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Archive for the ‘dried fruit’ Category

Whiskey figs with oats

There’s something about a hot, steaming bowl of fresh oats porridge on a lazy Sunday morning that somehow sets the tone for the rest of the day. A good, long read of the Sunday papers, a walk in a park in the winter sunshine and a late afternoon nap, followed by a sightly too long, intricately woven Sunday Night Movie, with the wonderful Mr P’s fabulous toasted cheese and a glass of good red wine.

My mother used to make us oats porridge in the winter back home and it still remains an essential part of our routine here, steeped as it is in nostalgia and caring. Of course, we wouldn’t be indulged so much with such adult delights as whiskey and figs, but rather heap our bowls up with a slathering of butter and golden syrup. Our tastes being somewhat more subtle and grown up these days, the smokey, peaty flavours of a good whiskey or scotch paired with fruity figs takes that humble bowl of oats from chilly school morning to the glories of the Sunday breakfast table.

*As with all things cooking, the better the ingredient used the better the results. Don’t skimp on a cheap whiskey, use what ever your favourite nightcap version is; after all, you only use a tiny amount. Naturally, if you don’t do the booze feel free to leave it out.

**Try get dried green/white figs as the flavour is more subtle than the red or black mission figs. I like the softer ones from Iran or Turkey.

Figs in whiskey

Whiskey Figs with Oats Porrige

5 or 6 dried figs, quartered
about 1 cup water
1½ Tbsp good whiskey or scotch
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the back of a heavy knife
1 cinnamon stick

whole oats, not the instant kind, enough for 2 people
water for cooking the oats

cinnamon sugar to serve

– combine the water, whiskey, cardamom and cinnamon in a small, heavy based saucepan and bring to a simmer.

– add the figs and simmer over a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes, checking that the pot doesn’t run dry. Top up with water as needed.

– when the figs are done, drain, reserving liquid, and keep warm.

– use the liquid from the figs along with hot water to make up the liquid needed to cook the oats as per the package instructions.

– top cooked oats with figs and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to serve.

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Muslie

We humans, for the most part, like a bit of ritual in our lives. Well, I know I do. Setting a certain, predictable rhythm to the day creates a sense of purpose and dependability, little ceremonies that break up the chaos in between our modern lifestyles. I like to read in bed with a cup of chamomile tea before turning in for the day, and I like having the time to sit on weekdays over my morning’s emails and news with a cup of good, hot coffee and a bowl of muesli. I usually mix my own muesli from jars of grains, nuts and fruits in the cupboard, but in the spirit of the Christmas Clear Out, I took the opportunity to use up  the various stores of dried fruits and nuts left over from the Christmas pudding and fruit cake and mix up an enormous bowl of muesli to keep in jars, ready to go. Just add yoghurt and that cuppa java.

There’s no recipe for this, just use what ever you have on hand. Start with handfuls of chopped dried fruit: I used cranberries , apricots and cherries for zing; papaya and pineapple for that almost candy like sweetness; and pears, figs, apples and dates for texture as well as raisins, currants, mulberries, prunes and oh, I forget what else. Add a few cups, to taste, of various grains: I used both raw, rolled oats and oat bran and a generous helping ground flax, to which I added poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes and a variety of nuts (brazil, almond, walnut). Sprinkle with cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a pinch of garam masala and mix it all up. Make it as fruity or as whole-grainy as you like and you’ll never want boxed breakfast again. Promise.

Muslie fruit mix

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Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 1

Somehow, after all’s been said and done, after all the post-fest pickings and snackings and nibblings, there remains a large piece of Fruit Cake from the Christmas feasting, sitting sleepily on the counter. Now, I realise that fruit cake and Christmas Pud will keep until the next Snowy Season (indeed, traditionally, the top tier of a wedding cake is kept safe and sound for the celebration of the Christening of the first chile) but in all honesty, who would want to eat last year’s fruit cake, thrifty though it may be? One, surely, wants to experience the joy of Christmas baking afresh every year, non? Besides, isn’t it enough already? Out with the old to make way for the new, is my motto this week. My cupboard is starting to feel like that one house on the corner which keeps it’s Christmas lights up until the middle of February. I have a bit here and a bob there left over (still!) from the revelries of the fattening season and they must go, people! Fruit Cake, piles of odds and ends in the dried fruit ‘n nuts department and a quarter jar of boozy fruit mincemeat, as well as one last little Christmas Pud, which somehow escaped being given away or eaten at home. It’s time for the Christmas Spring clean.

Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 2

Christmas Fruit Cake Bread and Butter Pudding

4 – 6 slices fruit cake (or any other robust left over cakeiness)
4 Tbsp fruit mincemeat
Butter, about 2 Tbsp
1 egg
1 cup milk
nutmeg

-Preheat the oven to 325˚F and butter a 500ml pudding bowl (or a casserole if you prefer)

– beat the egg with the milk in a small bowl

– arrange slices of fruit cake in the dish, then dollop teaspoons of mincemeat around the slices.

– dot with butter and pour over the eggy milk mixture. Sprinkle with Nutmeg

– let the pudding sit for about 3 minutes before baking in the oven for 40 mins

– enjoy with cream or custard, preferable in front of a happy little fire with your feet on the coffee table. Mmmm. Leftovers.

Fruitcake Bread and butter pud 3

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Christmas Pudding Makings

Oh guess, just go on and Guess what I’m making in my Kitchen…

You’ll have to wait to hear how it all goes, but I’m already so very, very excited. I really do try to put off the Christmas Cheer for as long as I can. The stores whip those sparkles and lights out straight after Halloween here in Canada, not having America’s November Thanksgiving to keep their decorators fingers at bay from the tinsel and flashing lights. And to me, here in North America, Christmas is a Winter Thing. Meaning, that as soon as you’ve immersed yourself in the Ho Ho Ho’s, you’ve admitted that it’s Winter already and between you and me, I’m still enjoying the Autumn an awful lot. I still have a bright orange pumpkin on my doorstep and I still kick up (wet, soggy) leaves along the road. I’m making things like butternut soup and turnip bake, so back off, Winter. That being said, I went past a shop known for its particularly enthusiastic approach to Christmas window dressing, and the sight of what they’ve done this year sent a little bubble of Christmas joy up to the top of my brain, where it burst a little Christmas cheer into my life and I spent the rest of the ride home humming quietly to myself at the thought of all the baking and cooking and eating and drinking to be done over the next few weeks.

What a perfect mood in which to rustle up some good old fashioned Christmas Pud. Yum. Well, truth be told, I ran out of time to do the actual steaming this evening, and so I had to content myself with mixing up all the dry ingredients and being patient with the rest. I guess I’ll have to wait until after Christmas to tell you how it all went, because until then the puds will get a good rest in, in the pantry cupboard.

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