Christmas has flashed past once again, leaving me with some new cookbooks and foodie must-haves, a pile of shiny paper to recycle, some lovely memories of the food we ate and the new dishes I cooked, and lots of itsy-bitsy leftovers. (Is it just me getting older or is Christmas coming around faster each year?) There are half-empty packets of dried cranberries that went into the pistachio and cranberry nougat I made as gifts for friends (it also gave me the chance to try out my latest gadget - a sugar thermometer). I tried a new panforte di siena recipe, an aromatic concoction of spices, glace fruit and chocolate that was designed specifically to accompany a glass of rich Rutherglen muscat and that left me with a pile of glace figs and ginger. There are also many small bags of almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts taking up space in my pantry.
My new year's resolution is to try and buy fewer cookbooks, as they are rapidly pushing every other book out of my bookcase and leaving little room for my stack of foodie magazines. But my resolve is being sorely tested as more and more glossy books full of luscious pictures and recipes pour forth from publishers. So I've decided to road-test the latest cookbooks through my local library. A recent loan was the interestingly titled How to cook absolutely everything cookbook by The Australian Women's Weekly. It's an impressively hefty and thick red-covered book with hundreds of recipes sorted according to ingredient type (salads, pasta, seafood, cakes etc). There were versions of many tried and true recipes, such as caesar salad, beef pies, chocolate cake and Christmas pudding, but also many new recipes. As I flicked through the cake chapter, I came across a recipe for fig, walnut and ginger cake that instantly took care of most of my Christmas itsy-bitsy leftovers.
The fig, walnut and ginger cake is dense but moist, with sweetness from the figs, zing from the ginger and an addictive crunch from the walnuts. It also looks very pretty, with the jewels of glace fruit studded throughout the texture. I tweaked the recipe a little, substituting natural yoghurt for sour cream and adding extra glace fruit and nuts. Next time I will add a sprinkling of cinnamon or mixed spice for some extra tang.
It's an extremely easy cake to make, with the only drawback being the time-consuming task of finely chopping the ginger and figs. But the end result is worth it. A nice wedge of this cake, accompanied by a cup of Earl Grey tea, makes a perfect morning tea. It's so delicious that I won't be waiting for leftovers to make this again!
FIG, WALNUT AND GINGER CAKE
185g (6 1/2 ounces) butter, softened
165g (6 ounces) caster sugar
160g (6 ounces) glace figs, finely chopped
70g (2 ounces) glace ginger, finely chopped
70g (2 ounces) walnuts, finely chopped
75g (2 ounces) plain (all-purpose) flour
75g (2 ounces) self-raising flour
80g (2 ounces) natural yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease and line the base of a 14cm x 21cm (5 1/2 x 8 inch) loaf pan with non-stick baking paper. Cream butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until light and fluffy, then beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in the figs, ginger and nuts, then fold in the sifted flours and yoghurt. Put into the prepared tin, smoothing the top. Bake for about one-and-a-quarter hours. Stand in the tin for five minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Adapted from a recipe featured in "How to cook absolutely everything" by The Australian Women's Weekly.