As a child I was lucky enough to have a Grandparent living with me. My Scottish Grandfather. He was beautiful, elegant, funny, and ever so slightly deaf, which he regularly used to his advantage.
When ladies from the Derby and Joan Club telephoned, he would politely let them speak, pull the telephone away from his ear and shout,
‘I’m really sorry, I cannae hear a word you’re saying’,
place the receiver back in it’s cradle, and, smiling to himself, get on with his day.
I am of an age where it was usual for the Sunday papers to be delivered. My Grandfather’s paper was The Sunday Post, a Scottish paper which kept him up to date with all the goings on over the border. For us children, The Post held a reverence, not only because it linked us to our heritage, but because there was a cartoon section which had the weekly goings on of ‘The Broons’.
Now for those of you unfamiliar with cartoon strips in newspapers, ‘The Broons’ were about the day to day life of a Scottish family, with generic characteristics. Not particularly P.C, but beloved. The Mum, ‘Maw’ did the household stuff, the Dad, ‘Paw’ went out to work, the eldest child (aspirational, self confident) all the way down to the naughty twins (boys, always in trouble) and the baby. Then finally there was the ‘Grandpaw’ – a slightly grumpy man with a twinkle in his eye and a habit of making merry with the others. Just like my Grandad.
Each week there was a short story, often with humour, featuring all the different characteristics of the family. Each week, we would wait, with anticipation, for The Sunday Post to be delivered, and immediately pull out the cartoon section to find out what happened this week.
It was a delight, but always over too soon, then, once again, the long wait began for next week’s episode.
And why, you may ask, am I telling you all this? Well, a few years ago, Big Dave (my dad) bought me a Broons cookery book for Christmas. Included in all the usual Scottish classics was a recipe for shortbread which transformed my understanding of why the tastes differ so much, why some shortbreads taste absolutely pants whilst others are divine.
I’m hoping by now you may be a little curious to know exactly what is so special. Well, let me tell you, the clue is in the name… short (bread). Yes, that’s right, it’s the shortness of the biscuit which makes it so delicious, and in the Broons cookery book, all became clear. The secret ingredient to a beautiful shortbread is…
Simple, and yet extraordinarily effective.
And the recipe? Well that, too, is simple. You will need:
500g butter, 175g castor sugar, 550g plain flour and 50g semolina.
Cream the butter and sugar (not too much, it ruins the biscuit structure and you’ll end up with more of a cake like mixture)
Mix the flour and semolina together, add gradually to the butter and sugar mixture.
Roll out*, cut, bake**, cool, enjoy. With Tea. Everything biscuity is great with tea.
And here’s a little addendum you may wish to consider. I have started making these with 300g of rice flour and 300g of plain flour. Just as simple, just as short, just as delicious.
*Make sure they are no thinner than 3-4mm. There is a difference between crisp shortbread and biscuit shortbread 🙂
**Gas 3, 150C, middle of the oven, 10 minutes or until golden in colour