There are many things that can make you feel like you’re on holiday. For me, it’s often the small things.
The extra half an hour in bed in the mornings, longer walks with the dog in the park, and more time in the kitchen to enjoy a spot of baking. And baking around the holidays brings the added warmth from knowing there will be more occasions and more people in the house to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
The best sort of holiday baking fills the house with gorgeous smells that creep under the door of every room. These nankatai are quite possibly India’s most famous cookies and are just perfect for creating that holiday feeling.
Though they are found all over India, they are famously found in the light, airy Iranian cafes of Mumbai, where they are a tea-time treat. The texture is something similar to shortbread, but (I think) better. It’s like biting into a sweet, nutty cloud that melts slowly in your mouth.
There is magic at this time of year in the combination of nuts, citrus and dried fruits, though this is the sort of recipe that invites you to mess with it. If you wish, add dried apricots instead of dates, or white chocolate instead of pistachios, or cinnamon instead of cardamom. They will be delicious no matter what.
I like to use beautiful green pistachios with chewy dates along with cardamom partly because this combination is a favourite in our family. I’ve also added my favourite holiday ingredient ‚Äî orange zest ‚Äî to give these cookies a bright little twist.
PISTACHIO, ORANGE AND DATE NANKATAI
Start to finish: 30 minutes, plus chilling (10 minutes active)
Makes 25 cookies
3/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup rice flour
1/2 cup superfine sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for decorating
Zest of 1 orange
4 dates, pitted and roughly chopped
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Place the pistachios in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Set aside 2 tablespoons for decorating later.
In a large bowl, combine the ground pistachios, butter, both flours, 1/2 cup of sugar, the orange zest, dates, salt and cardamom. Rub the butter through the other ingredients and slowly bring the dough together using both hands. Knead it until the dough is smooth, but don’t overwork it.
Divide the dough into 2 portions, then roll each piece into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour, or until firm.
Heat the oven to 325 F. Line 2 baking sheet with kitchen parchment.
Unwrap each log of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch rounds from each log, then arrange them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. In a small bowl, mix together the reserved ground pistachios and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, then sprinkle a bit over each cookie. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until light pale gold, but not browned. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets.
Nutrition information per cookie: 150 calories; 80 calories from fat (53 per cent of total calories); 9 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 10 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 2 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of “Made in India: Recipes from an Indian family kitchen.” She lives in London, blogs at www.meerasodha.com and tweets at @meerasodha