Cashew and coconut cookies with pandan tea

November 26, 2009 § 1 Comment

It’s been an absolute age since I last posted, mostly because it’s been a manic few weeks and the fun (haha yes, note the intense sarcasm here) hasn’t stopped. Luckily today I woke up to a beautifully sunny, albeit cold day and having completed my mission to find pandan leaves in Chinatown yesterday, I was determined to serve up some delicious-looking and tasting delights for you all.

It’s officially winter here in the middle of nowhere (best known as Buckinghamshire), so I was in dire need of something warm and comforting, but also quite exotic. Whilst playing around in mangroves and waterfalls in Singapore and Malaysia, my friends and I often came across various local delights such as pandan leaves in desserts and beverages. These desserts would usually also contain nuts or coconut to complement the delicate taste of pandan. Pandan itself has been hailed the ‘vanilla of the East’, despite not actually tasting of vanilla at all – the allusion to vanilla is derived from the way that pandan is used to flavour desserts and sweets.

Coconut is a perfect complement to pandan, and cashew nuts are also often used in oriental cuisine so a pairing between these two ingredients would surely produce a smashing accompaniment to a calming brew of pandan tea? Although I found it amusing that in all my exotic ingredients I’ve still managed to come up with the time old classic of a cuppa and a biscuit.

Making these cookies was relatively simple, although you do need various ingredients which are easily found in most supermarkets:

  • 240g plain flour
  • 60g rice flour
  • 40g cornflour
  • 60g coarsely chopped cashew nuts
  • 60g desiccated coconut
  • 125g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp whole milk

Start off by creaming the butter and sugar together, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla essence and beat well.

Now you can either chop the cashew nuts roughly, or you can take the easier option which is to put the cashew nuts into a resealable plastic food bag, close it and take a rolling pin to it to reduce the nuts to small pieces. This is a wonderful stress relieving activity! Then, mix the desiccated coconut with the contents of the food bag.

Measure out the three types of flour, sift them into a separate bowl and add the cashew/coconut mixture. Combine thoroughly before adding the butter mixture. Mix well to give a breadcrumb-like texture.

At this point you will probably start using your hands to manipulate the mixture into a dough. Add the milk a tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly to form a dough. Work the dough together with your hands until it starts to come clean away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Knead the dough onto a well-floured surface until it is smooth, then wrap in cling film and refridgerate for one hour.

Pre-heat your oven to 160°C and grease and line two baking trays generously. Once the hour has elapsed, take your dough out of the refridgerator, divide it into equal pieces (usually about 3 or so) and roll out the dough to a 1cm thickness. Using a cookie-cutter, cut out shapes and place onto the baking tray about an inch apart.

Bake the cookies for 20-25 minutes and then cool on a wire rack.

Whilst your cookies are cooling down, you can prepare the pandan tea:

  • 200ml boiling water
  • 1 blade of pandan leaf, shredded
  • 1 Ceylon tea bag
  • Honey to sweeten

You can buy pandan leaves from most Asian food supermarkets or Thai speciality markets. I found mine in a small store in Chinatown, London. While fresh pandan leaf is ideal for this recipe, you could probably use frozen to the same effect, but would be advised to defrost it thoroughly first. Wash your pandan leaf to get rid of any dirt that might be from the packaging. Then, cut the leaf up into small sections, about 2 inches across and shred using a fork.

Place the shredded pandan leaf into a small saucepan and pour the boiling water over. Steep for 5 minutes so as to release the aroma of the pandan leaf. Add the tea bag and brew according to taste – I didn’t want a strong tea taste, so opted to brew for only 1 minute; obviously if you want a stronger tea, leave the tea bag in for longer. Remove the tea bag before serving and sweeten with honey if required.

A delicately comforting snack, cashew nut and coconut cookies provide a lovely accompaniment to pandan tea, and you can easily dip the cookies into the honey for a sweeter taste. A touch of the exotic brought to your table.

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