Treat me: Boozy figs

If you were beamed to earth from another planet at the moment you’d think all humans did was eat, drink and be merry. While the period between mid-November and early January is fairly intense on that scale, it’s pretty much always the season of entertaining at our house. And I love it, I really do, except for perhaps that tense 15 minutes just before the entertainees arrive and I feel in a state of complete chaos.

This year, with two fairly major entertaining events scheduled chez nous in the next fortnight, I’ve decided to take control. Firstly, I’m going to delegate a lot more (sorry, invitees, I understand if you want to pull out now) and secondly, I’m going to have something up my sleeve that I prepared earlier.

These boozy figs are an excellent do-ahead option at this time of year, whether you’re holding a soiree or you’ve been invited to one by someone like me who wants you to cross town with dessert in your handbag. The recipe is of unknown provenance – it’s out of one of my mum’s notebooks – and it is very simple. I’ve a hunch it is just the thing for this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by the ever-lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage (with able support from Kate at What Kate Baked) – in which dried fruit is the theme.

Boozy figs
You can whip these mulled figs together in five minutes before you go to work, then when you come home they’ll be all plump and juicy. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, serve them warm over a slab of posh vanilla ice cream., if you’re in the southern, add strawberries. If you’re really, really organised, put them in a lidded jar in the fridge and they’ll be good for several weeks.

400g dried figs, cut in half (use scissors)
500ml fruity red wine
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 small orange, washed and halved
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 punnet of strawberries, washed and hulled (optional)

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and let bubble away for five minutes. Take off the heat and let cool. Then, either transfer to a bowl or jar, cover and put in the fridge. Or, if you’re planning to eat them in a few hours, add the strawberries before putting in the fridge. Serves six.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tea Time Treats

Treat me: White Queen Cake

I’m not sure what strict adherents to French culinary rules would think of this cake, but I’m rather partial to it.
I was all set to make a classic Reine de Saba cake – chocolate, butter, eggs, almonds – but then realised the glinting gold wrapper I spied in the back of the pantry actually belonged to a bar of white chocolate. Oops. By then it was too late: the oven was on, the Small Girl raring to go, so we just rolled with it. Take it from me that the white chocolate version seems lighter than her dark, moody sister, but no less rich. Actually, can you just take it from me? I’ve already eaten far too much of it.

White Queen Cake
Given the French provenance of this recipe, it’s a good fit for this month’s French-themed TeaTime Treats extravaganza, hosted by ma petite chou Karen of Lavender and Lovage (with assistance from the lovely Kate of What Kate Baked). Even if you’ve never tried the traditional version, made most famous by Julia Child, give this one a go. It’s really eggy and almondy and dense and delicious, or delicieux, as the case may be.

250g good quality white chocolate, chopped into chunks
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
finely grated zest of two lemons
5 eggs, separated and at room temperature

Heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 23cm cake tin, preferably springform to ease the stresses of turning it out later.
Put the chocolate, butter and sugar in a bowl that will fit comfortably into a saucepan of hot water in a double-boiler sort of arrangement. I don’t usually bother with double boilers but white chocolate is so temperamental and prone to seizing that it’s worth it. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the choclate and butter have melted.
Carefully remove the bowl from the pot and stir in the ground almonds and lemon zest. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Scoop a large spoonful into the egg and chocolate mixture and whisk it through with a ballon whisk to lighten it. Tip the rest of the egg whites in and fold the two together gently, using an ‘up and under’ motion, until the mixture is combined and fluffy. You want to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
Gently scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top, then put it in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Drape a piece of tin foil over the top of the cake if it looks to be getting too brown on top. It’s better to undercook than overcook a cake like this, so err on the side of caution.
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out to a rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I’m going to be working and hoping for rain (but not while the cricket is on), in that order x