Gah!! It’s been a tragically long time between posts. I feel so sheepish about my lack of blogging of late I’m slightly hesitant to get back on that horse. Funny thing being though that I came up with this recipe on the same day as this scented macaroons post and somehow got distracted enough to forget that it was all written up and ready to go! Distracted indeed. Two things are primarily to blame…
1. Needle&I suddenly took a busy turn and I’ve been struggling to keep up with work whilst still being enough of a Mum to my girl Thea that she didn’t forget who I am.
2. I’m pregnant with #2. Which has somehow thwarted my energy and motivation for much of the 8+ months I’ve been in my current, er, state. This pregnancy has been so much more taxing than the first, for obvious reasons. No longer able to put my feet up when and for as long as I felt like it, I’ve had to keep my puffy extremities firmly planted on the floor, mostly chasing around after my toddler. This has left little reserves for anything other than the orders which have just kept rolling in.
Excuses aside (I could go on, but those are the principle ones) I’m now in an odd state of limbo awaiting #2′s imminent arrival. I really did think it would arrive earlier rather than later but apparently it’s made itself quite comfortable on the inside and no amount of coaxing seems to be encouraging it to enter the world proper. So…being the impatient person that I am, I have to distract myself from this waiting before it completely does me in.
Back to food then! Getting into the kitchen again is one of the things I’ve been enjoying over the last week or so. I’m stocking up the freezer, baking every other day and generally spending time in the kitchen for pleasure’s sake.
As I mentioned, this recipe has been lurking in the background for some time now. I took a little jaunt down memory lane with the macaroons which took me back to all the divine sweet treats we found on our travels through Morocco in what seems like another lifetime completely. This is loosely based on my (slightly time-fuzzy) memories of the delicate pastry treats encasing sweet combinations of dried fruits, nuts and spices that could be found in the plethora of incredible bakeries of Morocco.
The filling is very easy to whip up, the only slightly fiddly bit is in the rolling of the filo which really isn’t difficult at all but it does require an unhurried hand. These would be a lovely finish to a dinner party served with a small, strong coffee or mint tea on the side.
SPICED DATE AND NUT FILO CIGARS (makes 6)
150g pitted dates
Juice of 2 oranges
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 tbsp liquid honey
40g roughly chop nuts – brazil, almond, walnuts or pistachios work well
8 sheets filo pastry
2 tbsp butter for brushing – melted
Flaked coconut – to serve (optional)
1. Put the dates into a small bowl, juice the oranges and pour over the dates to just cover. Leave the dates to soak for at least two hours or overnight (covered, in the fridge).
2. When you are ready to start assembling, preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with baking paper.
3. Drain the dates well in a colander for a good 15 minutes, shaking the colander a few times to remove as much liquid as possible.
4. Place the drained dates into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to break them down a bit.
5. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, ground almonds and honey and pulse well until a relatively lump-free paste forms. You will need to scrape the sides down a few times during this process.
6. Add the roughly chopped nuts and pulse another couple of times to chop the nuts further whilst still keeping them a little chunky for a contrast in texture.
7. Lay a sheet of filo pastry onto the benchtop, making sure the surface is clean and dry. Brush with melted butter, lay a second sheet directly on top and brush again with butter. Cut the sheet into two large squares. Repeat until you have six double-layered filo squares.
8. Divide the mixture into 6 portions and spread into a long sausage shape along one side of each square, leaving a gap of about 2cm between the edge of the pastry. Fold the sides into the centre to hold the mix in place then roll up into a cigar shape making sure the open end is tucked underneath the roll when you place it on the baking tray.