If you have any leftover dried fruits from your Christmas baking, there are many ways to use them up, in savoury as well as sweet cooking.
Dates, figs, and raisins are all used to wonderful effect in many Middle Eastern dishes, tagines and stews often use the sweet pop of slowly-cooked dried fruit to offset other richer flavours.
They work particularly well in many slow-cooked dishes where fresh fruit would just fall apart.
I most often use golden raisins in cooking as I like the way they swell up and the flavour is a little most subtle than the darker varieties. I remember very fondly a rich cannelloni that I was served in Florence at a wedding stuffed with tiny shrimp, golden raisins, and spinach in a light béchamel, it was delicious.
While dried fruit does not contain the high vitamin C of its fresh counterparts, its generally high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Drying plums, grapes, and other similar fruits helped to preserve them and make them easier to transport which helped make them a trading commodity on old spice routes. Their long life also makes them easy to transport and hold in your backpack for long walks or as daytime snacks.
Raisins are used in the first two savoury recipes and the next combines the bitter sweet taste of dried cranberries with kale and toasted nuts.
The cookies in the last recipe have a mixture of apricots and dried figs but you can substitute other fruits in their place instead if you wish.
Chilli Beef with Raisins and a hint of Dark Chocolate
A dash of rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp of cumin seeds, toasted
1 tsp of chilli powder
1 tsp of cinnamon
500g of minced beef
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbs of tomato puree
300 mls of stock
a handful of small dark raisins
1 tsp of honey
2 squares of dark chocolate, at least 70% coco
a bunch of parsley
2 tbs of natural yogurt
Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. Sauté the onion until it is turning translucent, add the garlic and stir fry for thirty seconds. Add your spices and then brown the mince.
Break the larger lumps apart so that it gets nicely browned all over.
Add both tomatoes, the stock, raisins, and honey as well as seasoning and allow to bubble way with the lid on over a low heat. Cook for twenty minutes. Stir in the chocolate and taste.
You can add more chilli if you like a stronger kick. Serve with the yogurt and parsley. I usually serve it with white rice.
Cauliflower Slices with Golden Raisins and Chopped Nuts
a large handful of golden raisins
2 small heads of cauliflower, cut into centimetre slices
a dash of rapeseed oil
1 tsp of nutmeg
a small handful of hazelnuts, roughly chopped
a small handful of almonds, roughly chopped
a small handful of pine nuts, roughly chopped
a generous knob of butter
1 tsp of white wine
a bunch of parsley, chopped
A friend served me up this dish when I went to visit her recently. I like the way it uses cauliflower in a slightly unusual way, it makes it the centre of this dish. Cover the raisins in hot water and set aside.
Lay the cauliflower onto a baking tray and drizzle with some oil the nutmeg and seasoning. Place into an oven head to 180C and bake for 10 minutes. Turn each slice over and bake for a further 10 minutes until golden and soft the whole way through.
Drain the raisins and roughly chop.
Roast all of the nuts until they are browning then add the butter and stir in the raisins, seasoning and the white wine.
Serve the cauliflower with the nut mixture spooned over and the parsley sprinkled on top.
Kale and Cranberry Salad with Fried Apple
250g of kale, large stems removed
a generous knob of butter, enough so that all of the kale is coated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 apples, peeled cored and sliced
1 tsp of nutmeg
1 tsp of honey
a large handful of dried cranberries
a handful of hazelnuts, toasted
a bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
Rubbing or massaging kale completely changes its texture and rids it of some of its bitter edge.
Take a few leaves of kale into your hands at a time and rub them together until they darken. Repeat with the rest and roughly chop it when it is all done.
Melt the butter in a pan and add the garlic and apple slices. Fry until the apple is turning golden and then gently turn the slices over. Add the nutmeg and honey to the pan.
Toss the kale in the buttery apple and toss through the hazelnuts and parsley.
This is nice served on the side of a meaty dish or as a light lunch with some crunchy bread.
Apricot and Fig Cookies
250g of soft butter
50g of caster sugar
100g of light brown sugar
150g of self raising flour
225g of porridge oats
125g of chopped dried apricots
125g of chopped dried figs
This makes about 18 cookies
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a large baking tray.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy then stir in flour and oats and mix well. Add the apricots and dried figs and combine well with the mixture.
Divide the dough into eighteen balls and press each one onto the baking tray leaving a gap surrounding it.
Bake for 15minutes until they are turning golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
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