Figgy Jam

61 Comments

Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.


Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.


I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Gordon’s Christmas Muesli

43 Comments

I’m a big sucker for both Gordon Ramsay, and Christmas. Especially Christmas, but I really respect Gordon Ramsay.

Because he wasn’t well known in the U.S. until he exploded onto food television, many Americans weren’t aware that he’d had a long, tough, distinguished and successful culinary journey up to that point.

And he still is successful. His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars.

Gordon, since we’re on a first-name basis, and Christmas are represented beautifully in a book called “Christmas with Gordon, published in 2010.”

I’ve bookmarked many recipes, and made a few since I first bought the book. But this year while looking through it, a recipe popped out at me that I thought would also make a great gift, which is Christmas Muesli.

It’s not an especially unique recipe, especially for Gordon Ramsay. Beef Wellington is typically associated with the Ramsay name. But I’m excited to make the muesli as gifts.

It’s been many years since I made my own granola. It was so healthy, that only I would eat it. Lots of raw grains, rolled grains, toasted grains, toasted nuts, toasted seeds and no sugar. Yep, that’s why I was the only one who liked it.

But this recipe doesn’t contain lots of sugar. Instead there are an abundance of dried fruits. And, it’s also pretty.

Here’s the recipe.

Christmas Muesli
Makes about 1.3 kg
printabe recipe at bottom

400 g porridge oats
75g unsweetened desiccated coconut
100g skinned hazelnuts
100g skinned Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
100g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
180ml water
120ml groundnut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
75g pitted dates, roughly chopped
75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries
50g crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Combine the oats, coconut, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, brown sugar, and ground spices in a large bowl. Mix well.

Whisk together the water oil, vanilla and salt and then stir into the dry ingredients.

Spread the mixture out in two large, shallow roasting trays.

Toast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring and swapping the trays occasionally, until the muesli is golden and crisp, checking frequently towards the end.

Leave to cool.

Stir in the dried fruit and crystallized ginger.


Store in an airtight container.

I found some tall containers that would be perfect for the granola, and used a plastic baguette bag to line them.

Much prettier!

Enjoy with milk or any milk substitute, or plain yogurt. It’s honestly the best granola I’ve ever had! I’ve already made another batch…

 

 

Date Nut Logs

17 Comments

It’s funny how easy it is to lose a recipe. And to think I’m so organized. These date nut logs have passed through my brain from time to time, and yet I haven’t been able to locate the recipe for years.

And then a while back I got out my little book called Glorious Liqueurs, when I posted on spiced pear liqueur. Just for fun, I looked through the book to see recipes I’d bookmarked, and also recipes I’ve made. And there it was. Just in time for the holidays. Glory be.
download

The book, which is available through Amazon, was published in 1991. It contains recipes for making your own liqueurs, as well as recipes utilizing the liqueurs.

The author describes these date nut logs as “halfway between a confection and a cookie.”

If you love a sweet treat, give these a try for the holidays. They have a lovely flavor with dates, pecans, and orange.
date2

Date Nut Logs*
from Glorious Liqueurs, by May Aurea Morris

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
8 ounces pitted dates, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped (about 3 1/2 ounces)
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13″ baking pan; set aside.

Onto a sheet of wax paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

Toast the pecans in a skillet, then set them aside to cool before chopping. (The author didn’t toast her pecans.)


Combine the chopped dates and pecans in a medium bowl. I added about a tablespoon of the flour mixture and tossed it into the dates and pecans to make them less sticky and more able to separate.

In a large bowl with the electric mixer on high speed, beat the eggs until they are foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is very thick and forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted from it.
date55
On low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until absorbed. Beat in the liqueur and zest.

Fold in the dates and pecans. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

With a sharp knife, cut 9 lengthwise strips and 8 crosswise ones, forming 6 dozen tiny rectangles.

Sift the powdered sugar onto a sheet of wax paper. Gently roll the rectangles in the sugar, coating all sides and forming log shapes.
date4
The log rolling only works when the cake is still warm. If you get carried away on HOTELS.com like I did the evening I made these, just leave them in mini rectangles. No one cares what shape these are, because they’re that good. I’ve actually undercooked them before, ever so slightly, and rolled them in to balls.


Store the cookies in a tightly covered container.
date
From experience, I know they freeze well in a ziplog bag or plastic ware.
date567

Semifreddo

38 Comments

Semi freddo means half frozen in Italian. It’s a pretty good description of this dessert, which stores in the freezer, but gets soft within a few minutes at room temperature. It’s really not like ice cream. It’s like a sabayon folded into whipped cream, but then slightly frozen. Is it worth it? Yes!!!

I’ve actually made this dessert three times before. Horrors. I know. I usually make something new when I have an excuse to make a dessert, like for company. But this semifreddo is so good that sometimes I need to make it just to be reminded how delicious it really is.

This version uses dried fruits and crystallized ginger, and is topped with a berry sauce for a pretty presentation. But I’ve also made a pumpkin version that was incredible. In fact, I should make that for Halloween… I could probably make one a month easily, using whatever is in season – think strawberry, cherry, cranberry, citrus, etc… Semifreddo of the month club!

fred1

Anyway, this dessert is very easy although it does take time. Fortunately, it can be made the day before, and just taken out of the freezer before serving. If you’ve never made a semifreddo, it’s time you did!!! It’s delicious and elegant.

Semifreddo with dried fruits and crystallized ginger

2 3/4 cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Riesling
2/3 cups white sugar
Zest of one large orange
1 cup mixed dried fruits, I used plums and cranberries
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Whip the cream until firm peaks form. Then refrigerate until needed.
semi13

Place plastic wrap going both directions in a large loaf pan, with plenty hanging over. My pan is 9″ long, but 6″ deep. And this recipe fills it up.
semi16

Have the orange zest handy.
semi14

And have the dried fruits and ginger handy as well.
semi15

Place a large pot of water on the stove on simmer, large enough to create a bain marie for your mixing bowl.

Then place the egg yolks, wine, and sugar in your mixing bowl.

Beat the three ingredients until nice and smooth, then place the bowl over the simmering water.
semi11

Continue beating.
semi9

And beating.
semi8

You will notice the mixture increase in volume, and also become lighter in color.

After about ten minutes of beating or so, depending on a few factors, it will thicken as well.

Test the mixture with a thermometer – it should reach 160 degrees Farenheit.

When this happens, remove the bowl from the water, but continue beating until it cools, which should taker 7 or 8 minutes, depending on a few factors. If you want, have a pan of icy water on hand to put the bowl in, like I did, to expedite the cooling of the sabayon.

After it has cooled off, beat in the orange zest.

When you are sure that the mixture isn’t warm anymore, begin folding the whipped cream into the sabayon.
semi3

Gently but persistently fold in the remaining cream. You don’t want any streaks.

Then fold in the dried fruit and ginger.
semi1

Place gently in the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.
semi

Immediately place in the freezer. After about one hour, cover the loaf pan with the overhanging plastic wrap. I also add another layer of plastic wrap to insure that the semifreddo doesn’t absorb any off flavors from the freezer.

The semifreddo can be made up to 3 days ahead, but I always make it a day ahead. To serve, I unwrap the semifreddo and turn it out onto a flat serving platter. Let it warm up for a few minutes, then slice it into 1/2″ slices. You can always use a knife that is held under running hot water to make the slices, then wipe the knife after each slice and repeat.

Top with a nice amount of chilled berry sauce and serve. Additional berries are optional.

note: All kinds of different additions can be used in a semifreddo, but I stick with smaller pieces of dried fruits. Larger, dried cherries might interfere with the slicing process. Also, nuts like pistachios and chopped macadamias would be fabulous as well. It’s a very forgiving dessert!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

32 Comments

I have a newly discovered love of all things British since my daughter moved to London over three years ago. Before that I’d never been to England, but we’ve been visiting her quite a bit. She’s a good excuse to cross the pond, so to speak. She’s a very good tour guide, and does especially well taking us to her favorite restaurants and gastropubs in London.

It was at one, called Vinoteca, where I decided to have dessert after brunch. It was Mum’s Day, after all, so I splurged. My daughter was attempting to explain to us that all desserts in England are called puddings. I mean, I was served my Sticky Toffee Pudding, and it’s a cake! But there, it’s a pudding! Why is it called a pudding?!

The “pudding” didn’t look like much. It was a square of golden brown cake. But it was hot, and topped with gooey caramel sauce and slowly melting vanilla ice cream, so I knew it would be good.

Well, I have to say. It was sweet heaven on a plate.

I never wanted to have it again because that experience was so perfect, but about a year after that, my husband and I went with our daughter to the Lake District of Northern England, in Cumbria. We stayed at a delightful bed and breakfast outside of Coniston that served fabulous meals. And, one night, they served us Sticky Toffee Pudding.

It was even better than what I had in London. I later discovered that the birthplace of Sticky Toffee Pudding is the Lake District!!! But why it was even better I’ve never been able to figure out.

I’ve looked at many recipes for Sticky Toffee Pudding since, and they’re all similar. The “cake” is made with dates, which no one knows. But they’re in there. It’s quite unique. So here is my recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding. You’ll love it, too!

Sticky Toffee Pudding

cake:
6 ounces finely chopped dates
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 ounces boiling water
6 ounces self-rising flour
2 1/2 ounces butter, at room temperature
6 ounces white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature

sauce:
7 ounces brown sugar
3.5 ounces butter
5.3 ounces heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, cut into fourths

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8″ square baking dish; set aside.

Place the dates in a small saucepan along with the baking soda. Add the boiling water and give the dates a stir. Place the pan over a burner and once they’re boiling, boil them gently for about a minute; this breaks them down a little more. Set aside the pan and let the dates cool for at least 30 minutes.

stick4

Sift the flour into a small bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, and mix thoroughly.

stick2

When the dates have cooled, add them to the butter-sugar mixture and beat well; you can’t overbeat. Switch to a spoon, and add the sifted flour. Stir to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

stick1

Meanwhile, make the sauce:

Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Heat the pan slowly over medium heat, until the butter has melted. Let the mixture cook for about five minutes: it will have thickened.

stick3

After the cake has baked for 30 minutes, remove it from the oven. Put about 4 or 5 tablespoons of the caramel sauce on top of the cake and spread it around to cover the cake completely. Then return the cake to the oven for 2 minutes.

stick

Serve the cake hot or warm, drizzled with the sauce. A scoop of ice cream is optional!

Sticky Toffee Pudding at a restaurant called Bumpkin, in London

Sticky Toffee Pudding at a restaurant called Bumpkin, in London