Delicious food with a Christmassy touch

Photo: Christine O'Connor
Photo: Christine O'Connor
Few of us have the luxury of time in the kitchen, particularly during this frantically busy end of year period but we do want to serve delicious food with a Christmassy touch.

The recipes I’ve devised require minimal time and effort, can be made ahead of time and are scrumptious and special.

Fig and almond log

A sophisticated, utterly moreish addition to the cheese board which partners particularly well with blue cheese.

I do love this combination of dried fruits and almonds, moistened with Cointreau, so for me it’s a tempting nibble at any time of the day and it’s not too sweet. A slice or two, just a little snack is perfect with that mid-morning coffee.

You can happily make the log several weeks in advance and store it covered in the fridge. Please don’t forget about it and leave it languishing at the back of the fridge when the big day finally arrives.

MAKES 36 to 40 SLICES

400g dried figs, stalks removed
100g dried pitted dates
100g New Zealand dried apricots
80g crystallised ginger
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp Cointreau or other citrus-based liqueur or orange juice
120g ground almonds

Method

Cut the figs, dates and dried apricots in half and place in a microwave proof bowl, add crystallised ginger. Sprinkle with lemon juice and Cointreau, toss the fruits in the liquid, cover and microwave on 50% power for two minutes. This adds flavour and softens the dried fruit, making it easier for the food processor to chop.

Cool and tip into a food processor and using the pulse button, coarsely chop the fruit. Add the ground almonds and mix thoroughly until well combined.

Place mixture on a work surface lightly sprinkled with icing sugar and using your hands knead all together to form two logs approximately 20cm long. Wrap each very loosely in foil, this is important, as it allows the logs to dry slightly and firm up. I find 3-4 days is long enough for this to happen.

Store in the fridge. Once the rolls are firm they can be tightly wrapped in foil and stored in the fridge for up to 2 months.

To serve

Cut into slices approximately 1cm thick and place on a cheeseboard.

Fig and prosciutto wraps

This is several simple recipes rolled into one. Each can be served separately and quite differently.

Photo: Christine O'Connor
Photo: Christine O'Connor
The figs, simmered with crystallised ginger in a spicy, ginger beer syrup until seductively plump and succulent make a simple, elegant pudding served with cream or yoghurt. So useful if unexpected guests stop by.

The figs can be served just as they are as part of a cheeseboard. Lift the figs from the syrup, drain but leave enough spicy liquid clinging to them so they glisten when added to the cheese platter. Or pack the figs with a little of the syrup into a pretty lidded glass jar, wrap in clear cellophane and tie with a ribbon.

This is a tempting treat to make as a gift. Accompany with a wedge of blue cheese and some cracker biscuits.

And finally the grainy, luscious figs can be wrapped in pink, salty prosciutto and served as a nibble with pre-dinner drinks - a superbly indulgent bite, especially good with a good bottle of bubbles.

MAKES 32 WRAPS

375ml bottle ginger beer
3 Tbsp raw sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
300g dried figs (about 16), stalks removed
30g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
Two 70g packets prosciutto (approximately 28 paper-thin slices of prosciutto)

Method

In a medium-sized saucepan combine  the ginger beer, raw sugar, cinnamon and ground ginger and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the figs and crystallised ginger, gently simmer, lid off, for 10-15 minutes until the liquid is a little syrupy. Cool and store covered in the fridge. The figs will keep for several weeks.

When ready to assemble the wraps (up to six hours before serving) separate the slices of prosciutto and fold each slice lengthways then cut each folded slice in half crossways.

Lift the figs from the syrup and remove any excess syrup. Cut each fig in half and place on a folded slice of prosciutto, then roll or fold the prosciutto around the fig to make a small parcel. Arrange on a serving platter, cover and refrigerate until needed.

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