The Author is urging me to put on my boots and go out with him. But I’m sitting here by the fire, with the warmth of my laptop to keep me cosy, and by contrast, it’s not exactly inviting outside. Minus 10 Celcius, to be exact.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, our cold weather is pretty inconsequential. We barely have a frost, the water in the wheelbarrow has only a skim of ice on top, and the palm tree is alive and well. Really, when some of you are braving temperatures of -20F, it’s quite churlish of me to complain.
Still, it’s cold! And it’s grey. And except for a few sunny days here and there, it will be like this till March. It’s very obvious why this is the time of year that people make their holiday plans. And now the slow inflation rate has everyone (including me) aflutter with the promise of lower priced goods and services, especially for air travel, which is expected to go down substantially by summer. Good news! Except that summer is a long way away.
But there is more than one way to travel. Food is an entry to other countries’ customs, traditions, and climates. Figs and honey say Italy to me – I can remember sitting on a patio in Umbria, in the gentle heat of the early autumn morning, with the lavender growing all around and the bees buzzing nearby. The hill town of Montefalco was in the distance, the sun was steadily climbing in the sky, and for breakfast we were eating figs with cheese and honey.
These cookies – in addition to the figs and honey – contain lemon and almonds, making them quintessentially Mediterranean. I may be in Devon, in a little pocket of frost, but they remind me of all that is good and abundant — and that includes the sun. Or what I can remember of it.
Fig & Almond Spirals
Makes about 40 cookies
I think of these cookies as healthy, because they have fruit and nuts in them, and very little sugar. I’m quite happy to let the kids eat as many as they want, since they are practically breakfast food in my book. So really, they are quite good to make anytime, but especially on a cold day when you could use a little extra nutrition!
- 115g (4 oz.) butter
- 200g (1 2/3 cups) flour
- 45g (1/3 cup) ground almonds*
- 150g (3/4 cup) sugar
- zest of one lemon
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 150g (5 oz.) figs
- 2 TB honey
In the food processor, pulse together the butter, flour, ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest and salt until it has the consistency of bread crumbs.
Add in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Pulse this mixture and stop as soon as it clumps together.
(If you don’t have a food processor, you can rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips, and stop when it looks like breadcrumbs. Then mix in the eggs and vanilla with a fingertip or a fork.)
Take the dough out of the food processor and pat in into a flat rectangle, cover it in cling film or parchment, and chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.
Meanwhile, without cleaning the food processor (why bother?!) make the filling by blending the figs and the honey. Set aside.
Cut a piece of parchment paper approximately 25cm x 40 cm. Roll the chilled dough out on the parchment as evenly as you can. Then spread the fig filling almost to the edges of this rectangle.
Using the parchment paper to help, roll up the dough starting at a long end (so your finished log will be 40cm long). Try to roll snugly but not tightly – let the weight of the dough guide you. Put the log into the fridge and chill for at least 15 minutes. (You can leave it in the fridge for a couple of days, or wrap it in cling film and freeze it at this point.)
When you are ready to make the cookies, cut the log into 3-4 mm slices. Place them about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 170C (350F) until they are lightly golden brown. Eat when slightly cooled and sitting near a heater, so you can pretend you’re somewhere warm.
* Try to get the freshest and best quality ground almonds that you can. The flavour is much more pronounced and almond-y. If you can’t find organic ground almonds, get some organic whole almonds and grind them in the food processor.