Qata

Makes 30–35 biscuits

Ingredients

For the pastry

400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

10g baking powder

pinch of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten

150ml soured cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250g butter, frozen and coarsely grated

For the filling

200g unsalted butter, frozen and coarsely grated

200g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out

150g plain flour

50g pecan nuts, toasted and crushed

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten to glaze

20g sesame seeds

Method

1. To make the pastry, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Mix the egg, soured cream and vanilla extract together.

2. Add the butter to the flour mixture and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like crumbs. Mix in the egg and soured cream mixture and quickly knead into a dough, then cover with cling film and refrigerate for an hour or so.

3. To make the filling, mix the grated butter, sugar and vanilla seeds together. Put the flour in a bowl, add the butter mixture and rub in as you did for the pastry.

4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Dust 2 baking sheets with flour.

5. Divide the pastry in half. Working quickly, flatten each half with your hand and then roll out on a floured work surface into a sheet 5mm thick.

6. Mix the pecan nuts into the filling and spread it over each pastry sheet (or dot it around evenly if your dough is too soft and delicate), leaving a narrow border around the edges.

7. Roll each pastry sheet up into a long sausage as firmly as you can, manipulating the sausage so it is the same thickness all the way along. Put it into the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm up.

8. Position the sausages seam side down on your work surface, then brush with the beaten egg yolk and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.

9. Dip a knife in hot water and slice each sausage into 2cm thick discs. Place the discs at on the prepared baking sheets 8cm apart and squash them slightly with your hands. Put back into the refrigerator for 30 minutes – if they are firm before baking they will hold their shape better.

10. Bake for 25–30 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool a little on a wire rack and serve warm.


Aubergine Serdakh

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

Ingredients

8–10 baby aubergines or 3 large

100g clarified butter

10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

6 flavoursome tomatoes, halved across the equator, or some small, colourful tomatoes, left whole, or a mixture of both

200ml water, vegetable or chicken stock

pinch of caster sugar, if needed

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

lavash flatbreads or any other flatbread, torn

1 small bunch of each or any of the following: dill, coriander, basil

Method

1. If you are using baby aubergines, make 2 incisions in the shape of a cross in their rounded end as if you were going to quarter them lengthways, but don’t cut into them further. I leave the stalks intact, as they look so pretty. If using large aubergines, trim and slice them about 15mm thick.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter in a heavy-based flameproof casserole dish over a medium heat and fry the garlic while you keep stirring it. You want it to turn deep golden and stay juicy, but not become dry or burnt. Tilt the pan so that the butter and garlic collect in one corner – this way you will con t it. It will take about 2–5 minutes. The smell will be incredible as the garlic loses its harshness and becomes soft, sweet and gently caramelized. Take the garlic out and set aside. Do not wipe out the pan unless it looks burnt.

3. Heat another 2 tablespoons of the Clarified Butter in the same pan over a medium-high heat and fry the aubergines until they are well browned all over. Be patient and the skin will blister and the white flesh will soften, but it may take about 10 minutes – they really need to start collapsing. Take them out and set aside; you can leave them to drain over kitchen paper if you like. Again, do not clean the pan.

4. Heat another 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter in the same pan, add the tomatoes, cut side down, and cook them just on that side over a high heat until they catch some colour and the skins look wrinkled. If the tomatoes are ripe, use a pair of tongs to lift the skins o the tomatoes and discard. If they aren’t, you may need to flip them, cook on the skin side briefly and then take the skins off. Sometimes I’m too lazy to take the skins off at all.

5. Now return the aubergines and garlic to the pan and add the liquid. Do try using chicken stock if you are not vegetarian, as it adds an extra layer of flavour. Water is absolutely fine, though, if you want the dish to remain as hassle free as possible. Season with salt and pepper (but go easy on the salt if you salted the aubergines previously) and add a pinch of sugar if your tomatoes are not the sweetest. Cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half and the aubergines are properly cooked through.

6. Serve with pieces of torn lavash or any other flatbread, or regular bread, and some sprigs of fresh herbs. This is also really lovely eaten with simply cooked rice or sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.