Tag: dates

Provençal Pine Nut, Date, and Honey Tart

Pine Nut and Date Tart

I haven’t left the country in a while and I’m starting to feel wanderlust. A few days in an old farmhouse somewhere in the soft hills of Tuscany, lonely walks along the endless beaches of breezy Brittany, or a lazy stroll through one of the ancient villages in the romantic Provençe. I wouldn’t mind any of these tempting scenes, just far away, a different place, with different sights and smells, food, and languages to refresh my senses after too many months of being in the city.

Instead, I’m bound to my desk making the last decisions for my book, working on a few new projects, and thinking of recipes that can bring the sweet smell of traveling to my table. I’m quite obsessed with pine trees, I love their distinct, woody smell so much so that I even use a perfume that manages to capture this beautiful aroma of summer, sun, and sand in a little glass bottle. It’s the smell of hot dry air mixed with the saltiness of the sea, where slim strips of pine forest become sandy beaches and end up in the gentle waves of the Mediterranean. It’s the smell of my beloved Malta.

So, here’s my cure: a Provençal pine nut tart filled with ground almonds, chopped dates, and honey, lying on top of a crisp short crust base. It’s so fragrant, warm and sweet, a bit nutty, crunchy and soft, it’s all you need when you’re heart is afar but you’re still at home – in cold Berlin.

Pine Nut and Date Tart

 

Pine Nut and Date Tart

Provençal Pine Nut, Date, and Honey Tart

Makes a 23cm / 9″ tart

For the short crust base

plain flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
granulated sugar 65g / 1/3 cup
a pinch of salt
butter, cold, 110g / 1/2 cup
organic egg yolks 2

For the filling

butter, at room temperature, 100g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon
brown sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
honey 50g / 2 1/2 tablespoons
freshly grated orange zest 1 teaspoon
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
organic eggs 2
ground almonds 100g / 3 1/2 ounces
dates, finely chopped, 100g / 3 1/2 ounces
pines nuts 100g / 3 1/2 ounces

For the pastry, combine the flour with the sugar and salt. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolks and continue mixing with the hooks of your mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form a thick disc, wrap in cling film, and put in the freezer for 12 minutes.

Set the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

Roll the dough out between cling film and line a 23cm / 9″ tart pan with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Take the pan out of the oven and set aside.

For the filling, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, honey, orange zest, and orange juice until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between until combined. Stir in the almonds and dates and mix until combined. Scrape the filling on top of the baked pastry, even it out, and spread the pine nuts on top. Push the nuts gently into the almond-butter mixture. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C / 350°F, and bake for another 12 minutes or until the top is golden brown and firm. Let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes before you take it out of the pan.

Pine Nut and Date Tart

 

Pine Nut and Date Tart

 

Pine Nut and Date Tart

 

Pine Nut and Date Tart

 

Pine Nut and Date Tart

 

Pine Nut and Date Tart

 

pinenutdatehoneytart7

 

pinenutdatehoneytart10

 

Pine Nut and Date Tart

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Ripe Chèvre Sandwich

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Aged Chèvre Sandwich

They are finally back on my windowsill – colourful pumpkins in all shades, shapes and sizes! At the beginning of a new season I tend to hoard nature’s new produce like a squirrel. My excitement for the fruits and vegetables that I’ve been missing and looking forward to for months causes irrational behavior at the market. When I came home with enough pumpkin to feed a large Mediterranean family I thought it would be a good idea to purée one of them and make space on my crowded kitchen tops. I turned it into a pesto.

Pesto comes from the Italian word pestare, meaning to pound and to crush, herbs are the most common ingredient but vegetables are an equally delicious but often neglected addition. Broccoli, asparagus, beans, peas, there are no limitations. Winter squash is packed with taste and subtle sweetness, once puréed the texture is so smooth that it seems like pumpkin is practically made to become a pesto. You can use canned purée or cook the squash in the oven, which I always prefer, it tastes better. My bright pesto is refined with orange juice and zest, thyme and the vegetable’s seeds. I went for Hokkaido as you can use its skin and I appreciate its nutty flavour, butternut or Musque de Provence work just as well. I’m sure it would be scrumptious stirred into warm spaghetti but I spread it voluptuously on a sandwich instead, with dried dates to enhance the sweetness and Sainte-Maure de Touraine affiné, an aromatic ripe Chèvre.

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Aged Chèvre Sandwich

 

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Aged Chèvre Sandwich

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Ripe Chèvre Sandwich

You can also use the pumpkin pesto for pasta dishes.

Makes 3 sandwiches

dark buns, cut in half, 3
Sainte-Maure de Touraine affiné, sliced, 80g / 3 ounces
(or any other aged Chèvre)
dried dates, pitted, quartered, 3-4
fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon
pumpkin seeds 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar

For the pumpkin pesto

Hokkaido (with skin) or butternut squash (peeled), cut into cubes, 350g / 12 1/2 ounces
pumpkin seeds 2 tablespoons
olive oil 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 tablespoon
orange zest 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon
fresh thyme leaves 1-2 teaspoons
salt

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 390°F (convection oven). Spread the pumpkin in a baking dish and fill the bottom with water (about 60ml 1/4 cup). Wet a large piece of parchment paper, big enough to cover the baking dish and lay it on top of the pumpkin. Cook it in the oven for about 20 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Purée the pumpkin in a food processor, add the pumpkin seeds, olive oil, juice, zest, thyme and salt and purée until smooth. Season with orange, thyme and salt to taste.

Spread the pumpkin pesto voluptuously on the bottom side of a bun, lay the Chèvre on top and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds, dates, thyme and pepper. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Aged Chèvre Sandwich

 

Pumpkin Pesto, Date and Aged Chèvre Sandwich

 

PumpkinPestoDateChevrSandwich6

 

PumpkinPestoDateChevrSandwich8

Chunky Chocolate Fruit Loaf with Dates and Prunes

Chocolate Fruit Loaf with Dates + Prunes

Raisins, prunes, dates, there are always lots of open bags in my kitchen shelves. Sometimes it’s just too much! When there’s no corner left which isn’t occupied by dried fruits I know it’s time for a recipe to empty them at one go and a fruit loaf is one of them. My fruity mixtures change depending on my shelf finds, I’ve often stocked up on figs, apricots or cranberries a bit too excessivly during the winter months as well, they can all go into the cake to add their concentrated fruity sweetness. It works for morning loaf cakes as much as for muffins, it makes them rich and won’t leave you hungry! I’m particularly fond of this in combination with bittersweet chocolate, big chunks that melt into the dough and merge with the fruit, delicious!

This time I had dates, prunes and a dark Belgian chocolate which ended up in the lumpy dough, roughly chopped and sticky. It made the loaf dense and moist and so pleasantly sweet that it felt like a sweet bread rather than a cake. You can replace the dried fruit with any other you find in your shelves and add some nuts or white chocolate. I often bake it on Sundays when I feel the urge to bake all of a sudden, I can be sure that I will find something in my shelves worth turning into a fruit loaf.

Chocolate Fruit Loaf with Dates + Prunes

Chocolate Fruit Loaf with Dates and Prunes

For a 24 x 10cm / 10 x 4″ loaf pan you need

flour 340g / 12 ounces
sugar 100g / 3.5 ounces
baking powder 2 teaspoons
baking soda 1 teaspoon
salt 1/4 teaspoon
butter, melted, 120g /4.5 ounces
milk 220ml /7.5 ounces
organic eggs 2
bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped, 120g / 4.5 ounces
dates, roughly chopped, 100g / 3.5 ounces
prunes, roughly chopped, 100g / 3.5 ounces

Set the oven to 190°C / 375°F (fan-assisted oven). Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk the butter, milk and eggs and mix in the dry mixture with a wooden spoon. Don’t over mix, the dough should be lumpy. Gently stir in the dried fruit and chocolate and scrape into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 175°C / 350°F and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for a few minutes before you take it out.

Chocolate Fruit Loaf with Dates + Prunes

 

Chocolate Fruit Loaf with Dates + Prunes

Chutney filled Dates wrapped in crisp Bacon

Dates wrapped in Bacon with Chutney

Devils on Horseback, dried fruit wrapped and baked in bacon, are a typical winter dish, but the temperature dropped, it’s a bit grey outside and I wanted to try something new with my chutney. It’s still a great finger food nibble, even in spring! After I made my rhubarb chutney I thought about new combinations besides the classics with cheese, meat or sandwiches. A package of dried dates caught my attention, I had bought them a couple weeks ago from a Turkish shop I discovered while strolling through the streets. I went inside to check out their meat section as you can get the best lamb from Turkish butchers but I was a bit late and the shop was closing. On my way to the cash point I grabbed a package of dates unsure of what I would use them for and hopped back out onto the busy streets.

The dates finally found their purpose, I filled them with chutney, wrapped them in slices of bacon and baked them in the oven. Sweet and sticky, salty and a bit sour, my chutney filled dates wrapped in crisp bacon! It sounds like an attack on the taste buds but it’s actually a very harmonic combination, all the flavours melt together smoothly. My rhubarb chutney hasn’t sat yet, I want to give it a couple more weeks, so I used my plum chutney (the same recipe, just with plums).

It’s very easy to prepare these nibbles, you just need a few dried dates (as a snack for 3 I used 15 dates) and replace their seeds with some chutney (the plum chutney was very good but I tried one with rhubarb and it was good too). I cut a strip of thinly sliced bacon into 3 and wrapped each piece around a filled dated. Baked in the oven on 200°C / 390°F they turned golden and crisp after a few minutes!

Dates wrapped in Bacon with Chutney

 

Dates wrapped in Bacon with Chutney

 

Dates wrapped in Bacon with Chutney