Food Drinks

Jo Seager's infamous Claremont spicy biscuits recipe

Everybody raves about these biscuits.

One of the many joys of baking is that it helps to shorten your “hard to buy for” list.What do you give as a gift to those people who seem to have everything? A tin of homemade – with love – biscuits often solves the problem. Everyone loves simple, delicious, bespoke foodie treats.

My Claremont Spice Biscuits are perfect for giving to friends and family. They’re a doddle to make and always so appreciated. Also, it’s a good recipe as it makes quite a big batch – about three dozen biscuits – so it’s great for Christmas gifting or bake sales and fundraising events. A good basic recipe for your repertoire.

I often mix up a couple of batches of the dough and freeze it – then it’s a speedy wonder to whip up, as if by magic, a tray of fragrant, spicy, crisp treats when the occasion calls for something fresh and yummy from the oven but time isn’t on your side. They only take 15 minutes to cook and are perfect eaten fresh and still warm off the baking tray. They can be cooked from frozen too.

I grew up in Hawke’s Bay at Claremont farm, hence the family name of these particular biscuits, but the recipe is much older and has been converted from the pounds and ounces original written in pencil on an old envelope in the family archives collection. My mother knew its quantities by heart and measured it out instinctively, as I know her mother, our Granny Win, did before her.

I am, in turn, teaching my grandsons to make these biscuits and packages of them have already been given as gifts to their teachers and taken to shared afternoon tea events at school and kindy.

In my family this is the biscuit that filled the tins, was called for when it was a bring-a-plate occasion and was greedily consumed by shearers and stock agents alike and, of course, was always in our school lunchboxes.

Mum sent packages of them back to boarding school to fill tuck-boxes, and once they were brought in a foodie relief parcel to me in London, where I was living and working for a few years way back.

I clearly remember my parents’ friends, Graeme and Jenny, visiting me in a somewhat dodgy flat in Hammersmith bearing gifts from home – a box containing Pinky bars, Gregg’s instant butterscotch pudding mixes, a couple of boxes of Bio Luvil (for soaking the whites in), a jar of Vegemite and a tin of lovely, taste-of-home biscuits.

Mum had even gifted me the tin with the Queen’s corgis on the lid – something my siblings are still a little put out by 40 years later.

Last month Ross and I flew up to Auckland for his father’s 90th birthday celebration. What to give as a present was a worrying dilemma. Stan has everything imaginable a fit 90-year-old requires.

He was adamant he didn’t want any presents except our presence, but still I wanted to arrive with a little something special to mark the big day. The good old Claremont Spice Biscuit recipe came to the rescue yet again and was the perfect solution.

I received a call the next morning from a happy man enjoying a couple of these crispy spiced treats with his first cuppa of the day. Now I’m gifting
the recipe to all you lovely readers and I hope it becomes part of your own culinary treasure chest of favourites.

Claremont spicy biscuits

Makes approx 36
Prep time and cook time 20 minutes

  • 250g butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice

1 Preheat oven to 180°C and line two oven trays with baking paper.

2 Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add egg and golden syrup, mix together well, then add the dry ingredients.

3 Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture into little balls and place on the prepared trays. Flatten with a wet fork. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack .

4 Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days. Both the mixture and the finished biscuits can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to three months.

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