When I look back on the earlier months of this blog I was surprised at how prodigious I was at turning out post after post. There was one month where I posted a whopping 25 entries, which to me now seems unfathomable and seeing as how the number of posts per month have now dwindled to less than half of that record number, I am quite surprised how much free time I had to cook and blog. I guess I am a little more discerning on what I post about and noticed that I do not quite readily post about any old recipe I find on the back of a soup can.
Where did all that time for baking and blogging go?
I was judging the December DMBLGIT just last week and thought about when the last time I had this much time to just pore over more than 100 photographs. I was sitting there at about photo 31 and thought that this is really fun, just sitting here, all this time on my hands and no pressure to do anything with it.
And as I bit into my fourth, no wait fifth cheddar biscuit, I thought this is something I could really get used to- endless summer holidays, seemingly wasting hours on leisurely things. Even though our summer has been a little wayward, and somewhat recalcitrant, the summer holiday vibe has certainly set in. The days, although some are cloudy and bleak are definitely longer and the summer heat, although not as potent, makes it shorts and thongs (flip flops, for you Americans) weather all the way. If only there was a way of hanging on to summer and all this free time.
Well in the free time that I managed to garner during my break, I decided to make use of the nigella seeds that had been sitting in my spice rack for some time now, unopened and untouched. I have never used Nigella seeds in anything before, and prior to that all I knew of Nigella was of the celebrity chef. The first thing that stood out at me were the seeds' deep coal-black colour and it seems that it's name was derived from the Latin word nigellus, meaning black.
The seeds jet-black exterior can seem a little menacing at first, but when you actually put your nose to it, you will find a very delicate peppery fragrance that comes out of them. It is when the seeds are actually rubbed or ground that a more robust bouquet is released somewhat reminiscent of onion seeds.
The seeds are mainly used in the Middle East and India in certain spice blends and to flavour their doughs. And I actually do remember buying some naan bread at an Indian take-away with black seeds scattered on top of the bread. Although at the time I thought this was merely sesame seeds that were burned while baking in the hot tandoori oven. How I was wrong.
These biscuits were a nice change from the baking that I have been doing of late. Christmas tends to bring out the sweet and rich recipes but after Christmas your body is crying out for something lighter and less sugar-laden. These biscuits are perfect for tea time. Just the right amount of crumble when you bite into them and you can wash it down with your favourite tea, be it Green, Orange Pekoe or Russian caravan.
The apple chutney that accompanies the biscuits is entirely optional, although it is quite a cinch to make. Just place all the ingredients in a saucepan and off it goes. The spiced green apple is somewhat like a chutney, it is flavoured with chilli and spices and a a great way to preserve a surplus of apples.
Just place a dollop of the spiced apples on the biscuits and you will find an explosion of flavour, sweet and savoury all at once. And what about the Nigella seeds in the biscuits? Well their flavour is quite mild but certainly adds a pepperiness to the biscuits that would be lacking with just the cheddar. The saltiness of the cheddar and the peppery taste of the Nigella seeds is a perfect balance of two flavours that usually go hand in hand.
Cheddar and nigella seed biscuits with spiced green apple
Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
Makes up to 70
FOR THE BISCUITS
225g plain all-purpose flour
150g unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
100g vintage cheddar, finely grated
½ tsp nigella seeds
1 egg yolk
FOR THE SPICED GREEN APPLE
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into eight wedges and thinly sliced widthways
180ml cider vinegar
110g granulated sugar
3 star anise
¼ cup water
1 tsp sea salt
1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
MAKING THE SPICED GREEN APPLE
Place the apples and ¼ cup vinegar in a small bowl.
Heat remaining vinegar, sugar, star anise, water and sea salt in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Add apple mixture and chilli.
Return to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook gently, without stirring, for 1 hour or until liquid is almost reduced.
Cool and store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator until required.
Makes about 1 cup.
NOTE: Spiced green apple will keep for up to 1 month and can be substituted with a good-quality fruit chutney.
MAKING THE BISCUITS
Place flour, butter, cheddar and nigella seeds in a bowl and using fingers rub butter through flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Alternatively you can use a food processor.
Add egg yolk and mix until combined.
Turn dough onto a clean surface and knead gently until smooth.
Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface until 3mm-thick and using an 4cm-diameter fluted cutter cut out shapes and place on oven trays prepared with baking paper.
Form remaining dough into a ball, roll and repeat.
Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
Cool on tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Serve biscuits with spiced green apple.