Before granny died I did not ask her how she made those crumbly biscuits. I didn’t have her recipe; I didn’t have a recipe because I had no idea how to type the name of those crumbly biscuits into Ask Jeeves. I knew the word had that loaded, guttural ch sound in it, and granny liked to over-do it.
In my head, they were basically just cccchhhhh biscuits.
They didn’t have any weird ingredients, they weren’t complicated – they were like shortbread – but grainier, crumblier. They were NOT uniform in shape, EVER. They were beige, bouldery things. That was her style.
Traditionally, there were three things granny brought over for Sunday dinner:
1. ccccchhhhh biscuits
2. suet pudding (renamed “sewage pudding”, by me)
3. rock cakes
I worked it out. The word was kichel. Which, I think, might just mean ‘cookie’. Because the things the Internet suggests for kichel are not correct.
So, I made these things that are the most granny’s biscuit-like things I’ve eaten since her final batch. I ate them at Al Fassia in Marrakech, a beautiful restaurant run entirely by women. They came free with mint tea and they were crumbly as. Grainy but melty, with toasted sesame. The kind of biscuits that disappear even when you think you’re too full to eat them. The real name of these biscuits is ghriba. Shouts to Alia. Shouts to granny.
A lined baking sheet
30g sesame seeds
60g icing sugar
60ml vegetable oil
pinch of salt
1. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, or until evenly bronzed, shaking intermittently.
2. Set the butter melting.
3. Mix the dry ingredients (including the toasted seeds) with a whisk.
4. Add the oil and melted butter, and combine with a wooden spoon.
5. Start working the mixture with your hands. It’ll be really crumbly. You’ll be able to force it into clumps and then easily collapse them. Work your clumpy crumble for a solid 10 minutes.
6. Leave it in its crumble form covered with cling film in a fridge for 2-3 hours.
7. Preheat the oven at 180°C.
8. Work the mixture for a minute or two to loosen it back up.
9. Then, form little balls of dough in your hand, pop them on your lined baking tray, and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden.
10. Icing sugar party!