Recipe: Cracked black pepper and fig shortbread
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
My colleague Nick doesn’t like any fussing about with food...so when I mentioned this weekend’s recipe, he curled his face up in disgust.
Savoury biscuits. Savoury biscuits? Really?
Yes really. They don’t have to be sweet. In fact, some of the oldest examples of biscuits (meaning twice cooked) contained no sugar at all. Although early man would have had a crack at making something on par with a biscuit, it wasn’t until the Roman times that something almost resembling what we know today was created. As most culinary inventions, their existence was down to necessity. A need to preserve flour. These would largely have been a kind of rusk, or ground oatcake. And while sweetened biscuits were baked over fire in Medieval times, it wasn’t until the 17th century and the greater availability of sugar that fancier, more digestible delicacies came around.
I say digestible because in between these periods came the creation of hardtack – or ship’s biscuits. Long-keeping, solid as a rock, thick cracker-like bakes stowed on ships for the crew. Nothing like the crumbly, chocolate-coated dunkers we can revel in today.
Anyway, coming back around to my point, there is nothing wrong with a savoury biscuit. My shortbread recipe is meltingly buttery and crumbly, and ideal as part of a grazing platter, with a bit of cheddar and chutney, or (my favourite) served with room temperature blue cheese and honey. They’re slightly cheesy (but not overpoweringly so), a little sweet, and have a lingering warmth from the pepper. Here I paired them with Norfolk’s Binham Blue.
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Cracked black pepper and fig shortbread
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(Makes around 16)
100g unsalted butter, cubed
100g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
Large pinch fine sea salt
100g strong cheddar
1tsp cracked black peppercorns
50g dried figs, chopped into small pieces
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line two trays.
Put all the ingredients except the pepper and figs in a food processor. Blitz to crumbs, and continue to pulse until it comes together into a dough.
Remove to a bowl and fold in the figs with your hands or a knife. Try not to over handle. Roll into a sausage shape about 4cm in diameter. Wrap in greaseproof or clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
On a floured surface cut rounds from the dough of about 1cm thick.
Place on your trays, leaving 2cm between each, and bake for around 15 to 18 minutes until slightly golden. Cool and store in an airtight tin for up to a week.