Trips back to the UK always leave me rather unsettled. Inevitably I always spends the first 48 hours bemoaning the rain, the filthy hot trains, the even filthier and reliably inconvenient tube service and the cost of absolutely everything. I find myself saying things like “my subway pass costs half the price in Manhattan” and “why can’t people dispose of their litter properly?” The kind of things that make me sound really old and boring. The kinds of things I’ve heard my mother say. Once I get over the initial discomfort and price shock I find myself embracing the cool damp weather and sitting around the patio table in layers of clothing because it’s not raining and the sun is periodically appearing so even though it’s bloody freezing we should enjoy the fresh air. It’s what we Brits do- we grin and bear it. My mother and I had the heating on in the car the other night- we slurped on mugs of soup for dinner (soup in August! Now that’s unheard of this side of the Atlantic) and in the evenings we pulled our chairs close to the aga with cups of tea.
And then there’s the food. I only realise how much I miss it when I head back these days. An apple that you can eat in it’s entirety without feeling greedy, big fat juicy raspberries, meat that is labeled where it’s from, without the worry that it’s packed full of hormones and granary bread-Oh! Granary bread and the butter! The downside to my diet is that I always find myself reaching for processed foods more in the UK- the kinds of things I avoid like the plague in this country- flavoured yogurts, sausages, crisps, Bombay mix, sweeties, orange squash and mini cheddars. Is it dreadful that I miss mini cheddars so much? Light and crispy little cheese biscuits that you can let dissolve on your tongue or plunge into taramasalata.
I blame my mother- mini cheddars have always been a family favourite-their moorish qualities kept them in every picnic basket and many a lunch box and Christmas stocking. Along with Licorice allsorts, Wine gums, Polos, Hobnobs and Cadbury’s chocolate we are a family united by tuck shop preferences. Although, when it comes to tea we are a family divided between those favouring the richly flavoured PG tips and those with thwarted tea taste buds who stand firmly behind the watery taste of Sainsbury’s Earl grey (bleh!). Mini cheddars hold a little space in my pinnacle taste memories- those foods you find yourself day dreaming about and reminiscing when you eat.
With little spare room in my suitcase, past the baked beans, Marmite and tea staples I was going to have to learn to make my own or leave the UK without them. I’ll agree that my version doesn’t look like mini cheddars but these come without hydrogenated oils- so I think that we can make visual allowances. Plus, they will make leaving coming home, so much easier.
The dough for these biscuits can be made up to 3 days in advance and can be frozen. I would recommend slicing off what you need if you don’t require a whole batch as they are best eaten on the day.
Difficulty: making an even sausage shape out of the dough can cause some stress.
Diet Facts: fattening but good
100g/ 7 Tbsp butter, slightly softened
50g/ 1/2 cup fine semolina
75g/ 1/2 c + 1 tbsp plain flour
50g/ 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
30g/ 1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Pinch chili flakes (optional)
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp sea salt (such as Maldon)
1/ Place all ingredients except for the salt in a food processor and pulse until it comes together forming soft nuggets of dough. Remove to a flat surface and gently bring together into a soft ball.
2/ Shape the dough into a sausage shape using a large piece of cling film to guide the dough evenly. Roll up in the cling film and twist the excess cling film at either end to make the roll tighter. It should about 4-5 cm (1 1/2 – 2 inches) in diameter if you measure at one end. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
3/ Heat the oven 190C/375F/gas mark 5 (for conventional ovens reduce temperature 25 degrees) Remove the wrapped dough from the fridge and using a sharp chefs knife slice into thin rounds (2 mm thick). Place on a baking sheet, allowing a small amount of space between each one, sprinkle with the salt and bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden and crispy. Let cool and serve.