These are a savoury version of kilted highlanders, the demerara-coated shortbread biscuits that Great-Granny would often wheel out at tea time. They’re incredibly easy to make, arresting to look at and make a great accompaniment to pre-dinner drinks. Given that the recipe comes from Ottolenghi (his first book), you might be surprised to recognise all the ingredients on the list – no esoteric surprises here, especially for the Hungarian, for whom poppyseeds (mák) are a store-cupboard essential.
Makes about 20 biscuits
210g plain flour, plus plenty extra for dusting
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp paprika
a pinch of cayenne pepper
165g unsalted butter, at room temperature
165g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 egg, beaten
Salt and black pepper
Sift the flour, baking powder, paprika and cayenne into a bowl and add the salt and pepper. Mix the softened butter with the Parmesan until they are well blended. You can do this either by hand, using a wooden spoon, or in a freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
Add the dry ingredients and continue mixing until a soft dough is formed. Put the dough on a well-floured work surface and divide it in half. Using plenty of flour, both on your hands and on the work surface, roll each piece into a long log, 3- 4cm in diameter. Wrap each log in cling film and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes to firm up.
Scatter the poppyseeds over two sheets of foil large enough to wrap each log. Brush the logs with the beaten egg and then roll them in the poppyseeds until covered. Roll up the foil and secure the ends.
Refrigerate again for 1 hour (at this stage you can also freeze them).
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Cut the logs into slices 5 mm thick and arrange them on the tray, spaced apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until the biscuits are dark golden.