Tahini Cashew Cookies

For anyone who doesn’t know, I was vegan for almost two years, not too long ago now. During that time, I discovered the versatility of the humble sesame paste. I stopped using it so much after moving to Oxford, but rediscovered how beautifully it blends into bakes just yesterday when I trialled these cookies for a third time. The taste just doesn’t fade, unlike a lot of other things like maple syrup, matcha or honey, of which you can end up using quite a bit of because the flavour is easily lost while baking. Anyway, this cookie…! It got all my flatmates’ seals of approval, much to my surprise, since tahini can very much be a love/hate thing.

The café near me actually does these amazing tahini chocolate cookies, which inspired me to make use of the stuff again. I have done tahini chocolate cookies before, but thought I would do a little twist with another earthy and grounding element- nuts. The result: fabulous. Definitely my favourite bake of June so far.

These cookies are light, chewy, not too sweet, and most importantly, the tahini is the main character of the show.

The only way to eat it

Tahini cashew cookies (makes 8-10 medium cookies)

Ingredients

100g butter, soft and at room temperature

160g white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

100g light tahini

1 egg

150g plain flour (optional: substitute half with whole-wheat flour)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g cashews, chopped

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. If you only have aluminium foil that works too, but bake the cookies for 5 minutes shorter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soft butter, sugar and salt. Add the egg and tahini and whisk those in well too.

In a separate bowl, briefly whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and chopped cashews, then tip that into the wet mix and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to mix everything together well. The batter should be quite sticky, not dry at all. Take heaped tablespoonfuls of batter and shape them into balls. If you want to get real precise, each medium cookie will be 52g. I did this and the yield was around 10 medium cookies.

Bake for 18 minutes but check at the 15-minute mark to see if the edges have browned slightly; once this has happened remove the tray from the oven and let them cool and set. The insides will be very chewy as they set, the edges nicely browned without being burnt.

Enjoy warm dipped into more tahini or with ice cream on top!

Review: Hamblin Bread, Oxford

My first Oxford review must be dedicated to Hamblin. Not by choice, but by instinct. As I smuggled bites of their cardamom bun into my mouth while walking all that way home, I knew I found quite a gem. The long walk there from home seemed contrary to the desire to make this a regular haunt, but honestly all that fitness just fosters a more reasonable state of mind to pick and choose the baked goods, while upping the excitement along the way.

Cardamom bun

My top pick here must be the cardamom buns. They also do a whole range of other buns, including cinnamon and custard (below), but this remains top of the list for me. The edges are perfectly browned and crispy without being flaky, characteristic of a traditional cardamom bun. The cardamom flavour itself holds its own.

Custard bun
Cardamom bread pudding

Leftover or stale cardamom buns are also used to make this cardamom bread pudding which is both genius and delicious. A harder, sugary crumb crowns the slab of soft, squidgy deliciousness.

Chocolate chip cookie

This very simple cookie is chewy all the way through to the edges. This is the perfect chocolate chip cookie to me- a cute and manageable size, not too sweet, rough chunks of dark chocolate, a hearty mouthfeel with the fresh, locally-milled flour, and doesn’t leave you feeling sick, either. Speaking of flour, their infamous sourdough (below) is all the rage for all the right reasons. The crumb is thick, robust and tender, slightly stiff but never dry. The terrain is perfect for spreading on soft, salted butter.

Sourdough
Potato cheese pasty

The potato pasty sounds like an unnecessary carb-on-carb affair but I see why it’s so popular. The sizeable chunks of potato are never mushy or mixed with a bunch of random, weird herbs.

I do miss London with all her cafés, but places like this bring her right back to Oxford. There are so many hardworking, independent café owners that know exactly what they’re doing with the magic they offer day-to-day, and I’m living to promote it.

Hamblin Bread

247 Iffley Road

Oxford

Rating: 5/5

Cottage cheese white chocolate pancakes

I fed these to my three flatmates, all of whom have never had such a pancake before, and I got the green light from all. I’m no stranger to cheese in pancakes. I’ve made them a few times with this recipe, but this one with cottage cheese does stand out somehow, with its simplicity, distinction in flavour, and softness. Oh, so soft!

The curds naturally present in cottage cheese are a result of draining instead of pressing the product. The fact that it’s not aged like most other cheese you consume means it offers a slight, pleasant tag instead of just, well, a pungent cheesy flavour. It’s also very high in protein, which made it quite filling despite how light they turned out.

A lot of recipes I found online blend or process the cottage cheese to get rid of the curds, but I refused to dirty another appliance, and ended up really liking the bits of curd in there, which went wonderfully with the melting pockets of white chocolate. There is also hardly if any flour in there, which concentrates the flavour of the pancake and keeps them extremely light.

Serve these with more butter and honey/ maple syrup and your Saturday is so sorted.

Cottage cheese white chocolate pancakes (makes 6-8 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

250g (one tub) cottage cheese

2 tbsp sugar

2 eggs

50g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

30-40g (large handful) white chocolate, chopped

30g (2 tbsp) melted butter, plus some extra for cooking on the pan

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together the cottage cheese, eggs and sugar well. Leave the lumps, you want them for both texture and flavour. Then fold in the flour, baking powder and white chocolate with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Finally, add the melted butter. Whisk until everything is well incorporated. Add a pat of butter to your pan, then put your pan on medium heat and wait for the butter to completely melt. Add 1/4 cup of heaping tablespoons of the batter to the pan and let them cook for at least 2 minutes on the bottom side before flipping. The pancakes tend to look prettier as you go on cooking, the first ones usually aren’t as glamorous. These take slightly longer than normal pancakes to cook, so be patient. The second side will take about a minute to cook.

Enjoy warm with butter and maple syrup. Yum.

Cream Cheese Marmalade Brownies

Stop, this combination is insane.

There is plenty to love about a fudgy brownie, and more so about the combination of tangy cream cheese with sweet yet slightly bitter orange marmalade. I do recommend orange marmalade here for that reason, but any marmalade you have will work. One of my top 10 recipes is this brownie pudding, which formed the main inspiration for today’s recipe but is not in the blog archives. I guess it’s a little bit of a secret, and I don’t know if the word pudding is a good enough excuse to get away with such a runny centre. Language is everything, isn’t it. A classic one-bowl manoeuvre wrapped in a delightful flavour contrast.

A classic fudgy brownie with an edge that’s only slightly chewy, with jammy bits studded here and there due to the marmalade. You might think they’re the raw parts at first, take it from my initial disappointment.

Cream cheese marmalade brownies (serves 8-10)

Ingredients

For the brownies:

105g dark chocolate, chopped, or bittersweet chocolate chips

150g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp fine salt

2 eggs

70g brown sugar

130g white sugar

130g plain flour

For the topping:

60g cream cheese

10g sugar

6 tsp orange marmalade

Directions

Preheat your oven to 160C, fan off. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that two edges are longer and hang off the sides for easy removal. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave together the butter and chocolate or chocolate chips on high for a minute. Make sure your butter is at room temperature or slightly cold, and not rock-hard from the fridge. Remove the bowl from the microwave and use a fork or spoon to mix everything together until you get a dark, liquidy consistency and the butter and chocolate has melted together nicely. Microwave for longer if your butter is still a little hard. Let the mixture cool for 2 minutes. In the meantime, add your two sugars and pinch of salt into a separate, larger bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and use a whisk to whisk it in well. Then crack and whisk in the 2 eggs. Finally, add the flour and use a rubber spatula to fold it in well, then pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and homogenous. Add teaspoonful-sized dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter, then add teaspoonfuls of the marmalade just next to the dollops of cream cheese mixture. Use a knife to swirl the topping randomly into the batter. It should look slightly weird and messy. Sprinkle some coarse salt (like Maldon) on top if you’re fancy like that, but you can skip this step. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with moist-to-slightly-wet crumbs. Leave the brownies to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. These keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, but you can freeze them if you don’t have many people to share these with!

24

Living through the last week of being 23 feels like waiting for a chapter that’s meant to close. Those were the exact words I told a close friend recently. 

The past few months have seen the world turned upside down. The enforced solitude, which I have grown to mostly enjoy by implementing a good routine and rewards to look forward to, has forced myself to uncover the roots of some of the biggest problems we face as a global community now, as well as some problems within myself that I have neglected. A few old demons, namely shades of anxiety and depression, may have arisen during the past month, but I’ve grown a lot by attempting to process emotions, past events, my relationships and academic endeavours. Bushy-tailed as I was when I matriculated at Oxford last year to start my PhD, I couldn’t help but feel rather lost and aimless when the virus abruptly took hold of the world, and I hazard a jab at saying that it has impacted most others in the world, too.

I could say I have learnt a few things this year:

  1. Learning a new language is hard, but fun. The more effort I put into it, the more enjoyable the process becomes. Having a strong reason as to why you want to learn makes it all the more worthwhile. 
  2. My relationship with social media has changed, and probably for the better. I find myself easily bored with many platforms now, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, mainly because its constant stimulation has finally dwindled the dopamine rush I get from it. I will take another long break from Instagram soon, I think, because this period of abstinence is akin to a rebirth, while birthing more time into my day, to invest in other priorities such as learning, reading, and actually writing more lengthy posts on this blog. I personally still read blogs, but I feel less inclined to properly read lengthy articles after long bouts of social media usage- it’s just not as fun or stimulating. Yet I know that such an attitude is harmful in the long-term due to the way in which social media rewires the brain, as Cal Newport will also readily say. As much as I love the ability to share my life and engage in things my friends are doing, real life has so much to offer outside of my various blue screens. And real relationships, for me at least, lie in long conversations, over video chat or real life, hearing someone’s voice, so much more profound than the pings of hearts and emojis. Reduced social media usage has allowed me to shape my own opinion on things without forcing Facebook or Insta ads down my throat first, and I can walk around without a phone and just think, and enjoy plain, clean air. I also want to be able to read books in the evenings again, with candles and wine, instead of scrolling through various comments on what other people think about someone else’s boyfriend etc. I could go on and on about the hazards of shamelessly, constantly putting out a highlight reel for the world, but I think my point has been made. 
  3. Relationships have clarified and I am really grateful to those close to me, who constantly inspire, motivate and challenge me. 
  4. Oh my goodness, cooking is really fun. It’s become something I look forward to most nights. I typically have gotten into the routine of cooking a small batch of something 2-3 times a week, because cooking something fresh for one person every night is a little more than necessary, and I find this amount is just right. Very grateful for a freezer, I must say. Lately I’ve been making a lot of this and malai kofta from my friend’s new food blog– she does lots of vegan Indian recipes so do check it out!!

November’s orders for London are still up and running as usual, and you can email me at alimyun@protonmail.com for more details and questions. The stars are nut butter-stuffed brownie cupcakes and PB&J blondies (pictured just above here), and a box contains 4 cupcakes and 2 large blondies. Have received good feedback for both and it truly means a lot to me, even if it’s just coming from one person!