For as long as I can remember, I have loathed New Year’s Eve parties. Perhaps my notion of them remains stuck in my teenage years: parents’ carpets sticky with spilt Bacardi Breezers, no middleground between painfully, eye-wateringly sober and sloppily, miserably drunk, and – the greatest sin of all – no snacks.
I met Sam through a hatred of New Year’s Eve parties. Determined not to endure another house party, we eschewed galavanting in favour of the comfort of home, vol au vents, cheese and biscuits, supermarket wine, and not having to negotiate night buses or Uber surges.
These days, I have mellowed slightly, realising that perhaps my contemporaries who look forward to New Year’s Eve are not in fact strawpedoing alcopops and snogging strangers on their hosts’ sofas. I still can’t quite bring myself to celebrate the night itself, but my compromise is New Year’s Eve Eve. So we’re having a couple of people round tonight, to drink fizz, eat nibbles and – if Sam gets his way – play games.
These biscuits are my ultimate party nibbles: ridiculously easy to make, simply a matter of bunging all of the ingredient into a food processor, then rolling the dough into logs. I make mine a couple of days in advance, and pop them in the fridge, ready to slice and bake when I want them. Often I double the batch, so that I always have some in reserve. They can be sliced straight from the freezer; if they fall apart, just squeeze them gently together before baking.
You can use them as bases for canapés, or biscuits for cheese – but frankly, I tend to serve them alone, in a little tin lined with brown paper. They are utterly compulsive: properly, gloriously, cheesy, with just enough black pepper and cayenne to catch at the back of the throat, and with the kalonji (black onion) seeds bringing a bit of complex aroma to the whole thing.
It goes like this:
Parmesan and black pepper sables
Makes: About 30 biscuits
Takes: 2 and a half hours, including chilling
Bakes: 14 minutes
150g butter, cold from the frigdge
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp english mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
Very generous grinding of black pepper (about 1/2 tsp)
2 tbsp milk
50g kalonji seeds
1. Chop the butter into cubes, and place in the bowl of a food processor, along with the flour, cayenne, smoked paprika, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture forms breadcrumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, rub the butter into the flour and spices until it resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Finely grate the parmesan and add to the food processor pulsing briefly, or rub through the crumbs. If the dough hasn’t come together of its own accord, add a tablespoon or so of water until a dough is formed.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and roll the dough out into two roughly equally sized logs, wrap tightly in cliingfilm and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours (if I’m pressed for time, I often pop them in the freezer).
4. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 180°C, and unwrap your dough logs. Place a couple of tablespoons of milk in a large, shallow plate, and roll the logs in them. On a board, scatter the kalonji seeds, and roll the logs in the seeds, pressing them into the dough to make them stick.
5. Slice the dough into rounds about 3/4cm wide, and place on a lined baking tray, leaving small gaps bewteen the biscuits to allow them to spread. Bake for around 14 minutes, until the biscuits are truly golden, slightly puffed, and beginning to set. Allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack until completely cold.
Icing on the Cake
I rarely end up eating properly at my own parties or suppers, not feeling terribly keen about food I’ve spent all afternoon in the kitchen preparing . These are the exception, and not just because you don’t have to spend all afternoon in the kitchen making them. I can’t keep my hands off these once they’re set out, and secretly hope no one eats them so I can quietly have them all to myself the following day. Unfortunately for me, they’re always a total hit.