I once won 50p betting my mum that we wouldn’t be able to find ground cardamom in Tesco. I don’t know why they don’t sell it, but they don’t. You have to buy the pods, split them open (which isn’t always the easiest thing), prize out the seeds and use some serious elbow grease to grind them up in a pestle and mortar. And you wouldn’t think it would be worth it but oh my god is it. Cardamom is just deliciousness on a whole other level to any other spice.
I had fallen a bit out of love with baking. Partly because I’d finally fallen back in love with reading after War and Peace sucked all the fun from it so more of my spare time is taken up with that again. And also because I’ve been trying to kid myself that I’m on a diet so baking sugar filled treats would have been completely counterproductive.
But a serious book hangover after finishing Station Eleven and dropping all pretence of trying to eat healthily meant that this weekend I really fancy picking up that mixing bowl and wooden spoon again. The fact that I was at home so could get away with not doing the washing up myself may also have helped.
And because it was spring and all blue skies and daffodils I wanted to bake something to go with the weather. Which seemed a perfectly normal thing to do at the time but written down seems ridiculous; why on earth would the food you make need to match the season? What kind of crazy person would think that there is a corresponding biscuit to blossom? Well me apparently. And that biscuit is cardamom and lemon cheats shortbread.
The lemon also means they’re a bit lighter than a plain rich shortbread. So you can still manage a few even after you’ve gorged on all those mini eggs, creme eggs and just general chocolate deliciousness that go without saying over the Easter holidays.I call this cheats shortbread because I can’t bake regular shortbread but I can make this. Whenever I try it just isn’t very, well, short. Whereas these stay buttery and crumbly like a good shortbread biscuit should be. Maybe it’s the ground almonds?
125g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
Zest of half a lemon
125g plain flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp freshly ground cardamom
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together, either with a wooden spoon or electric whisk, depending on how energetic you’re feeling.
Beat in the flour, almonds and cardamom until it forms a dough.
Roll into 16 balls, roughly the size of a conker, and use the back of a spoon to flatten the tops.
Bake for 13 minutes until just going golden around the edges.
Leave on the tray for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.