Cheese biscuits. Who doesn’t love ’em? I remember learning to bake cheese biscuits with my English gran when I was the same age as my son is now.
It’s a great recipe to do with kids age 5+ as they can almost do the whole lot by themselves. If they’re reading, get them to read the recipe out and find and measure the ingredients themselves. Use very cold, ice water for binding and keep your hands as cold as possible when mixing the butter and cheese into the flour. Don’t have cutters? Use a shot glass or small tumbler to cut.
The last few weeks have been pretty manic for me, I’ve barely had a weekend off. The plot of land in front of my house is being developed and some stupid bureaucratic HK law says that construction can start at 7am and go to 7pm on Saturdays. The noise and dust has driven me scurrying over to HK side to avoid it all. I’ve also been reviewing a lot for Sassy Mama HK so I haven’t had time to cook or blog and it’s left me with pangs.
I’ve missed my kitchen so much – all the quiet meditation that comes from stirring, chopping, mixing, kneading. As much as I love yoga and all the new found energy that comes with exercise, I find great peace in pouring over recipe books, getting mixing bowls out and measuring. I woke early this morning determined to whack a few things out and get the boy doing some more baking. A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a Pinterest pin of using kids’ plastic dinosaurs to make imprints into biscuits which was a genius idea. The imprint isn’t that strong unless you push down hard but the kids will know it’s there and they love a good stamping!
Looking in my fridge I barely had enough butter to bake much, but I had a lot of cheddar. Then I started casting around for other ingredients to put in, and my eye fell on the last remnants of the pickle jar. This is not the American dill pickle, this is that stalwart of English lunches – Branston pickle.
When I lived in England, it was one of the foods I came to love. It is an acquired taste that divides people, like Marmite. If you’ve ever a teaspoon of it, it can taste too sour and looks like something dredged up from a primeval swamp. Basically it’s a pickled chutney made up of different vegetables like carrots, onions, cauliflower, swedes (yeh I’m pretty sure I’d have never eaten a swede otherwise), and simmered down into a black, treacly mess.
When eaten with cheese and apple, it transforms magically by some alchemical reaction into a delight for your tastebuds. People may look down on British food as being lesser than the other European cuisines, which is so wrong. With the current crop of chefs like Tom Aikens, Jason Atherton, Lee Westcott, Angela Hartnett, Clare Smyth and Anna Hansen making waves in the British dining scene, British cuisine has become far more sophisticated while retaining its simplicity and wholesomeness.
I think there’s something so perfect and right about the simplest of British meals – a Ploughman’s lunch, which is traditionally a hunk of bread, Cheddar, some Branston pickle, and some apple slices. I could eat it every day. It makes me think of English summers, lying in long grass, listening to bees, going for walks along the Dorset coast, (also called Jurassic coast for the number of dinosaur skeletons and ammonites found in the soft clay cliffs), beer gardens and long summer nights when the sun doesn’t set till 10pm.
You can find Branston pickle in HK now, in most of the delis like Great, CitySuper and Taste International. It’s not as cheap as it is back in England, but a little goes a long way, a jar lasts ages – unless of course, you eat pickle every day. By the way, for those who live in the UK, Tesco does a mean Cheese and Pickle Pork Pie which far outstrips some of the more expensive supermarkets… If you’re coming back to HK, get me some please and I’ll love you forever!
- 150 g butter, softened at room temperature
- 175 g or 1 1/2 cups plain flour
- 1 cup grated tasty cheese, I used mature cheddar and parmesan
- 2 tablespoon of Branston pickle
- 1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon of Colman’s mustard powder
- Using a wooden spoon, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy.
- Add remaining ingredients. Mix until they have just come together.
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until dough comes together and forms a smooth ball. Divide into 2 pieces. Roll each piece into a 15cm log. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F. Grease or line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Cut slices from each biscuit log, about 8mm thick. Place on the trays.
- Bake for 12-15 mins until firm and golden. Cool on trays. Store in an airtight container.