Wednesday, 29 October 2008
This is my 400th post. Yippee!
It's also the Three Year Anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging, my favourite food blogging event.
We have been asked to post about our favourite herb, fruit or vegetable for 2008 and I have decided to go with a recently found love: figs.
This year I have managed to access a bounty of delicious, fresh figs for eating as well as chowed down a load of quality dried figs. I also made the best jam I've ever tasted, as well as this ridiculously good cake.
This cake was part of a feast I prepared for some former colleagues and the recipe, which I found in Australian Gourmet Traveller, was simply exquisite.
I love dried figs and chocolate. I think it's a match made in heaven. The nutty richness of the figs combined with the bittersweet chocolate is just superb.
I can highly recommend this sticky, nutty cake. It certainly has a fudge-like consistency and would be excellent alongside a tokay or, even better, a glass of pedro ximenez sherry.
Fig, Hazelnut & Chocolate Fudge Cake
Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller, July 2007. Serves 14.
250ml Muscat (or brandy)
300g dried figs, coarsely chopped
420g hazelnuts, roasted & peeled
250g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
250g dark chocolate, melted
35g fresh breadcrumbs
75g white sugar
125ml pouring cream
150g dark chocolate, chopped
1. Combine Muscat & figs in a saucepan. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10 mins or until figs have softened and absorbed some Muscat. Cool.
2. Preheat oven to 160’C. Grease 26cm spring-form cake tin. Line with baking paper.
3. Process hazelnuts in a food processor until coarsely ground.
4. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition to ensure they are completely combined.
6. Add fig mixture, hazelnuts, chocolate and breadcrumbs and stir to combine.
7. Spoon mixture into cake tin and bake in oven for 55 minutes or until an inserted skewer withdraws clean.
8. Cool in pan, remove and place on a wire rack over a tray.
9. To make the ganache, place sugar in a heavy-based saucepan and melt over a low heat without stirring.
10. Add cream and stir.
11. Add chocolate and stir over a low heat until melted and mixture is smooth.
12. Pour over cake, smoothing with a palette knife. Cool.
13. Serve cake at room temperature with double cream and candied oranges.
Note: I used 200g hazelnuts and 220g pecans.
The genus ficus (from the family Moraceae) contains about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs and vines.
Distant cousins of the mulberry, breadfruit and jackfruit, figs are believed to originate in Western Asia and taken by humans throughout the Mediterranean.
The genus ficus is at least 60 million years old and possibly as old as 80 million years. According to Wikipedia, there is evidence that “the Common fig (F. carica) and Sycamore fig (F. sycomorus), were among the first - if not the very first - plant species that were deliberately bred for agriculture in the Middle East, starting more than 11,000 years ago. . . . This find predates the cultivation of grain in the Middle East many hundreds of years.”
In Ancient Egypt, latex from the soft fig wood was used for mummy caskets whereas in present-day Uganda it can produce barkcloth as well as decorations in Cambodian architecture.
The figs that we eat are consider fruit, but they are technically the flower of the tree.
Figs have a unique pollination system involving wasps who crawl into the fig fruit to lay their eggs. The wasps hatch inside the fruit and the larvae are nourished on the flesh before emerging, covered in pollen, to fly off and pollinate other trees. Scientists believe figs and wasps are an example of coevolution.
I learnt this as an eleven year old child and ever since have always cut fresh figs open to check for wasp larvae. I have never found any, mind you!
Figs must be allowed to ripen fully before they are picked as they will not continue ripening if picked immature. It’s interesting to note that any rain during the period of fruit development causes the fruits to split and spoil.
There are so many varieties of figs, and some have some cute names like Archipal, Flanders, Brown Turkey, Spanish Dessert and Persian Prolific.
A high energy food and an important food source for many wild animals, figs have always been at the centre of religious practices. In the Torah they are listed as one of seven important foods to be found in the Promised Land, figs are one of the two sacred trees of Islam, Siddhārtha Gautama (Buddha) found enlightenment meditating under a Sacred Fig (F. religiosa) and in Hinduism the Ashvastha, or "world tree", was a fig.
Other famous fig fans include Cleopatra, Odysseus, Adam & Eve (for clothing purposes) and the Greek god Dionysus.
Figs are grown in many places such as Iran, the Mediterranean, USA, Mexico, Australia, Chile and South Africa. In 2005, Turkey (285,000 tonnes) and then Egypt (170,000 tonnes) were the world’s top fig-producers, followed by other Mediterranean countries.
Figs have a good source of calcium and fibre and dried figs have excellent levels of copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin K and antioxidants.
Figs are keystone species to many rainforest ecosystems, being a main food source for fruit bats, monkeys, birds, caterpillars and beetle larvae.
Interesting, two types of ficus (Weeping Fig F. benjamina; Indian Rubber Plant F. elastica) are proved powerful air-cleaning plants from the NASA Clean Air Study.
It was very interesting to learn that the word “sychopant” comes from the Greek words σῦκον, sýkon, "fig", and φαίνω, phaínō, "to show". It was used in Ancient Athens for the people who informed against fig exporters, since figs were so valuable that all fig growers were forced to sell their crop to the state. To accuse someone falsely was a method of defamation and potential personal gain.
This has been my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging for another week. It's also WHB's Three Year Anniversary so you can vote on your favourite herb, fruit or veggie for 2008. Check out the recap by WHB founder, Kalyn, at Kalyn's Kitchen!
Tags: morsels and musings food blog food and drink australia recipes weekend herb blogging whb dessert chocolate chocolate cake fig hazelnuts cake dessert recipes cake recipes hazelnut recipes fig recipes chocolate recipes