There’s a small pot of heaven in my fridge at home and its name is Speculoos à tartiner.
Originally from Belgium and the Netherlands, speculoos (or speculaas) biscuits were given to children on St Nicholas’ eve. In England, they appear as the biscuits you get with your coffee in the hairdressers, or in those halcyon days before budget airlines, when you were still given nibbles on shorthaul flights. Caramel brown, spiced with cinnamon, these little Belgian biscuits are irritatingly tiny, just big enough for one mouthful of perfect toffeed sweetness before it’s gone, and all you’re left with is a depressing cup of in-flight tea.
Which is obviously why the lovely folk at Lotus decided to whiz up their speculoos and mix them with volumes of oil I’d rather not think about to create speculoos spread…which brings me back to that pot in my fridge.
The phrase ‘à tartiner’, means literally to spread on bread. I know what you’re thinking – biscuits spread on bread, that’s the Belgian equivalent of a deep-fried Mars bar, but it is so good, I don’t care about the carbs. And because the biscuits are made with brown sugar and butter, they melt onto toast in a golden caramely mess, clinging to the roof of your mouth like peanut butter and filling it with sweetness and spice. Joy.
But my love affair with this stuff doesn’t stop at toast. Spooned cold straight from the fridge it cures all emotional ills as it slowly dissolves on your tongue, and last night as my housemate and I dipped between the vanilla ice cream and the pot of speculoos I felt like I might have found my new nirvana.
The next stop is cooking with it. I’m thinking molten centres in the middle of the richest chocolate brownies, a layer underneath the topping of a sharp apple crumble to melt and mingle with the tart fruit, or a more sophisticated version of last night’s transgressions – as a ripple through homemade brown bread ice cream. Recipes to come once the new batch arrives in the post.
Which brings me to the downside of all this, you can only buy it online in England. If you’re hopping over the channel, it’s available in almost every supermarket, so stock up – it keeps forever and you won’t regret the bulk buying. My last two jars have come from a philanthropic friend with a house in Provence, but I feel I can’t trespass on his kindness any longer, so I’ll be buying it here. They even do a crunchy version. Mon dieu.