Just like Thanksgiving, the December month is one long, beloved food holiday for us at Hot Knives, even though we typically try hard to disassociate our gluttonous chillin’ from any of the uncomfortable religious undertones. This year, we decided instead to revel in the festive ties to the so-called Holy Land. After all, we have no beef with Jesus, Abraham and friends, or Mohammad. So, this holiday season we’ve been playing with turning holiday favorites both vegan and Middle Eastern, a sort of Pilgrimage to the Tasty Land. And we’re getting a jump on it starting now.
During a recent cooking sesh (chronicled in the below video!) we played with the British staple figgy pudding, and reversed the history of colonization by turning it Israeli — the recipe follows too. You can serve the stuff piping hot or room temp almost like a sweet terrine. We put it under grilled pears, but you can just go Jackson Pollack on it by drizzling sweet pomegranate molasses all around it and eating it by itself like a desert. In the video we also toyed with a Christmas (red and green) harissa, as well as a dish we’re calling “Beets Bethlehem” that will follow shortly along with more holiday-related treats.
2 cups white wine (sweet works well)
2 cups figs (dried)
8 oz. Israeli couscous
1/2 cup vegan margarine
1 Tbs. fresh tarragon
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp. all spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup tahini paste
1 cup raw walnuts
1 tsp. kosher salt
1. To prep, set your oven on 350 degrees and also bring 2 cups of white wine to a near boil. Place your dried figs in a bowl and re-hydrate by covering with the wine. Let those sit for about 10 minutes.
2. Toast the couscous: Empty the bag onto a baking pan and place in the over for 5-8 minutes, shaking pan every couple of minutes to toast evenly. Remove and cool.
3. On the stove, start a medium saucepan over medium heat and add your margarine and tarragon. After a minute or two, add the almond milk and bring to a boil slowly, then toss in all spices and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the tahini as a thickener. Remove from heat.
4. Drain the figs but save the wine. In a food processor, pulse the figs for a couple seconds to get an uneven chop, not too fine. Dump figs in a large mixing bowl and add the toasted couscous. In the same food processor, pulse about 1 cup of raw walnuts and add those as well. Then pour in creamy liquid, and mix thoroughly, adding about 1/3 cup of the wine as well. Season with salt. The resulting mixture should be gloppy and a little grainy.
5. Line a deep bread pan with wax paper. Melt another 2 Tbs. of margarine and coat the wax paper with it to grease. Pour the figgy mixture in the wax paper-lined pan, cover it with aluminum foil and place the pan inside a wider dish to create a double boiler. Add about 2/3 cup water to the outer dish: the liquid will boil and gently cook the pudding.
6. Bake for about 1 hour at 350 degrees. Check halfway through, refill water if needed. If pudding is too wet after one hour (it should be able to be served in cut squares) simply remove foil and bake with the water-filled pan for another 10 minutes.
7. Once cooked and cool enough to cut, slice in 1-inch thick squares. Serve by itself, or garnish with tarragon and a sweet pomegranate glaze. Or serve underneath a grilled fruit like pears or persimmons (pictured above).
Beverage: Alesmith’s Yuletide Ale (Winter version)
Soundtrack: Primal Scream’s “Little Death”