A week or so ago I was sitting in front of a giant, chilli and dry butter, Sri Lankan crab in a Chinese seafood restaurant. The restaurant in a dusty suburb of KL alternated bright pink and yellow tablecloths for the tables, and had colourful lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Lazy-susans and on ours this giant crab, and so many other dishes my belly feels full just remembering it. The crab’s nipper was larger than a child’s hand. We smashed all its legs with hammers at the table, splattering ourselves with the chilli juice. Because it was my birthday I was the one who sucked the flesh out of this giant nipper.
A rarity in KL, this restaurant wasn’t air-conditioned, so our arms sweated against our bright pink tablecloth, and our bare legs stuck to the chairs. An old school expat hangout, my Malaysian friend across the table laughed and said it was full of ghosts.
My birthday cake was a fruit platter of pawpaw and mango under crushed ice and I blew out the lonely candle and ate those icy cold slithers of fruit.
It’s strange to have a birthday without close friends and family – and without the rituals that usually accompany it. And to have those rituals played out with whatever is handy – a giant crab and a fruit platter.
For years now Sarah’s made my birthday cake, last year a group of friends celebrated my birthday at my friend’s beach house, taking wintery walks in the seaweed and sand, and eating birthday cake.
Sarah and I love making cakes and biscuits as presents. It shows the time and care you’ve taken and it’s personal. Of course it doesn’t last forever, but that’s part of the charm, it’s special because it’s fleeting. This recipe, the Brown Sugar Biscuits make great presents, because as well as having a perfectly balanced pecan to biscuit ratio, they keep very well. I love how quick they are to bake. They only take 15 minutes in the oven, so if maybe you’ve forgotten it’s someone’s birthday and need a special present in a hurry? I’ve often baked them for friends, sometimes just to take over for a surprise afternoon tea.
I missed my friends, even though I was sitting there sweaty and happy with new friends eating a giant crab.
Brown Sugar Biscuits
This is another one of those recipes we wrote down and can’t remember from where … please forgive us.
(makes 24 biscuits)
125g butter, softened
250g dark brown sugar
1 free-range egg, beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups plain flour
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Preheat oven to 190C. Grease two large oven trays.
Beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together, and beat into the creamed butter mixture.
Roll teaspoonfuls of mixture on a lightly floured surface, then place on the oven trays (with enough room between each for the biscuit to spread). Press a pecan half onto each rolled ball of mixture and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 15 minutes or until golden. Allow biscuits to cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.