Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fig and Almond Clafouti


Evening in Coburg. The back door is open. Someone is singing their prayers; their voice floats in on the night. A train hoots low as it approaches the crossing. The bells ring.

There is a sudden thump, and a shake, and a rustle. The fruit bats are visiting our fig tree. As they lumber through the branches, feasting as they go, they meet each other and voice their claims in outraged squeaks.

Each morning, we wake to a fresh crop of butchered figs littering the ground. Late afternoon, we put up the ladder and fetch our crop for the day, a dozen or so fruit newly ripened by the sun. Each evening, the bats come back and demolish what we could not reach, and so the cycle of life continues.

We have been eating fresh figs, baked figs, figs galore. And for dessert, fig and almond clafouti. The almond meal make this a very moist, very rich dish. If you want a drier, firmer dish, substitute coconut flour for half the almond meal; or, if you have no problem with gluten, white flour. However you make it, it is a truly figgy pudding – and absolutely delish!

Fig and Almond Clafouti

- 15 to 20 ripe black figs
- butter, to grease the dish
- 1 cup milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp good vanilla essence
- 1/4 cup brown or coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- a pinch of salt
- a handful of flaked almonds

Grease a 10” ceramic tart dish or skillet. Behead the figs, then halve or quarter them and lay them in the dish.

Mix the milk, eggs, vanilla essence, sugar, almond meal and salt together. You can use a blender or a whisk – either way, aim for frothy. Pour this mixture over the figs.

Sprinkle a generous handful of flaked almonds over the top. Slide the dish into the oven, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool and set for at least ten minutes before slicing. Serve warm or cold.

Very good for breakfast!

(Backyard: figs, eggs. Victoria: almond meal, almonds, milk, butter, salt. Imported, but fair trade and organic: coconut sugar, vanilla essence.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013



Alison, Alison where have you been?

I’ve been... unpacking a house, looking after three girls over a long summer break, processing apricots, plums and tomatoes, and not writing anything down. Nothing very exciting, really, just life as we know it. We moved house two months ago, and have no veggie garden to speak of yet – just a few plants of fat hen (hooray) and a lawn full of dandelions (which, when combined with fennel tops and grapefruit, make a fantastic green smoothie for breakfast). But we haven’t managed to put in any veggies. So I’ve also been looking at my garden and sighing, then fanning myself in this goddamn heat and wondering what to cook.

Now, as the queen of frugality, I buy dollar packs of tomatoes at the local greengrocer. You know the ones out front, where the bottom tomatoes are a bit squishy and you have to cut out one or two brown bits? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: those ugly buglies are full of flavour. And the other day I had a few green peppers from the weekly veggie box, and some cucumbers from a friend. As the sweat ran down my brow, from the depths of memory surfaced the tang of gazpacho. Cool, cool soup, beading droplets of condensation on a bowl. Just the thing for yet another hot day.

Gazpacho was traditionally a bread soup. I can’t eat bread, so with great arrogance I just left it out. Nobody missed it. What resulted, then, was effectively a whizzed salad dressed with white wine vinegar – what’s not to like?! My oldest daughter et it, sighed, and announced this was now her favourite soup. It has displaced lentil soup in all its forms. And so on the strength of her recommendation, I give it now to you.


- 1 kg very ripe tomatoes
- 2 green capsicums (aka bell peppers)
- 1 tiny (or half a normal sized) red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbs white wine vinegar
- slightly less than half a cup decentish olive oil
- sea salt, to taste
- 1 mighty English cucumber (although I'm sure little Lebanese would be more authentic)

Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes. You can peel the tomatoes by cutting a cross in the base of each tomato, submerging it in boiling water for a minute, removing it with a slotted spoon, and taking the peel off. This is the boring bit; get a child to help you. Squeeze out the juice and seeds. You can drink the juice if you want; but for the soup, you only need the flesh of the tomatoes.

Deseed one of the capsicums and chop it small. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and smash the garlic. Place the tomatoes, chopped capsicum, onion, garlic, vinegar, olive oil and salt in a blender. Blend the heck out of it until all is beautifully combined. Add a little water if it seems too thick.

Pour it into a large bowl or soup tureen, cover, and place in the fridge. Leave for at least three hours to chill properly, and for the flavours to get to know each other.

When you are almost ready to eat, peel and deseed the cucumber. I just slice the cucumber in half lengthwise then run a metal spoon down the inside of the cuke; all the seeds pop out. Chop it small. Deseed the second capsicum and chop it small too.

Serve the soup. Adorn each bowlful with a generous sprinkling of the chopped cucumber and capsicum. Pass the pepper.

(Home grown, if not by me (thanks, Nathan!): cucumber. Local: tomatoes, capsicum, onion, garlic, olive oil. Northern Victoria: salt. Greece: white wine vinegar.)