Tag Archives: figs

Winter Vegetables

Well, just take a look out the window. Chances are it is raining, or the sun may be glaring, but you know that it’s freezing outside, that misleading swine. This was the view from our living room window at about 3pm this afternoon. Miserable, isn’t it ?

A couple of friends and I have taken up yoga in an attempt to beat our winter blues (and premature back pain). I realise that it is only October, but for someone who hates this lack of sun and heat as much as I, it may as well already be winter; I’m seriously considering hibernation. As we spilled onto the pavement outside Brighton’s Buddhist centre last Friday evening after a class, limber and supple and refreshed into the chilly night air, we encountered a farmer’s market about to close for the evening. With gleeful excitement we perused the colourful array of tasty and healthy fruit and veg and outstayed our welcome long enough to warrant free figs. We ate yellow baby tomatoes out of a paper bag as we walked home in our leggings, each with our own respective plans to make soup for dinner that evening. It seemed like the perfect way to round off the day.

My choice: chunky vegetable and lentil – just saute an onion, add 500ml vegetable stock, cube a potato and some butternut squash, add a few handfuls of lentils and simmer for 20 or so minutes. Throw in a can of chopped tomatoes, a tablespoon of tomato puree, and some chopped leafy greens (I used spinach and kale). Season as you wish.

Freeze what you can’t physically fit into your tiny, cold-shrunk stomach in mismatched plastic tubs. Above is this very soup in its frozen form, a soup-cicle, if you will. It is necessary, as I find myself making a lot of soup recently, what with having developed somewhat of an obsession with fresh vegetables and farmers’ markets.

And another good way of using up a mismatch of leftover veg…

… like I need an excuse to make pizza.

I’ve been experimenting with different doughs. This here pizza is on the gluten-free base I have made previously. It’s nutty and chewy, kind of like a wholegrain, savoury cookie, topped with a plethora of Mediterranean delight.

I went to the Turkish/Greek market near where I live, one of those ones with all the fresh olives and sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes and baklava on display, and you can spoon them, dripping in oil and herbs, into little tupperware dishes and pay per lb; with freshly baked bread, pitta and fruits and vegetables and nuts and yoghurt and all the goat and sheep’s cheese you could possibly want at any one time. Going there is like a trip to the zoo for me. Markets are beautiful.

I bought some halva and some Greek yoghurt, the figs and the feta. A true Mediterranean feast. Though I have never visited Greece, I feel like this was a subconscious effort on my part to ignore how cold and grey and dreary England is becoming. I like to think that the figs on this pizza add a little sunshine to my wintery squash vibe.

Feta and butternut squash pizza with fig and caramelised onion

Roast some butternut squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary for about 25 – 30 minutes on medium-high heat.

While the squash is roasting, caramelise your onions.

When you take it out, mash it up a bit. I didn’t think the figs would go very well with tomato pizza sauce, so I left it out. You can either go commando or make some kind of cheese or white sauce with which to top your pizza (I find a mixture of cream cheese and lemon juice works well on tomato-less pizzas), or just drizzle some olive oil over the top, then spread the mashed butternut squash mixture across your pizza base of choice (Wholemeal, gluten-free, or see below !).

Slice your figs, crumble your feta (any goat’s cheese would work well) and arrange your onions over the top, with an extra sprinkling of rosemary and pepper for good measure (use judgement – too much rosemary can end up tasting soapy, I’ve heard…). I chose to omit the final dash of salt I usually put over my pizzas before baking – mozzarella needs it, feta does not.

Providing your pizza base has been pre-cooked, you should only need to cook your assembled pizza for about 10-15 minutes.

The colours on this remind me of a seventies caravan.

Pizza Fiorentina

So, from Greece back to the homeland of the pizza, tonight I made fiorentina. That’s tomato, mozzarella, spinach, black olives and artichokes all topped off with a poached egg, black pepper and parmesan cheese. It’s perfect.

This is my favourite food to eat of all time.

On my journey to create the perfect pizza base I have had to relinquish some of my health-fascism in the form of using WHITE FLOUR. Well, as I read on a forum wherein the pros and cons of wholemeal flour were being discussed, some things where just not meant to be wholemeal. Pizza dough is one of them. Sure, I will happily make and eat a wholemeal pizza crust, but you can’t compare it to those soft, chewy and smooth white bases that the Italians and a number of UK-Italian restaurants do so well.

So I’m trying this recipe tonight, with the semolina and strong white. It turned out really good, if not a little crispy. At the moment I’m yearning for that stretchy, doughy puffiness that I can never seem to achieve with homemade pizza, especially not in the gluten-free or wholemeal versions. It is so elusive.

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Amy x

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Vegan Baking Pt. II: Rustic Cupcakes

Yup, that's bona-fide dairy-free "butter"cream you see there.

I call them “Rustic Cupcakes,” because they were always intended to be cupcakes, except they’re nowhere near dainty or cute enough. They are the overweight child and I am the pushy mother who squeezes them into their leotard and drives them to ballet class week after week with disconcerting enthusiasm. (If you’ve just stumbled across this, please check out this post for the recipe and somewhat of an explanation for the weird series of events that led to this abomination.)

Maybe I should call them “Fairy-Scones.” As in fairy-cakes. That taste like scones. They are nice with the buttercream and a good cuppa – turns out hazelnut milk is really nice in tea. On some I just used plain buttercream (soya spread + icing sugar), others I used chocolate buttercream (soya spread + icing sugar + cocoa powder) and some I put a layer of fig jam in too !

Now for some photo evidence of me forcing my friends to enjoy my Frankenstein’s Monster of a batch of cupcakes… sorry, rustic cupcakes. If I say that it makes it sound intentional…

Today has been my last day of pesca-vegetarianism* for at least the next month. The milk is gone, the cheese is gone, the salmon is in the freezer; my kitchen is free of dairy indefinitely.

Next stop, Vegan Town !

Amy x

*I made this word up

Fig Jam

You remember the dried fig bites ? Well, they weren’t very nice (I thought they’d be sweeter than they turned out to be) SO, naturally, I looked up things to do with dried figs.

And found this by Martha Stewart. I just think her name sounds great in a food blog, y’know, “Martha Stewart !” in my best New Jersey accent (she’s from New Jersey, I assume her accent is a New Jersey one, anyhow, try saying ‘Martha Stewart’ how Martha Stewart speaks, it’s fun, I promise).

Having been inspired by the artful picture on the recipe linked above, I thought that the perfect way to beautify my figgy creation would be to store it in a cute little jar, perhaps even with a doily or a homemade label. All very quaint and bohemian in its simplicity, I thought …

… Cue me frantically rooting around outside our house in the recycling trying to find an empty jar that wasn’t coated from the inside with mouldy peanut butter or some other unidentifiable substance. Not quite as effective a portrayal of boho domestic goddess that I had in mind. More like crazy rubbish stealing, jar-hoarding hippie who probably has too many cats and force-feeds her housemates strange conserves and the like (I never understood why having an abundance of cats is synonymous with being mental but it seems to work here, although I don’t have any cats, just lots of figs).

Not my cat...

After a few disparaging looks from passers-by I relented my search and walked into town to buy some. Consumerism, 1; Amy, 0 once again.

Fig Jam

(I didn’t adapt this recipe at all, except change the quantities in vague, prehistoric cup measurements into numbers that British humans are able to understand and follow.)

You need:

360ml water

280g dried figs

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

What to do:

Stem (if necessary) and chop the figs into small pieces

Put into saucepan with water and sugar and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The figs should be soft and most of the liquid should have evaporated. (After 20 minutes the figs were indeed soft, but I let it go for another 5 minutes because the mixture was still quite watery. Also, at this point ‘Paper Doll’ by Fleetwood Mac came on my shuffle and I had myself a little figgy boogie around the kitchen. Literally everyone I know has gone out tonight but sadly I hath not the funds… so I’m dancing alone in my kitchen, making fig jam and blogging about it. Although dancing is not essential to the recipe…)

Transfer to blender; add lemon juice. Blend until smooth (you can add a few drops more water if the consistency is too thick).

Put in the cute little jars you may or may not have pilfered from your neighbour’s recycling box (as already mentioned, I didn’t do this, I got mine from a charity shop, I feel this makes me slightly less of a cripplingly weird person).

So, not only does my house now smell delightfully of warm fig, this whole lot of jam contains 443 calories in total, which means if you get 10 servings out of it, each one is 44.3 calories. Although I definitely think you could get more. Not bad !

I’m so excited (again, we come back to the unnecessary food-over-excitement from which I er… suffer) to eat this with a bit of goat’s cheese and rocket on wholemeal or rye.

One could also make homemade fig rolls… a treat to which my father is known to be partial. I smell a student-budget-homemade-Christmas-present brewing !

Amy x