Figgy Jam

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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!

Candied Lemon Peel

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When I was young, my mother often made candied citrus fruit – usually grapefruit and orange. I didn’t quite have the palate for these at first, and couldn’t grasp the concept that is was okay to eat the peels! But as I got older I became more fond of them.

Recently I realized that I’ve never made any kind of candied citrus, so I thought I’d make a small batch. I typically see these during the holidays; they make such pretty gifts, especially partially dipped in dark chocolate.

But instead I thought I’d make candied lemon peel for a fun summer treat, perhaps chopping them up to add to home-made granola. And just to say I’ve made them!

Here’s what I did, based on this recipe from Epicurious.

Candied Lemon Peel
Printable recipe below

3 large lemons
4 cups white sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Place rack on rimmed baking sheet.

Cut ends of each lemon. Score each one lengthwise in quarters, butting just through peel, and not the flesh. Carefully pull off each peel quarter in 1 piece.


Cut each quarter lengthwise into 1/4” wide strips. Cook peel in saucepan of boiling water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour peel into a colander. Rinse.

Bring 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar completely. Add drained lemon peel to saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lemon peel is very soft and looks translucent, about 40 minutes.

Using fork, transfer lemon peel, 2 or 3 strips at a time, to prepared rack. Separate strips and arrange on rack. Let peel drain 15 minutes.

Sprinkle peel generously with sugar.

Turn strips over and sprinkle second side generously with sugar. I used white sugar, above left, and raw sugar, above right. Let dry uncovered overnight.

Candied lemon peel can be made up to 1 week ahead.

Keep refrigerated.


Attention! Do not throw away that wonderful lemon-infused simple syrup! Store it to use in cocktails! No filter, it’s really that pretty!

And, use the peeled lemons in a lemon dressing. I added olive oil, parsley, garlic, and salt to the blended lemons based on my whole lemon dressing recipe.

Turns out there was little difference between the white granulated sugar and the raw sugar. I’d personally just stick with white.
 

 

Gin Ramos Fizz

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I remember the first time I tasted a gin Ramos fizz at a friend’s house. I wasn’t a drinker back when I had it, but I never forgot its uniqueness. There was a subtle orange flavor, and the best way to describe the drink, was that it was fluffy!

Years later, on a Christmas morning after marriage and children, I made the drink for my husband and myself, but I quickly learned that drinking on Christmas morning and having two kids just didn’t go together.

Fast forward to 2018 and gin Ramos fizz popped into my brain! I found this recipe online at Epicurious.com. According to Epicurious, “This version of the classic New Orleans cocktail was created by Eben Freeman, bartender of Tailor restaurant in New York City.”

Being that Christmas had passed, I thought I’d serve these cocktails for Easter.

Gin Ramos Fizz
serves 1

1/4 cup (2 ounces) gin
1 dash (3 to 4 drops) orange blossom water
1 large egg white.
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) half-and-half.
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lemon juice.
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) fresh lime juice.
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) simple syrup.
1 cup ice cubes
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) seltzer

In large cocktail shaker, combine gin, orange blossom water, egg white, half-and-half, lemon juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. Shake vigorously for 25 seconds. Add ice and shake for 30 seconds more.

Strain mixture into 8-ounce glass. Slowly pour soda water down inside edge of shaker to loosen remaining froth. Gently ease soda water/froth mix onto drink and serve.

I do think that the cocktail could also be made in a blender, but for the sake of making these for the first time in 30-something years, I followed the directions!

And, I doubled the recipe, but it’s easily quadrupled.

The drink is truly spectacular. You taste the gin, the orange flower water, and the citrus. Plus, it’s creamy and foamy. What’s not to love?!!

After using the recipe I found online, I found this one I’d copied from somewhere. Next time I’ll make this version!

Note: Seriously dropper the orange flower water into the cocktail mixture. It smells lovely, but can become bitter if too much is used. Add a few more drops if you don’t taste it.

 

 

 

Gordon’s Christmas Muesli

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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…

 

 

The Dirty Snowman

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It’s rare that I peruse a men’s clothing catalog, because my husband isn’t a stylin’ kind of guy. Which is fine with me, since I’m not either. We probably often look like a couple of vagrants.

But during the catalog-intense period of time prior to Christmas, I happened to check out a men’s catalog that intrigued me. It’s called Huckberry, and the catalog pages were cute, with photos like this one.

But what got me excited was a cocktail recipe that was in the catalog, called The Dirty Snowman.


It contains cognac and dark beer, neither of which I like. I think it was the chocolate and hazelnut rim on the glass that got my attention!

Here’s the recipe:

The Dirty Snowman
Makes 1 drink

Cocoa nibs and chopped hazelnuts, for garnish (I used chopped bittersweet chocolate)
1/2 ounce simple syrup, plus a little extra for the rim
1 teaspoon cocoa nibs (again, chopped bittersweet chocolate)
1 1/4 ounce cognac
3 ounces dark beer (I used Guinness)
Splash coconut milk (I used freshly whipped cream)

Use simple syrup to rim a glass with the hazelnuts and chocolate.



In a shaker, muddle the 1/2 ounce of simple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of chocolate.

Add the cognac and shake well with ice.

Strain into the rimmed glass, add ice, and top with beer.

They suggest floating a splash of coconut milk on top, which could be tasty, but I preferred to add unsweetened whipped cream.

My husband loved it, and suggested I make some on Christmas eve.

Oh, and it turns out that Huckberry sells much more than men’s apparel. Cute stuff.

Coconut Eggnog

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I happen to love eggnog. I mean I love eggnog so much that I even buy it in the carton. I doctor it up a bit with spices and bourbon of course; this photo is from last Christmas Eve.

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But why stop drinking eggnog after the holidays? I say hell no to that! I want my eggnog!

Recently I came across a Goya magazine ad for coconut eggnog, or Coquito, which according to the ad is an authentic Puerto Rican beverage.

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Since eggnog isn’t available at the grocery store any longer (why?) I knew I would have to try this version for my eggnog fix.

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This isn’t the same as regular home-made eggnog, but I thought the coconut flavor would be really fun, and it definitely is.

Here’s the recipe as I photographed it from the magazine.

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In a blender jar, add the evaporated milk, cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Blend on high until mixture is well combined.

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Pour eggnog into a pitcher and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill until cold.

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When ready to serve, shake first, add to glass, and add rum to taste.

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Garnish with ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks, if desired.

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I tried the eggnog both chilled and at room temperature, and I enjoyed both.

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The color isn’t as pretty if vanilla extract and cinnamon are included in the mixture, so these photos don’t show the eggnog with those ingredients.

I did include a grind of nutmeg before serving.

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Note: If you chill this eggnog overnight, you could always include a few cinnamon sticks.

Mimi’s Christmas Biscotti

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I’m not the first person to come up with the festive combination of dried cranberries and pistachios. They’re red and green, which, of course, is all about Christmas and the holiday season.

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Biscotti are twice-baked cookies. They’re first baked in flat logs, then sliced and baked again to dry them out.

I’ve always loved making different variations of biscotti, because they lend themselves to limitless variations. Because of that, I wanted a cookie base I could depend on, and this is my recipe for that base.

To it you can add dried cranberries and pistachios, or any other fruit and nut combination.

I’m going to type up my recipe as it was published in a local cookbook called “Cooking by the Boot Straps” – A Taste of Oklahoma Heaven Cooked Up By The Junior Welfare League of Enid, Oklahoma. I was honored that they included a few of my recipes in their book, which was published in 2002.

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So here’s the recipe:
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Mimi’s Biscotti

Cookie Base:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour

Fruit and Nut Additions:
1 cup chopped dried fruit
3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Beat the butter in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add the sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat just until combined.

Fold in the dried fruit and nuts with a wooden spoon. Chill, covered, 4 hours or overnight.

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Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place 1 portion of the dough on a hard work surface. Use a small amount of the remaining scant 1/4 cup of flour to shape 1 portion of the dough into a log approximately 2 inches in diameter.

Arrange the log along the long side of a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat the process with the remaining portion of the dough.

Pat each log into a rectangle about 1/2 inch in height.

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Place the logs in a preheated 350-degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. Do not over brown. Remove from oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees and let the cookie logs cool for about 10 minutes.

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Slide the logs on to a cutting board using a metal spatula. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. My kids always begged for the “rejects,” which are the ends and any broken biscotti!

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Arrange the slices cut side down on a baking sheet.

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Dry in the oven for 30 minutes; turn. Dry for 30 minutes longer. Both sides should be hard and dry.

If necessary reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and dry for 1 hour longer. Remembering that you are drying the cookies, not toasting them.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in re-sealable plastic bags. May freeze for up to 1 month.

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You may use dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots, dried blueberries, dark or golden raisins as well as coconut and crystallized ginger for the chopped dried fruit.

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For the nuts, they all work – almonds, walnuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, pecans, pine nuts, and hazelnuts.

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Be creative. Try cherry almond, cranberry pistachio, golden raisin pecan, hazelnut apricot or your favorite combinations. You may also add cinnamon, poppy seeds, sweet citrus oil, citrus zest and any extracts.

Makes 5 dozen biscotti.

Mulled Holiday Port

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We’ve all had mulled wine, but have you ever had mulled port? It’s like mulled wine on crack. It will warm you on the dreary damp days of winter. It’s like medicine for the soul. Yes, it’s medicinal.

I found the recipe for mulled port and adapted it slightly from this cookbook:
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Port is fabulous as is, but I never thought to serve it hot. Or mulled.

So here’s the recipe. If you like mulled wine, you’ll love mulled port!
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Mulled Port

4 Clementines or tangerines, preferably seedless
1 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
About 10 whole cloves
About 8 cloves allspice, smashed
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2 sticks cinnamon
Sprinkling of ground nutmeg
1 bottle ruby port

Slice open 2 of the Clementines and squeeze the juice into an enameled saucepan large enough to hold a bottle of port. Add the water, brown sugar, cloves, allspice, cinnamon sticks, and the nutmeg.

Add the segments from the other two Clementines and add them to the saucepan as well.
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Simmer the liquid and Clementines for about 10 minutes. The sugar will dissolve and your whole house will smell good.
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Then add the bottle of port. I happened to be low on ruby port (husband) so I substituted tawny port for the rest.
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Heat the mixture through, without letting it boil.
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Sieve the mixture into a bowl with a spout.
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Pour the mulled port into 2 or 4 heatproof glasses or cups. Serve immediately.

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I also put a couple of Clementine segments into each glass, but that’s optional.

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If I’d used shorter glasses, I also would have placed a cinnamon stick into each one.

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verdict: This stuff is perfect. I wouldn’t alter anything with the recipe. Sweet enough without being too sweet. The original recipe called for 2 cups of water, but let’s not kid ourselves. While we’re warming our bodies, we want a buzz. We’re not drinking watered down port. Amen.

Moro’s Yogurt Cake

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It’s not often when I go to the same restaurant more than once. I’m usually done, and ready to move on to the next! Like my motto – so many restaurants, so little time!

One exception was Moro, in London. I’ve been three times – once was a special celebration for my daughter’s second master’s degree, this one from Sotheby’s (please allow me a little bit of boasting).

Moro is a busy, bustling restaurant in Clerkenwell. The cuisine is North African, so you can just imagine the offerings of courses representing Morocco, Spain, Egypt, and on through the Middle East, but generally referred to as Moorish in origin.

The Moro concept was started by the husband and wife team of Samantha and Samuel Clark, who were inspired by their travels to those regions.

I have so many different food photos from my dining experiences at Moro; I will share a few. The food is vibrant, flavorful, spectacular.

A few of us on that celebratory night ordered A signature dessert to share – Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate, photographed below.

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I can’t recreate that dining experience at Moro with my daughter, but I can make the cake!
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Here it is:
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Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate
Adapted from recipe found online*

3 eggs, separated
70 g or 2 1/2 ounces white sugar
Seeds from 2 vanilla pods
350 g or 12 ounces yogurt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
20 g or approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, sifted
30 g or 1 ounce pistachios, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or 180 degrees Centigrade.

I used a deep-dish pie pan for this dessert, and brushed it with butter lightly.

Find a deep-sided baking tray that will fit the cake tin and you can use as a bain marie.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with 50 g of the sugar (I removed about 1 tablespoon for the egg whites) until thickened and pale.

Stir in the vanilla seeds, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and flour; mix well.


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In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks, then add the remaining sugar and continue to whisk for a moment until the whitesbecome glossy.
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Gently fold the egg whites into the yogurt mix, then pour into the pie pan and place it inside the baking tray.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour the water around the pie pan until it reaches halfway up the sides. Place it in the oven for 20 minutes.
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Sprinkle over the pistachios, then bake for another 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from the water immediately.

Eat warm or at room temperature. The consistency should be a light sponge with custard underneath.
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Sprinkle the cake with pomegranate seeds and serve with a drizzle of yogurt.
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Alternatively, I used a small dollop of marscapone.
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It was May when we shared this yoghurt cake at Moro. But what a perfect holiday dessert this is! All that red and green!
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The cake isn’t the prettiest desert; it looks like a pile of pudding on the plate. But you won’t care once you taste it!
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If you’ve had trouble in the past opening pomegranates, I learned my favorite technique from the blog Chica Andaluza. Her technique worked perfectly!
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* This recipe is in the original Moro cookbook.
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Pumpkin Mousse

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Someone recently asked me what my favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, I responded chocolate mousse. Not the fluffy, creamy chocolate stuff, but the dark, rich, almost fudge-like chocolate mousse.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t have to think about it, not being much of a dessert eater. If you’d asked me for my favorite meal, I’d still be thinking of an answer, although a course of foie gras would be part of it…

So after I thought about how much I really do love chocolate mousse, I realized that it’s not on my blog.

But because it is my favorite time of year, and I’m one of those pumpkin “freaks,” I decided to create a pumpkin mousse recipe instead of preparing my traditional chocolate favorite. I wanted it to taste like pumpkin spice, yet still be fluffy, without the use of gelatin.

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Here’s what I did.

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Pumpkin Mousse
Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 can pumpkin purée
16 ounces marscapone, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla
Pinch of ground cloves

Beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Set in the refrigerator.


In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, marscapone, and sugar until smooth.
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Add the spices and blend. Taste the pumpkin mixture for sweetness and flavor. The strength of cinnamon really varies based on the source, so adjust the flavor according to your personal taste.

Also, pumpkin by itself tastes like, well, squash. So the spices, especially the cinnamon, are quite important!

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Gently but carefully fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Try not to over fold, so as not to deflate the egg whites.

When more or less combined, place the pumpkin mousse in individual serving dishes.

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Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, well covered. Serve either chilled or at room temperature; I prefer room temperature.

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Add a little dollop of whipped cream or marscapone on top, and add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired. A little cookie doesn’t hurt!
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After I made the mousse, I realized I’d forgotten the vanilla powder. If you’ve never used it, I highly recommend it for situations when you want vanilla flavor without the extract liquid.
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