Is there a better smell than that of nut-brown butter?

Sure, there are great scents around. The ocean skipping over sand on a crisp autumn morning is one.

I’m also pretty mad about the aroma of the top of this one’s head after a bath.

Then there’s the tropical fug of a perfectly ripe pineapple being cut open.

And the nose prickling warmth of an open fire – especially if there’s a bottle of red wine within reach.

But nut brown butter is pretty much up there.

It’s full of promise. It carts with it the prospect of  indulgence (I’ve commonly put it to use it with crispy sage and parmesan drizzled over pasta or scrambled eggs- though there’s also a recipe in the new book which uses it with yellow split peas, garlic, orange zest, almonds and chilli).

To pin it down, it’s not quite caramel and not quite toasted nuts. It’s burnished dairy and fat, shimmying together. It’s like hot toast, with a holiday tan. It’s often the result of the happiest of accidents- butter left melting on the stove that’s been shunned for a moment or two too long.

It seems good things can come from multitasking.

All of these help explain why these cookies came to life last week. My dad was back in hospital. (He’s doing fine). Just another piece of titanium needed to add to the arsenal. (At some stage, someone may start to ask if he’s as much metal as man).

Hospitals are not places which smell great. The air is stale and clipped. It’s all sterile efficiency and supportive stockings. I was in search of a warming, friendly cookie that he could munch into both alone and when he had guests. I needed something that wouldn’t weigh him down too much (post procedures, it’s easy for bodies to feel a little sluggish). The jumping off point was nut brown butter and oats. From there I moved to dates- for a hint of sticky date pudding (an old favourite of his). The pinch of salt was necessary to balance it all out and the dark chocolate was invited along because when you’re going to prone for a few days,  a touch of chocolate can be uplifting.

These are like the naughty older sibling to the banana, oat choc nut cookies I made last year when I was struggling to feed the littlest hungry one, and the banana, quinoa flake and muesli ‘cookies’ I cobble together most weeks to let Will munch on (oh- the mess. God help us all. The Cookie Monster has nothing on the way this child consumes food). What else will it take to convince you? They have a slightly cake-ish interior and rustic texture. They’re soothing and filling.  I’ve been assured are quite good for morale.  And the smell while baking?  Swoon. It’s enough to make you search out someone who’s poorly just so you have an excuse to make them once again.

Actually I take that last bit back. I think we’re done with hospitals for a while now.

Brown Butter, Date and Oat Cookies

Nb, these are probably not an everyday cookie. There’s a stonking amount of fructose in dates. But as a treat, it doesn’t get much better for me.

Makes 16-18 cookies

 Shopping/foraging

100 g unsalted butter
275 g dates, or 250 g pitted dates
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup/50 grams ground almonds or hazelnuts
2 cups/160 g oats
1 good pinch of salt
Optional; 40 g dark chocolate, cut into small pebbles

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line one large, or two medium baking sheets with baking paper.

2) Place the butter in a saucepan and melt, then keep it on the heat until it has turned a golden, nut brown colour.

3) While the butter is melting cut the pits out of the dates and cut each date into three or four small pieces  and place in a bowl.

4) Pour the dates into the warm nut brown butter and allow to steep while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

5) Combine the banana and the egg with the dates and the butter.

Then fold in the remainder of the dry ingredients until you have a batter that holds itself on the end of a spoon. If you feel like it, you can add some small nuggets of chocolate.

6) Portion the batter into tablespoon size mounds with a couple of centimetres clearance each side.

7) Bake for 15 minutes, until the tops are golden and they are firm to touch. Allow to cool on baking tray. These will have slightly cakish texture inside, so are best stored in the fridge, or eaten within a few days.  These are excellent with a nostalgic glass of milk, a cup of tea, a coffee, or with chocolate ice cream (so I’m told).