Some years ago now I had the pleasure of visiting the Agrarian Kitchen, a perfect little country oasis with everything you could ever want; from the covetable kitchen detail down to the impressive location and blissful way of life. Rodney and Séverine have worked very hard to establish the beautiful place they call home, and we are so fortunate that they have chosen to share it in the guise of a sustainable, farm-based cooking school as it really is such a delight to visit. Thankfully for those of us living farther afield, last year their efforts grew to include the writing of Rodney's first book, The Agrarian Kitchen, a stunning piece that evokes envy and inspiration, and shows how having passion for what you do will turn a few simple ingredients into something spectacular.
As I left their book launch last November I had every intent of promptly losing myself within its pages but as is often the case life had other plans, and so I instead packed up, moved house and began work as a baker's apprentice. It took some time for the dust to settle, but with my belongings slowly wending their way out of storage the library is finally back on display and prompting the usual dilemmas of which recipe to try next.
It was high time to delve into the depths of The Agrarian and being one partial to an age-old classic, I was rather taken by the recipe for raspberry creams. Pursued with a few adaptations to make use of stored fruit and satisfy jammy cravings they were great, and a perfectly proper treat for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Rodney notes that the reason he loves a filled biscuit is the air of occasion that they bring and I, for one, couldn't agree more. The greatest joys in life lie in the little moments, so one should always take time to celebrate tea, both morning and/or afternoon, and preferably with the comforts of a thoroughly indulgent biscuit.
BLACKBERRY ROSE GERANIUM CREAMS (Loosely adapted from The Agrarian Kitchen by Rodney Dunn.)
- 120 g butter, unsalted
- 80 g brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 190 g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 80 g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 50 g blackberry rose geranium jam (see below)
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two trays with baking parchment.
Beat together the brown sugar, vanilla and 110 g softened butter until pale and creamy, then add the egg and beat to combine. Sift over the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and mix to a firm dough. Roll heaped teaspoons of the dough into balls and place on the prepared trays, pressing down lightly to flatten. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
In the meantime, beat together the remaining butter, icing sugar and 1 tablespoon of water to form a smooth cream.
To assemble, spread a little cream over half the biscuits and a little jam over the other half. Sandwich the biscuit halves together and leave for 30 minutes to set. Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Blackberry rose geranium jam
- 200 g apple (preferably of the pippin variety), peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 120 ml water
- 200 g blackberries
- juice of half a lemon
- 300 g sugar
- 4 rose geranium leaves
In a medium saucepan cook the apples and water until the fruit becomes soft, about 5-10 minutes. Add the blackberries and lemon juice and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Add the geranium leaves and then the sugar, stirring until it has fully dissolved. Bring the jam to a gentle simmer then remove from the heat and allow to macerate overnight.
The next day, bring the jam to a rolling boil and maintain the heat until it reaches setting point. Discard the geranium leaves and then pour the jam into hot sterilised jars and seal. Makes 8-9 biscuits.
** Rodney notes that the cream biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days, and un-iced biscuits for up to a week.
** If you prefer seedless jam, once the apples and blackberries have simmered allow the fruit to cool, pass through a fine sieve and then proceed by adding the sugar to the pureed fruit.