Yesterday I made my own sort of a borscht. A beetroot soup, lightly flavoured with caraway seeds. It reminded me how much I love not only beetroots, but also caraway and this morning I woke with a hankering to make caraway biscuits.
You can learn a lot when you have a short obsession on a particular flavour. I imagine my childhood self leafing through recipe books (and failing to find anything I wanted, so making something up myself) and perhaps moving on to the Encyclopaedia Britannica and then getting so distracted with whatever else was on the same page, or something else related that it suggested I look at that the biscuits never got made. It’s all so much easier now, with a laptop and a warm fire. And even Radio 2 on in the background (I give up on Radio 4 after GQT on a Sunday). I also now have the sort of library of cookbooks and thanks to the wonder that is Eat Your Books I know that in my books there are 53 recipes which use caraway seeds, including poppy and caraway crackers and caraway vodka, both of which I will be trying soon.
You could find out everything you never wanted to know about caraway with a few quick searches too, but since I’ve done it already, I’ll share some of my findings with you.
Caraway is good for flatulence. When I say it’s good for flatulence I mean that it is reputedly good for the relief of severe flatulence. Anne Boleyn knew this and secured her place in Henry VIII’s heart by feeding him caraway comfits. That didn’t turn out so well in the end though, so don’t feel obliged to feed caraway to stinky partners.
Caraway seeds aren’t actually seeds; they are fruits.
Caraway is perhaps a flavour most associated with northern Europe, with southern Germany and Austria and with Scandinavia. The German word for caraway is Kummel, which I know better as a drink. German rye bread is heavily flavoured with caraway.
Many countries don’t have their own word for caraway, and simply call it ‘German cumin’, so if you see reference to caraway in any Middle Eastern or Asian cookbooks it is quite likely that it is an error in translation and its cumin that is needed.
So, that’s the educational bit over. Now you want the biscuits don’t you?
Then biscuits you shall have, but before I get to the recipe I should tell you another snippet of information: Caraway Biscuits are also known as Goosnargh Cakes. Goosnargh (pronounced Gooznar) is a small town in Lancashire, almost subsumed into Preston now where they have a tradition of making these caraway shortcake biscuits. They also feed caraway seeds to chickens and ducks to produce the Goosnargh Chicken and the Goosnargh Duck.
But the biscuits. There are a few versions online, but basically the Goosnargh Cake or caraway biscuits is a buttery shortcake biscuit with caraway and coriander seeds. Use a basic 3:2:1 recipe (3 parts flour, to 2 parts butter, to 1 part sugar) and you’ll be fine.
Pre-heat oven to GM5. Prepare a baking tray – either by buttering it and sprinkling it with flour, or by lining it with greaseproof paper.
- 8oz softened butter
- 4oz caster sugar
- 12oz plain flour
- 2 TBsp caraway seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- Cream together the butter and sugar, till fluffy
- Grind the caraway and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar
- Sift together the flour and the ground seeds
- Fold the spiced flour into the creamed butter and sugar and bring together to form a stiff dough
- Roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness and cut into rounds. Place on baking tray
- Pop into the fridge for at least 30 minutes
- Sprinkle with caster sugar
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes – you don’t want them to turn colour much at all, although a light golden brown will be fine
- Move to a wire rack to cool, but sprinkle with a mix of caster sugar and caraway seeds while they are still hot.
Lovely with a cup of Earl Grey tea.