Every time I pick up Nigella Lawson's How to Eat some new gem falls into my lap, some fresh insight into who Nigella was pre-Charles Saatchi, way back when her husband was dying of tongue cancer and she was flying along, writing so intelligently, at her peak. As a book, let alone a book about cooking, it is entirely absorbing, something Salman Rushdie, a quote of whose graces the back jacket, and I can agree upon. Flipping through, searching for the intro to digestive biscuits, witty words wedged into my brain years ago, I stumbled across this aching confession toward the back of the book, in her feeding babies chapter,
When I was young, I was so often made, to the point of torture, to eat up every cold, congealing thing on my plate, that I now can't help but finish up everything in sight, on my plate or other people's. This might be a polite party trick, but it doesn't make for a serene life or stable weight.
Why do I love this excerpt with all of my being?
The Nigella she lays bare in that final sentence feels substantive, honest and intelligent in a way that her latter books do not. Can not. A raw, uncomfortable resonance with my own complex relationship with greed/food-as-reward in there? Yes. Mostly though it's because of this one, rare thing: serious food writers do not casually admit things that make them vulnerable. She's rather wonderful in pre-Nigella-on-the-telly mode in How to Eat. A favourite book because she's so utterly on form.
It's a leap from digestives to crackers, but not a large one. It is, however, a giant leap from Nigella Lawson to healthy baking, but that's what I sat down here to write about, and delicious, gluten-free crackers ye shall have. Nigella in her new, slimmer shape will not, I am sure, mind one bit.
Swore black and blue that a return to bookselling would not increase the girth of my bookshelf, but who was I kidding? Bloody hopeless. Two new books, two new cracking cracker recipes.
Jude Blereau's brown rice and chia crackers in her excellent Wholefood Baking (on the right) are, admittedly, a whole lot more work than the unthinkably simple seed crackers from Green Kitchen Stories (on the left). Both have their relative merits - Blereau's are a genuine revelation and you'll have to buy the book for that recipe - but let me say this straight up: the easier choice, for once in this 'ole life, is what everyone swoops upon.
Slightly (very slightly) adapted from Green Kitchen Stories pretty new book in that I make less - the full version goes just as quickly as the half, and they are really an unskilled sort of simple to make. Some specialist ingredients, but a good health food shop should have most of these on hand.
Set your oven to 150 C. In a roomy bowl mix together 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup of sesame seeds, 1/4 cup of hemp seeds (use more sunflower if you canot find) with 1/6 cup of linseeds, 1/2 cup of quinoa or amaranth flour and a fat pinch of salt. Pour in 1/8 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of water. Whisk well.
Despite what Kathryn and I think about baking paper, this is one occasion you'll want a sheet. Use it to line a baking tray. Pour the cracker batter on top. Smooth out with a spatula, right to the edges of the paper, as thin as you can go. Bake for 25 minutes. Peel the paper off the mixture, which will be well-set and slightly brittle, and cut into cracker shapes with a large, sharp knife. Rustic is good. Return to the tray, then the oven until crisp and golden. They say 30 minutes, but my oven takes about 10 minutes, so keep checking. Cool before carefully setting them out and keeping your wits about you.