Nearly five years ago this month we moved from a grimy, grim part of norf London to lovely, leafy Hampstead. We went from having double bus lanes out one window and train lines out the other to a sheltered courtyard across the road from Hampstead Heath.
Our old neighbours were either crackheads or victims of crime, our new ones were ridiculously rich and all quite mad. There was the property developer and his former makeup artist wife, who used to tell us stories about hanging out with Robbie Williams; the mysterious gem expert, who used to roll home roaring drunk (and dripping with diamonds); and the completely crackers psychologist who was suing everyone else in the building for doing things like taking her recycling bin or painting their windowsills a different shade of magnolia. She knew we weren’t sue-able but used to delight in telling us that our tiny flat “used to be the gardener’s shed”.
Anyway, at the time I made hundreds of these cookies, often for the children of the property developer and makeup artist. They were the most normal of the bunch – I’d love to know how they turned out.
The fantastic thing about these cookies – apart from the fact that they can be made in what a lettings agent would call a “bijou kitchen” – is that you can vary them according to suit your pantry. The ones pictured here have salted peanuts and dark chocolate, but in Hampstead I used to make them with dark chocolate, Brazil nuts and apricots. Whatever you do, please don’t use chocolate chips. They’re made from such horrible, tasteless chocolate that they’re an insult to baking.
125g softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
around 1 1/2 cups dried fruit, nuts and chocolate (ie, 1/2 a cup of each)
Preheat the oven to 180C and lightly grease an oven tray.
Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, then add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Stir in the flour, then add the nuts, fruit and chocolate. Mix well. Take tablespoon-sized heaps of the mixture and roll into balls. Place on the tray – allow at least an inch between each one for spreading. Press down gently with a fork, then bake for 15-17 minutes. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight tin.