Tuesday 28 August 2007

Recipe: Roast Figs in Balsamic Syrup

I think this is probably the last Fig recipe of the year. I made this dish several days ago using fruit that looked fine, but from which it turned out that the flavour had all-but disappeared. For this recipe to fulfil its true potential, the dark, rich flavours of the syrup need to be offset by the concentrated flavour of the roast Figs.......and I'm not sure that the end-of-season offerings are quite good enough to carry it off. Worth trying, though, before Figs disappear once and for all until next summer.

Ingredients: 6 ripe Black Figs; 3 tablespoons of clear Honey; 200g sugar; 200 ml water; 1 teaspoon of ground Cinnamon; 2 Cloves; the inside scraped from 1 Vanilla Pod, or one teaspoon of good quality Vanilla Essence; 2 Star Anise; half a teaspoon of Orange Oil and half a teaspoon of Lemon Oil (or the grated zest from half an Orange and half a Lemon); 3 tablespoons of good Balsamic Vinegar.


1. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees C.

2. Trim the tops from the Figs, and cut a cross in the top of each one (as though preparing Brussels Sprouts). Place the prepared Figs in a baking dish.

3. Put all the remaining ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and cook at a rolling boil for three minutes. Spoon this mixture over the figs and bake uncovered for thirty minutes, basting the figs with the liquid every ten minutes or so.
When finished, the Figs should be quite soft when pricked, but should still keep their shape in the dish.

4. Leave to cool down, in their syrup, and then place in the fridge.

Serve chilled.

Sunday 26 August 2007

Mrs Beeton, 2007........

In general, I care much more about the kitchen equipment I use than about the plates the food is served on - with the possible exceptions that desserts always look good on a black plate and that nothing ever looks good if the plate is too small. .....

Drinking glasses are another matter, though - and there is no doubt that a good wine does taste and look better when drunk from a fine wine glass than from a plastic beaker (speaking from plenty of experience of both). Unfortunately, in the rough and tumble of daily life, wine glasses take a beating - and not predominantly from the actual process of drinking. Short of managing to break them, the most irritating thing about good glass is the (almost inevitable) appearance on it over time of 'dishwasher-bloom'. In an ideal World, of course, it would all be washed by hand, before being lovingly polished and carefully returned to the cupboard........

That's the Ideal World version.

In the Real World, though - the 'life's too short' version - nine times out of ten, the glasses go in the dishwasher along with everything else.....With the result, over time, of a growing collection of milky hazy wine glasses which are perfectly serviceable except that they have a displeasing foggy bloom on them. Generally, too, this is on the outside of the glass so it doesn't even disappear when the glass is full....

You can remedy the problem by the judicious use of jewellers' rouge, (a) if you can find any, and (b) if you don't mind the tedious process involved in carefully polishing away all the tiny scratches and abrasions in the glass which go to make up the bloom. The Technical Department has come across a rather bizarre alternative method though: application of a proprietary brand of something that is in fact manufactured as a Rubber Bumper and Trim Polish for cars. It rejoices in the name 'Back to Black', and I assume is targeted at boy racers who worry about things like the pristine condition of their dashboards. In my mind, I associate it with the sorts of cars that have fluffy dice dangling from the rear-view mirror. Why we have any of it lying around is completely beyond me, and even more fascinating is why the Technical Department even thought of using it to restore the Riedel glasses to their pristine condition........Sometimes, it's just better not to ask! It works, though. Amazingly, it does.......

I doubt it's safe to use inside the glass, since I'm not certain what the stuff actually contains - but since most of the bloom is on the outside anyway, there's little temptation to risk it. Given that the bottle bears a large yellow sticker proclaiming that the product 'Contains Alcohol', I'm not sure we aren't in practice returning it to its spiritual home.

If you want to get hold of any of this stuff, I suggest you google it and find your nearest boy-racer online supplier! Difficult to think of Mrs Beeton and boy-racers in the same breath, but I suspect that were she around now, she would approve.......

Dinner Tonight:

Crab Tarts.

Chicken with Mascarpone & Dill stuffing. Celeriac Mousse.

Souffles of Vanilla & Apricot.