Tag Archives: Goats Cheese

Figs

 

Figs evoke such wonderful memories…

 

Fig tree - 2

To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. (Elizabeth David)

The beautiful big fig tree down by the creek at our old family home – we always knew that if the creek flooded in the spring and/or summer that we would have a wonderful crop. Then there is the Christmas cake and pudding that I make every year, that has a jar of fig jam included in the recipe – I am happy to say it is always fig jam from our store cupboard. And who could forget a day at the races in the country, with my beautiful friend Sophia, where a platter scattered with fresh figs, feta, walnuts and prosciutto, drizzled with honey was handed around to get the day started. This is where I totally fell in love with the flavour of the fresh fig.

Freshly picked figs - 4

A great fig should look like it’s just about to burst its skin. When squeezed lightly it should give a little and not spring back. It must be almost unctuously sweet, soft and wet. (Yotam Ottolenghi)

We both have very fond memories of our time with an elderly couple in France where I received some of the best advice ever. Over breakfast, we were talking about the fruit grown on their property and how it was stored… Genevieve told me that the apples were stored in the old stone chapel across the way, and, in fact, we were eating the last of what they had stored away from last season for our breakfast. I asked, what to do with excess figs, apart from drying them or making jam etc. She told me that she just threw them in a bag in the freezer, then whenever she was cooking a roast, she would grab a few out and scatter them around the roast as it cooked – she assured me that they would keep their shape and not become mush, and she was spot on!

So whenever anyone asks if I could use some figs, I never turn them down. I bring them home, wash them, and throw them in a bag in the freezer.

This year I don’t know how many kilograms we have received, but I recently weighed what is left and there are still 11 kilograms frozen and waiting for me to use. I follow Genevieve’s advice and toss them around a roast, but I also take them out and dehydrate them. Occasionally I grab a few, slit them down squish in some feta and wrap them in prosciutto, grill them and then scatter with some toasted walnut and drizzle with a little honey or fig vinegar glaze.

Last week the weather turned very wintery providing the perfect opportunity to use some of the figs from the freezer, together with some dried figs and fig vinegar. This Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds was the perfect warming meal on such a bleak, cold day. The pork just fell apart and was perfect with all the sticky figiness!

Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds

This delicious winter warmer was inspired by the onset of winter and the need for some yummy comfort food - the thought of combining some delicious Coltish Pork with figs and fig products I had been making over the last month or so seemed obvious!

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pork neck
  • 150g diced onion
  • 80g diced celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup fig vinegar
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • ¼ cup dried figs, diced
  • 2 cups pork stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 150˚C.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, pound the fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt to a powder.
  3. Cut the pork neck into four even sized, thick slices and season lightly with the spice powder.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy based, ovenproof pan or casserole and fry the slices of pork in two batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from pon and set aside.
  5. To the same pan, add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender. Add the remaining spice powder and stir.
  6. Turn up the heat and the fig vinegar and diced fig, stirring to deglaze the pan. Cook until the fig vinegar has reduced by half, then reduce the heat, and stir in the sage.
  7. Place the pork in a single layer in the pan, add the stock and bring back to the boil.
  8. Cover with the lid and place in the preheated oven for 1½ – 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  9. When the meat is cooked. Remove it to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  10. Skim the fat from the juices in the pan, then place the pan over a medium heat to reduce the sauce to a nice syrupy consistency.
  11. Serve hot with steamed greens, creamy mash potato, and if you wish, some grilled fresh figs.

Notes:

  • Source: SBA’s Kitchen
  • If you do not have pork stock, I would suggest using chicken stock.
  • I prefer to purchase the pork neck in the piece and portion it myself, but you could ask your butcher to do this for you.
  • If you do not have fig vinegar, try using a combination of cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
  • I love to support our local farmers, so purchase my pork from Coltish Pork. It is wonderful to get to know the producer and become friends with those who are providing such a wonderful quality of product to work with.

 

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Finally just this weekend we had our great friends, Caitlin and Paul visit, and to start a long, leisurely evening meal we prepared a Salade de Chevre et Figues. I love it so much when our guests join in the food preparation – I had such fun cooking and chatting and catching up.

Of course there is always a good supply of figs waiting in the freezer so that I can make another batch of fig vinegar, which is fast replacing balsamic vinegar in a lot of dishes in our meals.

Until next time…

Happy cooking & bon appétit!

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Links:

Bresaola

Some time back we had the opportunity to visit the farmgate of Wuk Wuk Beef, where I purchased a girello roast on the advice that it would make a lovely carpaccio. Unfortunately the carpaccio was not to our taste and I thought I would just have to roast the rest. Then, in a light bulb moment, I decided to do a little research with a view to turning it into a Bresaola. For those of you who don’t know, Bresaola is an Italian air-dried, salted beef that has been aged two or three months until it becomes hard and turns a dark red, almost purple colour, with the help of the red wine included in the cure. During my research, I discovered that some people use a wet cure, others use a dry cure… The recipe I finally decided on was that of another fellow blogger from The Apple Isle – Tasmania. The blog is Tasmanian Artisan and the post is for Wine Salt Bresaola . There is a recipe on the blog for the wine salt used in the brine, but it just so happened that I had purchased some merlot salt from a stall holder at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, and decided to use that instead.

Given the girello I had was only 750g, I got to and did all of the calculations to ensure that I had the correct ratio of ingredients for the size of meat that I would be curing. (I must say, I love a dry cure, it’s a simple process and takes much less room in the fridge than the wet cure.) dsc05957-r

The ingredients were prepared and set out, and the meat trimmed and set on a plate. Then it was time to massage the cure into the meat, taking time to ensure that it got into all the cuts and folds, and, of course, that it was evenly distributed over the meat. dsc05959-r

The meat, together with any of the cure that was left on the plate was then popped into a snap-lock/resealable plastic bag, ensuring that all the air was squeezed out, before being placed in a dish and then put in the fridge. For the next 12 days I turned the bag and gave the meat a little massage to ensure an even distribution of the cure.

After 12 days I was happy with the feel of the meat, and moved onto the next stage. So after removing the meat from the bag, it was rinsed under cold water to remove any excess cure, and patted dry with some paper towel, before being placed on a wire rack,on the

kitchen bench, for a couple of hours, to allow it to come back to room temperature.  The meat was weighed and the weight recorded on my kitchen calendar on the date it was hung, so that I would know how long it had been hanging, and could keep track of the weight loss. Finally it was wrapped in muslin and then hung. dsc06156-r

Given the weather at this time in Australia, I had to hang it in the fridge, not exactly ideal, I know, but we have a second fridge in the garage, so I placed a couple of small trays of Himalayan rock salt under the bresaola to help manage the humidity.

Each week the meat was taken down, unwrapped and checked to ensure there were no nasty moulds developing, and weighed to check the progress of the cure – the weight needs to reduce by at least 30%.

Finally the big day came and it was time to slice and taste…

The verdict – I hope it lasts until Christmas so the family can taste it – yes, its really, really good.

To star the Bresaola, I decided to create a lovely Bresaola, Beetroot, Orange and Goats Cheese Salad, the flavours worked amazingly well together.

Thank you Tasmanian Artisan, your recipe and guide were easy to adapt and follow.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

Links:

Bresaola, Beetroot, Orange and Goats Cheese Salad

Wine Salt Bresaola

Tasmanian Artisan

Wuk Wuk Beef

 

 

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