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Monday, 31 December 2007

Best of 2007

best of 2007

I have made and posted many recipes in my first year of food blogging. It's been quite hard to pick one that is the 'best', but I've chosen Fresh Fruit Tart. It not only looked and tasted gorgeous, it required no cooking - which was handy as I was without an oven at the time!

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Sandra from Un tocco di zenzero and Zorra from Kochtopf have compiled a special a collection of foodblogger's best recipes of 2007 which can be found here. There are some truly magnificent dishes from around the world, take a peek and get some inspiration for next year!!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Merry Christmas With Some Mince Pies

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Merry Christmas!

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Just time to squeeze this in for the Mini Pie Revolution. The mincemeat is really easy to make and so much nicer than the shop-bought stuff. Use regular shortcrust pastry or a sweet one.
Here is the Mini Pie Revolution round-up.

Adapted from a Waitrose recipe

500g dried, ready-to-eat apricots
150g almonds, coarsely chopped
500g luxury dried mixed fruit
½ x 250g pack 'Atora' vegetable suet
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
250ml Grand Marnier or brandy
275g dark brown muscovado sugar

Finely chop the apricots and place in a large mixing bowl with the chopped almonds.

Stir in all the remaining ingredients and mix well Cover with cling film and leave to stand, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Spoon into sterilised jars, pressing down well with the back of the spoon to ensure there are no air gaps. Cover with wax paper discs, seal with lid and store in a cool, dark place until ready to use.

(Printable Recipe)

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Pecan Pie Cookies

Eat chistmas cookies logo Pecan Pie Cookies 2200

Although I have been feeling under the weather these past few weeks I couldn't resist doing a little baking for Eat Christmas Cookies. This is an event being held by Susan at Food Blogga - which is a fabulous food blog with delicious photos that will have you licking your screen!
There have been many entries for the cookie extravaganza, with lots of new ideas from around the world and you can see the round-up here.

These are Pecan Pie Cookies and the recipe comes from the Land O' Lakes site. They are very easy to make, quite different from your usual cookie - and the filling is just the right amount for the cookies, I do hate it when you have a ton of filling left over!

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Pecan Pie Cookies
Adapted from Land O' Lakes

For the cookies:
1 cup packed soft brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Pecan Filling:
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1/4 cup double cream (heavy whipping)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter, egg and vanilla extract together until creamy (I used a hand held electric mixer).

Beat in the flour and baking powder until well mixed.

Shape the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Make an indentation in each cookie with your thumb; rotate thumb to hollow out slightly.

Combine all the filling ingredients in small bowl; fill each cookie with 1 rounded teaspoon of filling.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing from cookie sheets.

The cookies can be made ahead and frozen for up to 3 months.

(Printable Recipe)

Pecan Pie Cookies 2250

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs

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Just in time for the Christmas party, salty nibbles with a tang - betcha can't eat just one! This recipe comes from Canapes, a lovely book crammed full of fabulous party ideas.

I'm thinking you could plate up 3 or 4 of them on some rocket leaves and drizzle with a little lemon/olive oil dressing, cracked black pepper and some extra Parmesan to make a fabulous starter.

This is my contribution to Waiting for Christmas 2007, being hosted by Francesca. Pop along and add a dish you might want to make for Christmas!

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs
Adapted from Canapes by Eric Treuille and Victoria Blashford-Snell

5 ripe figs, quartered
About 10 very thin slices of prosciutto, cut into strips
3 oz Parmesan cheese
Black pepper

Use a vegetable peeler to make some Parmesan shavings. Place a couple on each strip of prosciutto.
Place a fig quarter on top and sprinkle with some fresh black pepper.
Roll up and place seam side down on a serving dish. You can secure with a cocktail stick if you prefer.
Sprinkle with some extra grated Parmesan just before serving.

Note: you can also use melon when figs are not in season and substitute blue cheese, or any other cheese, for the Parmesan.

(Printable Recipe)

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Menu For Hope UK Details

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I have been asked by Jeanne of Cook Sister, to promote the UK section of the fund raising exercise, Menu for Hope, and post a link to the prizes available.

Menu For Hope, for those in the dark, is a world-wide fund raising event where various prizes are put up for auction. It was the brainchild of Pim of Chez Pim and involves bloggers and other donors from around the world each give something to be raffled off online for the benefit of the UN World Food Programme charity.

This year’s campaign runs from 10-21 December and all the funds raised will be allocated to a school feeeding programme in Lesotho.

There is a hugly tempting array of prizes for the UK section. These range from food hampers and cookery books though to Dinner for two at Patterson’s restaurant in London and a Sourdough Bread Baking Starter Kit.

Anyone can buy tickets to try for one of these prizes -

1. Choose the prize or prizes of your choice from the main Menu For Hope site. (This is the global list of all prizes donated this year. Alternatively, you can see only the UK prizes on Cooksister or The Passionate Cook.) You must make sure to check the terms and conditions for the individual prizes BEFORE you bid, as some will come with restrictions regarding where they ship to or how long the prize is valid for.

2. Go to the donation site and make a donation. The hosts do not handle the cash at all - it goes directly to Justgiving to be passed on to the World Food Programme.

3. Please specify the prize code of the prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. If you are buying more than one ticket, please indicate how you would like the tickets to be allocated. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Boqueria Market, Barcelona

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the famous Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona's oldest and largest covered food market. The smells and sights of the fresh produce are amazing and this is where many of Barcelona's top chefs can be found, looking for the freshest ingredients for their restaurants.

Here are a few photographs of the produce, starting with the fabulous mushroom stall and ending with the dried fruits, nuts and sweets.

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Saturday, 24 November 2007

Sun-Dried Tomato, Parmesan & Basil Whirls

Sun-dried tomato, parmesan &  basil whirls 1932

The party season is upon us and these little beauties are not only easy to throw together, they taste pretty good too. I usually have the ingredients for these on hand and if you keep puff pastry in the freezer you are all set.

I'm going to be making a big tray of these to go to Peabody's housewarming party - and hope all the guests will enjoy them as much as I do. I have moved houses a fair bit in my time and I know how stressful it can be, so I'm also sending Peabody my best wishes and hope everything goes smoothly with the move.

These little savoury whirls are great served straight from the oven and are just as good at room temperature. Don't be stingy with the filling, and do use all-butter puff pastry if you can get it. Be creative, try using different cheeses and herbs, or some finely chopped fresh pepper/chilli. Meat eaters can add a layer of parma ham, smoked ham or salami - and strips of anchovy give a salty bite.

Sun-dried tomato, parmesan &  basil whirls - uncooked 1997 Sun-dried tomato, parmesan &  basil whirls - uncooked 1993
Before baking

Sun-Dried Tomato, Parmesan & Basil Whirls
Amounts are a bit vague - use your judgment - the above right photo of the rolled out pastry used roughly two thirds of a pack of pastry, about 350g.

1 packet puff pastry, 500g, all butter
2-3 cups of grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained from olive oil and chopped
Fresh basil leaves, torn up
Chilli flakes to taste
1 egg, beaten, for glazing

Roll out the pastry quite thinly into a large rectangle.

Spread the chopped sun-dried tomatoes evenly over the pastry, leaving a little gap at the edges. Then scatter the Parmesan over, followed by the fresh basil leaves and the chilli flakes. Season with salt and pepper if wanted.

Brush one of the long ends with a little beaten egg, and (from the opposite side) roll the pastry up like a long sausage, and place on a baking tray. Put it in the fridge for about half an hour - it makes it easier to cut. You can cut it in half if it's too long to fit on the tray.

Brush the roll with beaten egg and with a sharp knife, cut it into slices that are no more than 1cm wide. Put them on baking trays, spaced apart and brush the pastry with a little more beaten egg.

Bake in a hot oven, about 200ºC for 20 minutes or so, until they are beginning to brown and the pastry is cooked.

Serve hot or cold.

(Printable Recipe)

Sun-dried tomato, parmesan &  basil whirls 1936

Friday, 23 November 2007

Weekend Baking Supplement

If, like me, you are a fan of Dan Lepard, artisan baker, you will be running to the newsagents this Saturday (24th November). The Guardian newspaper is giving away a special baking supplement, with over 100 pages of baked goods - enough to satisfy any breadhead!

It includes many brand new recipes which have been especially written, with some can't-live-without master recipes thrown in, plus many variations.

What else will be included in the supplement?
Dan writes:
"that Jill Mead, who photographed two of Gordon Ramsay's bestselling books, spent a week with me photographing the steps and finished things I baked here in my kitchen at home. And there are essays from Ronnie Corbett on his father's life as a baker, Neneh Cherry on home baking, Tom Jaine on oven building, a recipe from River cafe founders Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, Joanna Blythman on additive-free cakes, a very affectionate essay from Granta editor Ian Jack on pies and pie-loving, in fact, all the good writing you would expect from the Guardian. Actually, the paper is packed with this kind of writing every day, but never just on baking".

If you don't live in the UK, you can still access the recipes on-line, and a taster of one of the bread recipes can be found at Word of Mouth, where Dan will be doing a Q&A session - you can ask him any baking questions you may have.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Festive Filo Tarts

This month's challenge for Waiter there's something in my... topless tart, being hosted by Jeanne at Cook Sister! made me very happy.
I love tarts of all shapes and sizes, sweet, savoury, hot or cold. I was even happier when I picked up a copy of the Christmas issue of BBC's Good Food Vegetarian magazine, because on the cover was a veggie tart that would even make a meat lover drool.

A crisp filo tart case filled with soft, golden butternut squash. Add crunchy nuts and some sweet dried cranberries - topped off with melty, tangy blue cheese. Mmmmmm!

In the magazine they used a 20cm fluted tart tin, but I used a large, 4 hole Yorkshire pudding tin to make individual ones. You can use any size tart tins - just cut the filo into squares that are a little bigger than the tins. I substituted pecans instead of walnuts and added a sprinkle of chilli flakes on the top. They were fabulous as a starter, with a scattering of salad leaves.

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Festive Filo Tarts
Adapted from a Rachel Allen recipe
in the
BBC Vegetarian Christmas Magazine 07

200 g filo pastry
melted butter, for brushing

1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil

50 g pecans, toasted
50 g dried cranberries
chilli flakes to your taste
100 g vegetarian blue cheese

To make the filo tarts, heat the oven to 160ºC and cut the pastry into squares that are slightly bigger than the tart tins. Brush each sheet with melted butter and layer in the tin, about 5/6 squares per tart, each sheet at an angle to the previous one, so you have a starry shape with pointy edges. Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the size you are making, or until golden. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 200ºC. Spread the cubes of butternut squash on a baking tray, toss with the olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until soft. Remove from tray and cool.

The two steps above can be done a couple of hours ahead.

To finish the tarts, heat the oven to 160ºC. Place the roasted squash in the filo cases and sprinkle with the pecans, dried cranberries and a few chilli flakes. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until warm and then crumble the cheese over the top. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Serve warm.

(Printable Recipe)

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Vegetarian Thanksgiving logo

Edited November 2008: This dish is on it's way to Mansi, over at the Fun and Food Cafe - she's hosting a Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipe Carnival. I am really looking forward to the entries, as every night I cook for the vegetarians in my house and am in need of a few new ideas!


This content belongs to Nicisme at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2008 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Monday, 12 November 2007

DMBLGIT - Many Thanks!

Thank you so much to the judges of this month's DMBLGIT event, which was hosted by Jennifer of Bake or Break. My photo of Puttanesca Tomatoes was awarded second place in the overall scoring, and I am thrilled to bits!

There were over a hundred entries, all taken by people who love and have an interest in food. Make sure you check out the winning entries here and if you want to see all the entries, check out the gallery.

All the information needed to participate in November's DMBLGIT, being hosted by Zorra at Kochtopf, is HERE!

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Thursday, 8 November 2007

So Soft, Scottish Baps

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Amazing! That's what I thought when I saw there were 184 entries for the World Bread Day event. Any bread lover would be spoilt for choice, choosing something to make for the After Hours Party.

I decided to make Scottish baps, which had been submitted by Pam from The Backyard Pizzeria. I really loved the way they had a little dimple in the top, which was to stop them from rising to a dome. They were perfect, very soft and delicious.

Don't forget to check out Zorra's fabulous roundup for yourself - you may see something you would like to make.

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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Little Ghosties!

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Happy Halloween! A bit late I know, but as usual, I ran out of time to post this yesterday!
Here are some little coffee flavoured cookies that I made from a Rachel Allen recipe that was posted on the BBC food website. It's a really fabulous cookie dough, but if you make them, please add the coffee/egg mixture gradually, or you will have a very runny dough. Maybe Rachel Allen used smaller eggs than I did, mine were the large size. You can chill the dough before rolling out, if it's too soft, and I always chill my cookies on the baking sheets before cooking, as I find this stops them spreading too much.

Coffee Cookies
Adapted from a Rachel Allen Recipe

175g/6oz self raising flour
75g/3oz caster sugar
75g/3oz butter
2 tsp instant coffee powder or granules
1 tsp hot water
1 egg

Put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs.

In a cup or small bowl, mix the coffee with the hot water, then add the egg and whisk together with a fork.

Add the egg mixture to the food processor gradually - you may not need all the egg mixture - and pulse until the dough just comes together. (If making this by hand, rub the butter into the flour and sugar in a bowl, then add the coffee/egg mixture and bring together to a dough.)

Dust the work surface lightly with flour (Rachel used icing sugar) and roll out the dough until it is 5mm/¼ in thick.
Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes and lay them on ungreased baking sheets. Put the baking sheets into the fridge for an hour or so to let the cookies firm up and chill.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet with a spatula and cool on a wire rack.

These will keep in an air-tight tin for a couple of days.

(Printable Recipe)

Friday, 26 October 2007

French Smoked Garlic

french garlic plaits

Whenever I go away, the first thing I do is check out the local supermarkets and deli's. I love the smells, colourful arrangements and trying to find things you can't buy at home. Food, followed by kitchen accessories are way ahead of clothes, jewelery and odd nick-knacks, and I bet many food bloggers are right with me on this. Of course I fit in sightseeing and other holiday 'must-do's' - we all have to compromise sometime!

Eurotunnel - going on Eurotunnel - Inside
Going onto the train and inside the train

It takes us less than an hour to get to the Channel Tunnel, and as long as there are no hold-ups, you can be cruising round the aisles of the French supermarkets in no time. What's more, it's so civilized going over via the tunnel - it takes half the time of the ferry and there are no worries about the weather, no fight to go up the cold, wet stairs and trudge around looking for a clean seat. No mixing with drunken stag parties at 10.30 in the morning! The only thing that can put a damper on things is a strike by the French side - which can happen all too often!

For those that haven't had the 'tunnel experience' I would highly recommend it. Once you have driven onto the train, you just sit in your car and let the train take the strain for 40 minutes. You don't even know you are moving, it's an odd feeling!

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Smoked Garlic

This smoked garlic is one of the things I brought back from a day trip to France recently. It smells really strong and was banished to the utility room because everyone was complaining. Once it's been cooked in a recipe, you can't really detect a 'smoked' flavour there. One simple way to try and preserve the smokiness is to roast the garlic. Just wrap it in some foil with a little olive oil and some herbs and roast in a medium oven for about 40 minutes - the time it takes to get to France on the train! It is wonderful spread onto toasted bread and tomatoes, or added to butter to make smokey garlic butter.

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Sunday, 14 October 2007

Breakfast Swirls for World Bread Day

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I bake bread at least 4 or 5 times a week, so it's only fitting that I participate in an event to celebrate World Bread Day, being hosted by Zorra of Kochtopf.
Check out the final round up of all the entries here.

As I have a lot of other things going on in my life, I tend to utilise the bread machine a fair bit, mainly for kneading the bread.
In a typical week, I usually make several French breads, a batch of my husband's favourite buns with berries and cherries, some loaves and plenty of rolls for the boys to take to school for lunches. Sometimes I make sweet rolls for breakfast, they are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

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Breakfast Swirls

1 teaspoon quick-rising yeast
9 oz strong white bread flour
2 oz sugar
½ oz unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
4-5 tablespoons milk
1 beaten egg to glaze

Icing sugar for dusting

Put all the ingredients into the bread machine in the correct order for your machine.
When it comes to the milk, you may need less or more, keep an eye on it and add as necessary to make a smooth, soft dough.
When the dough is ready, cut it into about 9 pieces and roll each one into a long thin rope, about 13-15 inches long.
Curl them into loose spirals, place on a baking sheet and tuck the ends under.
Cover and leave to rise until they have doubled in size, brush with beaten egg and bake in a pre-heated oven 350ºF for about 12-14 minutes.
Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.

(Printable Recipe)

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Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Hazelnut Cartwheel for British Food Fortnight

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The sixth British Food Fortnight runs from 22nd September to 7th October 2007. It is the biggest national celebration of the diverse and delicious range of food that Britain produces.

In my quest to make something British and slightly different, also using a local ingredient, I looked through various books and searched the Internet until I came across the All British Food website. There I found a great recipe, with a fabulous name, that used cob nuts (or hazelnuts) from Kent - my own county.

I bought my cob nuts from the local farmers' market, shelled and roasted them - but you could use any nuts - pecans would be good too. Don't skimp on the lemon rind in this recipe, it really adds a zing, and try and use all butter puff pastry if you can find it.

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Hazelnut Cartwheel
Adapted from All British Food

212 g (7½ oz) packet frozen puff pastry, thawed
25 g (l oz) butter
25 g (1 oz) soft light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
75 g (3 oz) plain cake crumbs
75 g (3 oz) hazelnuts, chopped
50 g (2 oz) raisins
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 egg, beaten, to glaze
caster sugar, to dredge

Roll out the pastry into a rectangle, about 10 x 14 inches.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and then stir in the cake crumbs, hazelnuts, raisins and grated rind of the lemon.

Spread the mixture over the pastry to about half an inch of the edges. Roll up lengthways (like a swiss roll) and place on a baking sheet, lined with baking parchment paper. Twist into a circle shape and seal the ends together. Snip into the ring at 1½ inch intervals, being careful not to cut right the way through.

Brush with beaten egg to glaze and bake at 220ºC (425ºF) for 25-30 minutes. I tuned the oven down slightly for the last 10 minutes as it was nice and brown on top, but still needed a bit longer.

Sprinkle with caster sugar and serve warm with cream, it's also good cold.

(Printable Recipe)

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Monday, 24 September 2007

Goodbye Summer..... With a Fruit Tart

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With a nip in the air and the trees turning colour, summer is almost over.
Just time for a last summery treat - a fruit tart for my mum's birthday. Not a birthday cake I know - I still don't have an oven.

I would have liked to have done this with a sweet pastry case, but ended up melting 100g of butter and mixing it with 250g of crushed digestive biscuits, which generously lined a 10 inch tart pan.
Then I made about 3/4 of the amount of cream filling from this recipe, subbing the orange liqueur with a teaspoon of vanilla paste. This was spread evenly on the biscuit base and was left to set in the fridge while I sliced the fruit.
After layering the fruit onto the cream, I brushed a redcurrant glaze on top.
I'll be making this again, it was very successful - and a good twist on the traditional pastry base.

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This content belongs to Nicisme at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2009 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

I ate figs for SHF #35!

And I liked them!!

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Really! Not in the same way that I like chillies or chocolate, but they aren't so bad.
When I was very young, I remember being on a family holiday in Menorca, and my mum was picking juicy, ripe figs from a tree at the harbour. I tried them along with my brother and sister, but they weren't for me.

I was hesitant when Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice announced that figs were the theme for this month's Sugar High Friday. Would I still feel the same way about them? I decided to make a fig tart, something similar to the beautiful creation I had seen on Ivonne's page and as luck would have it, my local supermarket had some fresh figs on sale. My luck then ran out as my oven decided to die on me.
Instead, I toasted a few pine nuts and mixed them with some mascarpone. I sliced the figs in quarters down to the base and put the mascarpone inside. I drizzled them with some local honey and a little balsamic glaze. They were surprisingly delicious!

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P.S. I went a step further with this left-over fig and added some Stilton to the mascarpone. Not bad, not bad at all! These would make a great little appetizer.
And I'm going to see if there are any more when I next go shopping, because.... I really like them!