Sometimes, standing sweat-drenched in my kitchen at quarter past midnight, surveying the mess of piled-up dishes and clumps of flour tracked on the floor, I wonder why I like cooking so much. A lot of people are, after all, completely indifferent to the act of cooking; some don’t like it at all; and even among my friends who are committed to making wholesome, fresh meals regularly, I’m an outlier for my ridiculous dedication to the kitchen.
For me, cooking has been a way of bringing people to me: I live in deepest darkest south-west London, and a key way of convincing friends to come all the way to the end of the Northern line has been to make food for them. But it’s not just the social side: there’s the act itself, the feeling of doing something useful, hands-on, something that involves physical skill and manual dexterity after a day where my head feels soggy from checking budgets, reviewing reports and writing strategy papers. It’s part of why I like following recipes so much: I have to do the physical work, but the thinking through and invention has been someone else’s problem. All I have to do is follow the instructions, which is welcome given how much of my day job involves thinking and judging and assessing and strategising and deciding. And at the end of all of it: dinner! British Prime Minister Theresa May was recently much-mocked for her claim that she enjoys cooking “because you get to eat it as well as make it” but I do get what she meant – if you enjoy the process of cooking itself as a craft, you’re at least pouring your time and effort and skill into something which you get to eat at the end of the day: and we all have to eat. Some people use their spare time to do crafts like cross-stitch, or knitting, or decoupage (something my mother was very good at, actually); but with cooking you get an end product that satisfies the body as much as the spirit.
In the July heat wave that hit London I was still cooking, albeit reluctantly, and doing as little baking as possible. It’s turned cooler now, however, and it once against feels plausible to turn to stove and oven. However, we are still in summer – despite the best attempts of social media to convince me that it’s virtually autumn – and therefore still in the season of casual, unhurried entertainment, the long stretch in the evening over wine. I think these crisp, buttery, salty chorizo and manchego biscuits are perfect for entertaining. You don’t need to make them at the last minute: kept in an airtight container, they stay crunchy and delicious for a good while. The recipe is clever in using the oil the chorizo gives off as it cooks as well as butter, enhancing the flavour of the final dough. I adapted the recipe partly by adding plenty more scarlet spices – paprikas smoked and sweet, brick-red chilli – to make the dough as delicious as it can possibly; I always love punchy flavours. It doesn’t hurt that the additional spices make the dough such a beautiful, inviting orange colour.
And if you really feel that it’s still too hot, and you don’t want to spend your summer making savoury biscuits – even ones as easy and forgiving as these – then please bookmark the recipe and save it for the autumn and winter months. These are going to be perfect with a glass of champagne (or, more likely, prosecco).
Recipe below the jump, as ever.
This post is part of my challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the signature challenge for week eight (biscuit week) of series three: 48 savoury crackers.
Buttery chorizo, almond and manchego biscuits
Recipe adapted from Waitrose’s Kitchen magazine
- 180g chorizo (not the salami slices), roughly chopped
- 300g manchego cheese
- 225g soft unsalted butter
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1-1.5 tsp hot chilli powder (depending partly on how hot the powder, and your preference)
- 150g blanched whole almonds
- 300g plain flour
- Heat a non-stick frying pan and dry-fry the chorizo on a medium heat for five minutes, until the pieces are crispy and the oil has rendered. Transfer, using a slotted spoon, onto a plate lined with kitchen paper and let cool. Pour the oil from the frying pan into a bowl and leave to cool.
- Roughly chop the manchego cheese with a knife, then transfer to a medium food processor and chop until finely grated. (Alternatively, grate finely by hand). Combine the manchego cheese, butter, paprika and chilli powder with the chorizo oil in a large bowl and stir to combine.
- Finely chop the cooled, crisp chorizo in the food processor (or alternately do this by hand). Remove and add to the cheese and butter mixture in the large bowl.
- Place the blanched almonds in the food processor bowl and pulse, very carefully, one or two times until they are roughly chopped, with mostly large and a few smaller pieces. Err on the side of caution: do not pulse until the pieces are finely chopped or, worse, ground down to almond flour. You’re just looking for a bit of light bashing. Alternatively, you can give them a rough chop by hand. Remove and add to the other ingredients in the large bowl.
- Add the flour to the butter-cheese-chorizo mix, stir to combine, then knead the mixture together by hand until it forms a soft dough.
- Divide the dough into two. Place half in the middle of a piece of cling film on the work surface; shape into a sausage shape about 24cm long; press and shape into a rectangle. The dough is very soft, so this is easy and fun! Wrap the dough carefully and repeat with the other half. Chill in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours, or longer if wished/convenient, until firm.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C. Line two or three large baking sheets with baking paper.
- Cut each dough rectangle into 24 slices, about 1cm thick (you can measure this with a ruler and cut notches along each 1cm mark before slicing, if wished; I actually think this makes things easier). If the short, buttery slices fall apart, just squidge them back together.
- Arrange on the baking sheets, about 2cm apart, and bake for 20-25 minutes. For a truly even bake, swap and turn the trays halfway through baking. Let cool for 10-15 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool down completely. These keep well in an airtight container.