What’s cooking today: Brie with sultanas, preserved green figs and almonds
For a celebratory dinner last weekend, I ordered a beautiful Brie Petit from Dalewood Fromage in Paarl and dressed it up all fancy like. How swoonworthy does that look? And guess what: it’s super easy to achieve.
There’s hardly any cooking at all involved in this striking dessert course which served 12 people a modest portion each at the end of dinner last Saturday night. We accompanied it with homemade sesame crackers rolled using a pasta machine, and a choice of two wines: De Krans Cape Tawny Limited Release (4½ Platter stars) which we’re not supposed to call port even though it is (place eye roll emoji here), and no less than Vin de Constance brought along by my friend Gordon Wright.
The Dalewood Brie Petit is just sublime and I found the size perfect for 12 modest portions; we’d started with two variations on hummus (roasted carrot, roasted beetroot) served with homemade pitta flatbread, and then climbed into a lamb and date tagine main course (recipe published yesterday), which I served with jewelled couscous, not the carrot dish described in that link. So a light but satisfying end to the dinner was in order. (Pomegranates are not in season now but you can make a version of the couscous containing all the other ingredients in that recipe, or only use red onion and bell peppers of different colours, and a little chopped parsley or chives.)
There was more to the Brie course than the ingredients named above: I also added some of the syrup from a jar of green fig preserves. These syrups, as I mentioned only yesterday, can be regarded as an ingredient in their own right.
I had intended to bake the Brie, but decided in the end that I’d rather leave it as is, and dress it up. It was a good choice, it turned out. Two recipes follow…
Brie Petit with sultanas, honey and almonds
1 round of Dalewood Brie Petit or other whole Brie of your choice
12 thin slices of preserved green fig, of a similar size
½ cup golden sultanas
Hanepoot soeters (fortified wine) to cover the sultanas in a bowl
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp preserved green fig syrup
A handful of toasted almond flakes
On the morning of the night of your dinner party, put the golden sultanas in a bowl and cover with Hanepoot soeters. Leave them to steep for the rest of the day. Don’t discard the Hanepoot; it will go into the sauce.
Toast the almond flakes in a dry pan and keep aside.
Pour the steeped sultanas and the Hanepoot into a saucepan and add the honey and green fig preserve syrup. Reduce it down by about half. Leave it to one side, off the heat. It doesn’t matter if it cools down to room temperature.
Use a very sharp knife to score the top of the Brie into 12 equal portions (or 10 or 8 if your dinner party is smaller). Don’t cut into it too deeply.
Arrange a single sliver of green fig preserve on each of the 12 sections, towards the wider end.
Pour the sultanas and their sauce into the middle and let the sauce spread.
Sprinkle with the toasted almonds.
Carefully slice through each portion to the bottom and lift onto each serving plate. Spoon sultanas and the reduced syrup over, and garnish with almond flakes.
Here’s how to make the sesame crackers:
500g white or brown bread flour
½ tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
Enough water to form a dough
White and black sesame seeds
1 egg, beaten
Mix all the ingredients except the seeds and egg together and knead until smooth, soft and elastic, adding water a little at a time until you’re happy with the malleable consistency.
Grease a bowl and leave the dough in it to rest at room temperature (if it’s a warm day) for half an hour. Otherwise, find a suitably warm place such as a warmed (but turned off, not hot) oven.
Roll the dough through a pasta machine or thinly using a rolling pin. Slice into narrow triangles, brush with egg wash, then sprinkle with white and black sesame (nigella) seeds and a little Maldon salt.
Instead of seeds, you could use fresh herbs such as picked thyme, oregano or marjoram leaves, or use other toasted seeds such as cumin, fennel or caraway.
Bake until slightly golden and crisp in a hot oven. They can be stored in an airtight container but are best served fresh on the day. DM/TGIFood
Click on this link to explore the superb cheeses of Dalewood Fromage.
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion, 2021, for his food writing. His book, foodSTUFF, is now available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.
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