Last weekend, I was invited to a Yule celebration at the home of one of my friends from work. It was an amazingly fun evening (I think I could become addicted to the werewolf card game, even though I’m fairly terrible at it), and also notable for the incredible quantities of potatoes and cream that found their way onto the menu. This is, perhaps, inevitable when the host and half the guests are French, and are, moreover, from places like Normandy and Burgundy, where potatoes and dairy products are pretty big stuff. (I am informed that they do not believe in vegetables in these regions. Other than potatoes.)
So we had roast lamb, and we had roast potatoes, and roast sweet potatoes, and we had pommes dauphines and we had gratin dauphinoise. And there was quiche, too. I decided that *some* sort of non-potato vegetable wouldn’t go astray, so my offering was ratatouille. (Which, actually, I was a bit nervous about actually calling ratatouille in front of a group of French people, as I have no idea what an authentic ratatouille is like, but apparently it was acceptable).
For dessert, since we clearly had not had enough cream yet, there were crèmes brulées (we got to blow-torch our brulées at the table, which instantly elevates this dinner party to the best one I have ever attended. Also, possibly, the most dangerous one, since the blow-torch came out after the second glass of wine for most people at the table, and when you consider that many of the guests have a tendency to gesture a lot with their hands, you will understand why this was a little alarming…), and also waffles with nuttella and whipped cream. I had considered once again taking the high path and bringing something with actual fruit in it, but the whole Yule / Christmas in Winter spirit overwhelmed me, and it was absolutely necessary to bring something involving spices, brandy and fruit mince.
Which is when I thought of these little cigars.
I actually made these for the first time after Christmas last year, when I realised I had a bit of fruit mince leftover from my mince pies, and also some filo pastry leftover from turning my Christmas chook into handheld chicken and pumpkin filo pies, and decided to combine the two.
They were amazing – astonishingly rich on the inside, but with a lovely, light, crisp pastry that made them a delight to bite into. Also, they are surprisingly easy to make, which is a bonus. And fantastic when dipped in double cream. Which is not vegan, but a good cashew cream might actually be even better.
Of course, I had no idea what proportions of anything I’d used, so I figured I’d save the recipe until I had a bit more time. Which was why I was half an hour late to the dinner party – it turned out that I didn’t, really, have that much time after all…
It was still worth it, though. And after all those potatoes, a dessert that was low on the whole pastry/cake/pudding side of things and high on the rich, dried fruit side of things wasn’t a bad match at all.
(Though I suspect a fruit salad, while less Christmassy, would have been even better…)
Your Shopping List
1 quantity of Easy Fruit Mince, made with cocoa butter instead of butter for vegan goodness.
1 handful each of dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, and chopped dried figs.
1 packet of filo pastry from the fridge section. Please, not the freezer section. I cannot stress this highly enough. If you buy your filo pastry from the fridge, it will come out as lovely, soft, fine, layers of pastry, like fabric that roll like a dream. If you buy it from the freezer and defrost it, it will come out like paper. Old, crackling, crumbling paper. And it will stick to itself and it will break when you try to unroll it and then you will end up with little flakes of pastry everywhere and nothing to roll your fruit mince in, and you will be very sad and you will wish you had taken my advice. Which is good advice. Seriously, get your filo from the fridge, or don’t bother. I don’t want you to be sad, and I’m sure you don’t want that either.
Olive oil spray