This is not bread really, it's nearer to a really, really dense fig Christmas cake. I'm using it as part of my starter for the upcoming pre wedding dinner I'm catering - alongside Serrano Jamon and roast cherry tomatoes. Traditionally its formed into a small round cake and left to dry out in the sun, but being devoid of sun and wanting something a little classier in presentation, I have pressed mine between sheets of rice paper to be sliced thinly and laid next to the Jamon. The white rice paper adds a little something to the eye - like a shirt collar I guess - and it also brings back a comforting memory of buying little pastel coloured sheets of the stuff to nibble on when I was a child. Pan de Higo, is a real autumnal treat and seems to fit with the deepening, darkening flavours we associate with the onset of autumn: game, mushrooms, dried fruits, beetroot, chard, brassicas - you get the picture.
Pan de Higo goes down a treat with a plate of cured meats, especially Jamon, chorizo and the Italian fennel Salami, Finocciono. Cheese is another great partner or a slice of walnut bread or sourdough toast drizzled with rosemary infused oil. Of course it begs to be washed down with a glass of nutty Olorosso or raisiny Pedro Ximenez sherry.
Pan de Higo
500g Dried Figs
200g Whole Almonds
2 tbs Sesame Seeds
2 tsp Runny Honey
3 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Cloves
1/2 tsp Aniseeds
3-4 tsp Brandy
2 Sheets of Rice Paper
Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan on a low heat or in a low oven until a nut squeaks when bitten (let it cool a little first!) - don't let them colour or they will taste bitter. Grind in a food processor until some are powder and some left in chunks. Put into a mixing bowl. Finely grind the cloves and aniseeds with a small pinch of salt and the same of sugar. Add this to the bowl with the cinnamon.
Chop the hard stalks from the figs, quarter and mince in the food processor until they form a sticky ball. Add this to the bowl, scraping all the sticky fig from the processor bowl. Drizzle over the honey and half the brandy and work into a paste with your hands, add the rest of the brandy if you think it needs it.
Place a large piece of greaseproof paper on a board and top with a sheet of rice paper. Turn the whole lot onto the rice paper, smooth out till it is about and inch thick all over and smooth another sheet of rice paper on top. Wrap the greaseproof around to enclose the whole thing, put a hard back book or board on top and weight down with something heavy (I use kilner jars full of water). Leave for a few days to firm up and then it can be sliced. You can trim it up to neaten the shape. Keep wrapped in the greaseproof in an airtight container. It should keep for a month or so in a cool place.