Croatia. A dreamy, lush paradise basking in the warmth of the Adriatic. From a war torn country to a touristic pilgrimage, Croatia has emerged from the dark days to become a haven for foodies, the intrepid and those who simply want to laze on the beach drinking mojitos and wearing short shorts. This post marks the beginning of a series of recipes from a delightful holiday spent in Dalmatia a few months back.
As my Beau and I strolled through the narrow alleyways of the Old Town in Split, we were struck by the intense heat of the Old Town, which entraps the hot air within its high brick walls. Sweat-drenched tourists battle on in a sedated state, longing for the next cool fix, like an icy-cold lemonade or a gelato. As is often the case in Croatia, the later in the day it is, the more critical it becomes to seek solace in air-conditioned shops and restaurants to cool off before heading to the next attraction. After watching the spectacle in the Old Town’s Square – a comical period drama of the Roman emperor Diocletian addressing the town folk outside his grand palace – we thankfully stumbled upon a tiny shop selling traditional Croatian gourmet products; sugar-coated almonds, honey lavender shortbread cookies and carob liqueur lined the shelves awaiting our Quality Control.
A generous pour of the customary carob liqueur by the hospitable host certainly did the trick and samples were devoured with great fervor. We had the pleasure of tasting a delectable little morsel of goodness, a fig and walnut roll, which many will attest has always been a heavenly combination. Made with young Dalmatian walnuts and orchard figs, dried in the Autumnal sun, this sweet treat graces many cheese boards in this neck of the woods and is typically matched with a fine local cheese, fresh from the Island of Pag or the farmer down the road.
To put an Antipodean twist on this classic, I created this figgy roll with macadamias and the result is is seriously good – intensely nectarous, wonderfully textured by the fig seeds and crunchy macadamias and lightly spiced by the cloves. The health benefits of figs are outlined in a previous post with a fresh fig recipe Goat Cheese, Figs and Walnuts with Drizzled Honey. The other super food star is the macadamia nut, which is native to Australia, New Caledonia and Indonesia, but is now grown in many warmer places, including our beloved New Zealand. Macadamias are a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, like oleic and palmitoleic acids, which research suggests increases good (HDL) cholesterol and reduces bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in the blood. They are also a good source of minerals including selenium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, calcium and iron. A true wundernut, indeed.
If the figs have been laying about at the back of the pantry for a while, it works wonders to soak them overnight in some orange or grapefruit juice to freshen them up, hence why it is optional. If they are brimming with freshness, leave this part out. If you are vegan, try this recipe with a vegan cheese or creamy nut paste. This is also delicious as a sweetie treatie with a cup of tea or coffee.
Fig and Macadamia Roll
2 cups of dried figs, chopped
3/4 of a cup of orange or grapefruit juice (optional)
1 cup of macadamias
A tablespoon of honey (optional)
1/4 of a teaspoon of ground cloves
Soak the chopped dried figs in orange juice overnight if required. Drain off excess juice and pulse in a food processor until a sticky paste is formed.
Add the macadamias, honey (if you please) and cloves and pulse lightly, ensuring that some of the macadamias are still in large pieces.
Form into a roll using your hands, wrap in baking paper or glad wrap and keep in the fridge and cut into slices as required.
Alternatively, if you prefer a drier roll, allow to rest uncovered in the fridge or pantry for a few days. I can never wait that long, so I immediately enjoy with a strong cheese or a creamy vegan nut paste.