Friday, December 18, 2009

Figs and Honey

figs in honey © David Loftus

figs in honey

dessert recipes
You should have no problem getting nice figs at this time of year and they’re wonderful to make in so many ways so when you see them, buy them up! Here’s one really gorgeous way to have them. I promise you won’t get bored of these; there are so many lovely ways of using them up.

Preheat your oven to 110ºC/ 225ºF/ gas ¼. Lay your figs, cut-side up, in a baking tray. Using a fine grater, zest your clementines over the figs then dust the figs with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a teaspoon of sugar.

Pop the figs in the oven to bake for 4 hours, checking on them every hour or so. When they come out of the oven you’ll have semi-dehydrated figs, which will be a bit like wine gums.

A really nice way of using them at Christmas is to turn them into a bit of a gift by popping a stack of them in a sterilised jar, covering them completely with honey then sealing the jar with an airtight lid. They’ll be beautiful as part of a cheese platter, baked in a tart, a sticky toffee pud, or even thrown into a roasting tray with some pork or other meat for a bit of added sweetness. Give them to your mates when you go round to theirs for dinner. They’ll love getting something unique, especially when you explain all the different things they can do with them.


• 24 figs, halved
• 2 clementines
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 2 tablespoons caster sugar
• 1 large jar runny honey

Veggie Crudite and Yogurt Dip

Cool crudite veggies with a minted pea and yoghurt dip © David Loftus

cool crudite veggies with a minted pea and yoghurt dip

This dish is only as good as the vegetables you buy, so use that as your starting point and you'll be on to an absolute winner! Here are some tips on buying and preparing a selection of veg...
In most supermarkets these days you can get fresh baby carrots with their green tops. Leave about an inch of the tops on and just give the carrots a scrub.
Do the same with some lovely radishes. You can get some marbled pink and white oval ones now, which are crunchy and peppery. Again, leave the tops on as these make good handles when it comes to dipping.
Use nice crunchy lettuces. Sweeter lettuces like cos and Romaine are good for dipping – I try to use the inner part, keeping the outer leaves for another salad. I leave the stalk on and then cut the lettuce into quarters, and that way they stay in one piece, but you don't have to do this. The important thing is to get good chunks of vegetables. I like to contrast the sweet lettuces with slightly more bitter ones like radicchio or endive.
If you've got some young asparagus that's just come into season, it's really nice eaten raw. Feel free to use your imagination on the veggie side. Little fingers of celery or celeriac are also good. However, you often come across people who use raw cauliflower with dips – I personally would prefer colonic irrigation! I think cauliflower and broccoli are just awful eaten raw, so I wouldn't suggest using them here.

Whizz the yoghurt and mint up in a food processor for half a minute or so. Add the peas and the Parmesan and whizz again – the peas will break down and the yoghurt will become green. Put into a bowl, correcting the seasoning with extra salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice. When you add the lemon juice and peas to the yoghurt, quite often it splits and turns into a kind of cheese, but this is absolutely fine. It depends on the type of yoghurt you use and how acidic your lemon is. Just pour away any excess water. Usually, though, it doesn't split and is more like a purée, but both ways are good.

The best way to serve this is to put the dip into a bowl and have a big board next to it with your veggies on. And have some salt and pepper to hand in case you need it. It's a good sociable way to start a meal.


for the dip
• 1 x 200ml tub of yoghurt
• 1–2 handfuls of fresh mint, leaves picked
• 2 handfuls of fresh podded peas
• a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• juice of ½ a lemon

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Have yourself a Modern Christmas

Who says you have to go the route of tradition and put up a typical Christmas tree? For those looking for a more minimal and modern contemporary spin on the old yuletide decoration, why not take a cue from this IKEA catalog setup where they've taken a trimmed tree branch and decorated it with a striking monochromatic selection of ornaments.

Hot Winter Drinks

While red wine and apple cider are the most traditional of the spiced winter warmers, you can also use cranberry juice, white wine, hard cider, or ale. All of these beverages take very nicely to mulling.

* The primary spice combinations for mulled wine or cider almost always include cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.
* Nutmeg, mace, star anise, allspice berries, cardamom pods, slices of fresh ginger, orange slices and lemon zest are also good additions.
* To infuse without making the drink cloudy and gritty, use whole spices rather than ground.

Mix it Up

Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer over low heat.

* Don't let it boil: this can cause spices to turn bitter.
* To really allow the flavors of the spices to infuse into the beverage, you should allow the mixture to simmer on the stovetop for at least half an hour.

It's fine to keep the pot warm for several hours, allowing everyone to sip holiday cheer throughout the night: a slow cooker on low heat is ideal. Ladle into mugs and serve, garnished with an orange slice or cinnamon stick.


So it seems everywhere I look, people are throwing "cookie parties". Sounds like a great reason to drink wine, hang out with friends, and eat cookies..
Here is a recipe I found that looks great, and I love the packaging idea. Great for work gifts


Makes 36
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a shallow bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar; set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat butter and remaining cup of sugar until combined. Beat in egg and then molasses until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in dry ingredients, just until a dough forms.
  3. Pinch off and roll dough into balls, each equal to 1 tablespoon. Roll balls in reserved sugar to coat.
  4. Arrange balls on baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. Bake, one sheet at a time, until edges of cookies are just firm, 10 to 15 minutes (cookies can be baked two sheets at a time, but they will not crackle uniformly). Cool 1 minute on baking sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 4 days.
From Everyday Food, December 2005 | Send Me a Free Preview Issue Now!