the recipe (ps, apparently "Granny Boyd" is the granny of Nigella's editor Eugenie Boyd, who gave her the recipe).
Granny Boyd's Biscuits
- 300g self raising flour
- 30g cocoa powder
- 250g soft butter
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 baking sheets, greased; and preheat the oven to 170C
- Mix the flour and cocoa in a bowl and leave to one side
- Cream the butter and sugar until pale and soft, then work in the flour and cocoa (I did this with the electric hand mixer on a low setting). It might look like it needs liquid,but keep working the ingredients in and it will form a dough
- Roll into walnut sized balls (perfect job for little helpers) and arrange these with a decent space between them (as they'll spread) on the baking sheets, pressing down with the back of the fork to make attractive tine-marks; you will find it helpful to dip the fork occasionally into a glass of water, to stop the dough sticking to the fork
- Now pop the baking sheets in the oven and cook at 170C for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 150C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. It's hard to tell by looking at them when they are done as the dough starts off so dark, but they should feel firm on top, although not hard; they will continue to cook and harden as they cool
- Remove from the oven and transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool
Makes about 35
Sweet and Salty Peanut Biscuits
- 75g light muscovado sugar, plus more for dipping later (I think I used soft dark brown, as that's what I had)
- 100g butter
- 50g vegetable shortening ("Cookeen" or "Trex" or similar - the hard white fat that you might use for pastry)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 175g self raising flour
- 125g salted peanuts
- 2 baking sheets, lined; and preheat the oven to 190C
- In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, butter, shortening, egg and vanilla. Just beat it together, no ceremony, to combine well. You may well find this easier to do with an electric mixer (as I did).
- Stir in the flour and then the peanuts - and that's your dough, done.
- Now drop the dough in rounded teaspoons about 5cm apart onto the prepared bakig sheets.
- Oil the bottom of a glass, or brush with melted butter, and dip it into some more light muscovado sugar and then press getly on the biscuits to flatten them.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, by which time they should be cooked through (though remember that biscuits always continue to cook for a while out of oven), then remove to a wire rack to cook
Makes about 30
With Christmas coming, both of these cookie recipes should be useful for school bake sales / coffee mornings / treats for Santa / homemade presents for adoring grandmothers ... Not to mind a tasty finisher to a weekend family roast dinner.