Sage and cheddar biscuits or, what to do with sage?

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What to do with sage? Make buttery, cheesy sage and cheddar biscuits?  Yes please.

I’ve found myself with a reasonably plentiful supply of fresh sage, which is a new thing.  I have always managed to grow parsley and been left perplexed at how to use the stuff up, but my previous sage attempts have all turned into sad little heaps.

It seems I’m not the only person to pose this question. The lovely Chocolate and Zucchini blog has very helpfully compiled a list of suggestions.  Those of you who have read some of my other cheese-laced ramblings can probably imagine that sage and cheddar biscuits were a stand-out.

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Mmm, cheddar.  Do you know what I love most about cheddar?  It’s those delightful little crunchy bits amongst the dense, savoury cheese.  And recently, I was fascinated to learn  from this wonderful cheese blog, Fromage Homage, that they have a special name….calcium lactate crystals.

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These little biscuits are adapted from this recipe.  They provide a lot of bang for their buck, being so very simple to make but looking most classy served up as a home-made nibble to accompany drinks.  I need to provide you with a warning: they are incredibly buttery.  So much so that you need to have at least two.

Here’s how to make your very own:

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter, chilled and diced
  • 125 grams Cheddar  cheese, grated
  • 125 grams flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius and line two baking trays.

Combine the butter, cheese, flour, sage and pepper in a bowl.  Mix until it forms a ball (I find it easiest to use my hands for this).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to 0.5 cm thickness.  Use a cutter to make into rounds, treating it like a cookie doll by rolling up the offcuts and cutting out more biscuits.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden.  Cool for one minute and then transfer to a baking rack.

Makes 16 biscuits.
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Welsh cakes for St David’s Day

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I always loved visiting Wales when I lived in the UK, and what’s not to love?  Beautiful countryside, that lovely lilting accent and, most importantly, Welsh cakes.

To the uninitiated, these little morsels may present like just another baked good.  I promise you, they are so much more.  Sugary and dotted with currants, they are gently browned like fat little pancakes on a hot bake tone, which in other words is a whacking great slab of cast iron heated on top of the oven elements.

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The secret to the toothsomeness of Welsh cakes lies not just in the sugar, butter and dried fruit, but in the addition of lard.  Yes, I too felt a little ill when informed of this fact.   But please believe me, it adds a little something wonderful without any taste of fat, leaving the finished product just ever so slightly crisp on the outside, in contrast to the fluffy sweetness inside.

I was very privileged this past weekend to receive one-on-one tuition from a genuine Welsh person, my lovely friend Suze.  Not only did she share her bakestone with me, but also her Nan’s welsh cake recipe.  Very kindly, Suze also hunted out the required lard, seemingly impossible to find outside of a butchers, which arrived in a slightly piggy-scented white tub.

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To learn how to make Welsh cakes a la Suze’s nan, read on…

Ingredients:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g butter and 50g lard, cut into small pieces
  • 50g currants
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Splash of milk

Tip the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt into a bowl

Add the butter and lard and rub in with your fingers until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Mix in the currants, then add the egg and work in together with your hands until you have a soft dough.  If it looks a little dry, add the splash of milk.

Lightly flour your bench top.  At this point, put your bake stone (or heavy-based pan; I am reliably informed it will work just as well) over a moderate heat.

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Roll out the dough to the thickness of your little finger (as demonstrated!).  Use a 8cm cookie cutter to make the cakes.

Add a spot of lard to the bake stone and, once melted, cook the cakes in batches.  They take about 3 minutes each side to become golden brown, crisp and cooked through – you can observe the colour changing as it cooks through along the side of the Welsh cake.

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Sprinkle with caster sugar once cooked.  I cannot emphasis enough how delicious they are served all fresh and warm with a good cup of tea.   Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!