Roasted Jambon Cru-Wrapped Fresh Figs with Thyme Honey

Text: Eileen Smith Photos: Yves Garneau

Serves 4

1pkg fresh thyme, about 20g, left whole and rinsed
1 x 250ml jar of local runny honey
4 large fresh figs, quartered
100g local jambon cru
2 tbsp olive oil
1pkg (about 200g) of fresh tender salad greens, cleaned
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Scrape all honey into a small saucepan and add all the thyme to it. Gently heat until it comes to a simmer then remove from heat and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible. Strain to remove all thyme and taste. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Set aside until service. This will keep in an air tight container, in the fridge, for up to one month. Slice jambon cru pieces to fit ¾ of the length of the fig. Wrap each fig with tailored slice and place on a parchment lined baking tray. Lightly brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in hot oven until the jambon becomes slightly crispy, about 5-8 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Place greens in a bowl and drizzle remaining olive oil and some thyme honey. Toss, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and place a handful on each plate in the centre. Nestle the figs around the greens and drizzle with a little more honey. Yummy!

Savoury Gruyère 'Shortbread' Crackers

Crackers have been around since the 18th century when they were an important staple for many and not just a vessel for cheese. Nowadays, there are many types and flavours of crackers out there to sample but I believe there is something extra special about making your own at home. Here are two recipes, one for a more British-inspired variety and another for a traditional American inspired 'snap' one.

[quote_center]Nowadays, there are many types and flavours of crackers out there to sample but I believe there is something extra special about making your own at home.[/quote_center]

Text by Eileen Smith

Savoury Gruyère 'Shortbread' Crackers

Makes 30 crackers

114g butter, at room temperature (must be soft)
85g Gruyère cheese, grated
160g all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh rosemary leaves
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp of cold water or heavy cream (depending on dough)

Preheat your oven to 175C°. Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until creamy or beat in a bowl with an electric hand mixer. Add the Gruyère, flour, salt, rosemary and pepper. Add water (or cream) 1 tbsp at a time until the dough is combined. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured board and roll into a 13-inch (33cm) long log. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight or place in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
Remove log and allow to warm up a little, about 5 minutes. Cut the log crosswise into ¼ to ½ inch thick slices (1  – 1 ½ cm). Place the slices on a sheet pan and bake for 20- 22 minutes. Do not over-bake! Delicious on their own or with a little star-tip piped cream cheese.

Crisp Seeded Spelt Crackers

Makes 1 baking sheet pan

¼  teaspoon salt
160g white spelt flour or 175g of wholemeal spelt flour, plus more for flouring the surface
1.2dl water
Coarse sea salt, dried onion bits, flax seeds, poppy seeds and sesame seeds or a seed combination of your choice.

Preheat the oven to 175C° degrees. Dissolve the salt in the cold water. Stir in your choice of spelt flour until combined. Knead the dough until a smooth ball forms. Add more flour if necessary. Cover and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Flour the underside of a baking sheet and roll out the dough on top of it, using as much flour as needed to prevent sticking, until the dough covers the sheet from edge to edge. Really try to get them as thin as possible. If you have dough that overhangs from the sheet pan, simply trim it off and reform into a ball for later. Using a spray bottle filled with water, spray the dough to give it a glossy finish. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Sprinkle with sea salt, onion bits and your choice of seeds. For neat crackers, score the dough (with a pizza roller or knife) into desired size grids.
Bake until the dough is crisp and golden and snaps apart, about 10 to 20 minutes. (Check after 10 minutes to make sure it doesn't over-bake!) Break into pieces and serve. Store in an airtight container.

Sliced Jewelled Orange Marmalade

Refreshing, sharp and what I would call 'heaven on toast', marmalade is a fantastic early (or late!) morning pick-me-up.

Text by Eileen Smith

Its beautiful bright colour brings a smile to my face and when smothered on toasted, buttered bread, it makes my taste buds sing! [quote_center]A jar of this luxurious lip-smacking gold is a great 'made with love' gift to give to your nearest and dearest over the holidays.[/quote_center] Well worth the effort and worlds better than what you find in the shops; I hope you give it a try and enjoy it! Happy Holidays!

Enough to fill about 5 or 6 normal preserve jars.

1kg or about 12 oranges, preferably Seville but any variety of oranges (or other citrus) will work!
75ml lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
1.5kg golden granulated sugar, such as Demerara or unrefined cane

Give your oranges a good scrub. Cut them in half. Squeeze out the juice, either by hand or by using a reamer. Reserve the juices. Cut each half into quarters. Using a small, particularly sharp kitchen knife, slice the peel, pith and all, into fine shreds (or thicker slices if you like a chunkier texture).
Make the fresh orange juice up to 4 litres with cold water, pouring it into the bowl with the shredded peel. You may need more than one bowl here. Set aside in a cold place and leave overnight or for up to 24 hours.

_KJS3781The next day, tip the juice and shredded peel into a large stainless steel, enamelled or preserving pan and bring to the boil. Once boiling point is reached, lower the heat and cover so that the liquid continues to simmer gently. It is ready when the peel is totally soft and translucent. This can take anything from a good hour to 2 hours, depending on the thickness of your peel slices. The contents of the pan should have reduced by about one-third.
Once the fruit is ready, stir in the lemon juice and sugar. Turn up the heat and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Skim off any froth that rises to the surface (if you don't your preserve could be cloudy). Leave at a fast boil for about 15-20 minutes (do not stir at this point). Remove a tablespoon of the preserve, put it on a plate, and pop it into the fridge for a few minutes. If a thick skin forms on the surface of the refrigerated marmalade, then it is ready and you can switch off the heat. If the tester is still liquid, then let the marmalade boil for longer. Test every 10 minutes. You can also use a preserving or candy thermometer; place in marmalade when it has reached a boil, when it reads 104.5°C, setting point has been reached. Some mixtures can take up to 50 minutes to reach setting consistency. Once reached, remove from heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes. Ladle hot marmalade into the sterilised pots and seal immediately. Be sure to pay close attention to your sterilisation process and instructions, whichever you choose to follow, as it is vital to your marmalade’s storage life. Marmalade will keep in sealed jars for up to 2 years. Enjoy!

Power Bites

makes approximately 35-40 balls

  • 250g peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (any other nut butter can be substituted if desired)
  • 250ml good quality honey
  • 360g old-fashioned oat flakes (fine cut)
  • 60g flax seeds
  • 250g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), chopped into small pieces
  • 250g total mix of your choice any of the following: nuts, seeds and/or soft dried fruit (chopped into small pieces if necessary, don't forget to toast your nuts for extra flavour)

In a large bowl or the stand bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine peanut butter and honey until smooth. Gradually add oats and flax seeds, blending until well combined. Add chocolate bits and your personalised combo mixture and continue to stir until blended. With the help of a tablespoon, scoop out some mixture, enough to make a ball the size of a two franc coin and roll in your hands until smooth and there are no cracks. Repeat with remaining mixture. Place balls in mini muffin cups or on a cookie tray, making sure that there is a little space between each of them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. These will keep in an air-tight container for up to 3 weeks.