Round little cookies that are comfortingly spiced and very easy to eat. As a bonus, they’re very quick and easy to put together!
I had some chickpea flour from making MiMi Aye’s Burmese tofu–absolutely delicious and so easy, please get her book and try it–so I went from one cookbook to another as I returned to a recipe I’ve always been curious about, the cardamom cookies in Ravinder Bhogal’s Cook In Boots. I cannot believe this book is 10 years old. This is a visually rich and delicious book aimed squarely at glamorous women who already (or are attempting to) have it all, but there’s also plenty of comforting, affordable, and well-seasoned dishes for a queer potato like me. Bhogal talks about how she grew up with these cardamom biscuits and how comforting they were. They looked so cute and squat in the photo, and I wanted to know what chickpea flour cookies tasted like.
The chickpea flour adds a creamy toasty flavour and sandy yet melt-in-the-mouth texture. Since vegetable oil is the fat of choice here, the dough is particularly easy to handle–no melting or creaming, you mix and shape right away. They bake into little biscuits that are rich enough to be a treat, a bit like shortbread, but lighter. The only thing I changed was swapping the pistachios for a bit of spiced sugar top; it doesn’t make the cookies appreciably sweeter, but it does add a visual contrast and extra flavour. The original is topped with pistachios; if you do have those nuts around, you wouldn’t need many to add a pretty decoration and waxy crunch to the biscuits, but I wouldn’t rush out and get some unless you really want them.
This is one of two oil-based shortbreads I’ve been making this summer. You don’t need to stress about handling a melting dough, they’re just as delicious, they’re good to have on hand in case of picnics and suchlike. As a bonus they’re vegan, so lots of people can enjoy them. In case you’re curious, there are other chickpea flour cookies, such as Persian nan-e nokhodchi or Tunisian ghraiba homs. They have different proportions, flavourings, and contexts; all look delicious. If you have a good recipe, feel free to tell me…
Makes 35 – 40 small cookies. Original recipe says the yield is 26 and you could certainly make that amount if you wished, this is an easygoing dough. Keeps for a good while in an airtight tin, but it is likely they’ll be eaten at an alarming rate.
Adapted from Cook In Boots by Ravinder Bhogal (HarperCollins, 2009)
These are not too sweet and gently spiced. If you really like cardamom you could add more, but as it’s quite a lively and intense aroma, you’d change the character of the biscuit.
50g (1/3 cup) chickpea flour (besan)
200g (1 cup and 6 tablespoons) plain flour
75g (6 1/2 tbsp) icing sugar
Packed 1/2 tsp ground cardamom seeds (from about 18 – 20 pods; any extra can be used as topping below, if desired)
Pinch of salt
100ml (6 1/2 tbsp and 1/2 tsp) vegetable oil (canola/rapeseed or grapeseed is best; sunflower is ok but I think tastes a bit too rich, like delicious fried food. You can also use ghee or melted butter but of course that renders it non-vegan)
Pinch of extra cardamom and/or cinnamon mixed with 1 tsp granulated sugar, or 18 – 20 pistachios halved lengthwise to decorate each cookie as desired, or a sprinkle of chopped pistachios per cookie
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F). Get a medium-large baking tray or equivalent smaller trays. If things tends to stick, line with foil; if not, leave it be.
Sift the chickpea flour, plain flour, icing sugar, ground cardamom, and pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetable oil and stir to mix until clumpy, then use your hands to bring it all together into a dough. I needed to add an extra teaspoon of oil to dry and crumbly spots; you may need to do the same, but be very cautious. The dough should be stiff while easily coming together in one piece with a few stray crumbs and dry edges. You should be able to form a neat smooth ball if you squeeze some dough in your fist and shape it with your fingers.
Pinch off small bite-size balls of dough, rolling between palms. Squeeze them firmly if they keep crumbling, then flatten them between your hands into fat discs. Put them on the baking tray as you go. You don’t need to leave much room between them at all; they don’t really spread, but they do puff.
Sprinkle or press on the spiced sugar or nuts as you desire. Bake cookies for about 25 minutes, rotating tray halfway. Cookies are done when puffy, cracked, lightly golden on top and richly browned on the bottom (you can very carefully turn one with a fork to check). Allow to cool for 10 minutes on trays, then gently remove to racks. Don’t worry if they seem very soft on the outside, they will firm up as they cool completely.
Enjoy however you wish, but try dipping them in some spiced tea at least once. They are are very good with spiced tea. Bhogal has a quick recipe for spiced tea in her book, but I like Chai Xpress for a quick fix that I can easily get from Morrison’s (I prefer it to Twining’s at any rate, which is ghastly).