"I'm making you your birthday present again this year, so, what's your favourite nut?"
"Hmm, I think it has to be... cashew? Yes. Cashew." He answered decisively.
Cashew? I thought. I can do something with that. Can it hold its own in a shortbread though, I wondered?
Walking back to the house later that evening, I mulled it over. What more could complement the rich creaminess of the cashew, or add a layer of texture? I ran my tongue along my palette - something... gritty? Yes, gritty. And a few notches deeper in flavour. So roasted, or toasted.
Looking at a standard shortbread recipe I took the liberty of 'browning' the butter. That is to say, I heated it slowly in a heavy-based saucepan until it started to caramelise and popped it back in the fridge to cool. I've learnt the hard lesson before of dough that is too soft and loses its shape in the oven.
Later, as I was chopping honey roasted salted cashews, I wondered if it might taste altogether too nutty. To take the edge off, I threw in some coarsely crushed black pepper to coat the cashews and folded it into the mixture.
Placing my dough back in the fridge for a time, I preheated the oven, lined my trays and made a cup of tea. I scoured the flat for something I might present them in and tried a few different options.
And, before I knew it, it was time to go for birthday brunch with my friend,
Arriving a little early as always, I popped the present on the table and settled back with my magazine.
I hope he likes them, I thought.*
*You can make them yourself by following Nigella's easy shortbread recipe but making sure to brown the butter first, and add whatever you fancy. For this recipe, I used 150g chopped honey roasted and salted cashews, with half a teaspoon of black pepper.