Homemade Christmas gifts, I love ‘em. Not being particularly crafty though, I hadn’t ever considered being anything but a grateful recipient. However, with the dawn of a new-found passion for real food and natural beauty products, I realised that I wanted nothing more than to give nourishing gifts made by my own hands to my nearest and dearest. I’m also delighted that this (now family tradition) allows my kids to participate fully in the joy of giving. Last year my then four year old made chocolate-blueberry lollipops for her friends, while I whipped up jars of gourmet cranberry-buckwheat granola, cherry pistachio chocolate bark, and peppermint body scrub. This year, in my usual fashion, I have lots of ideas and a lot left to do. But as long as I avoid last year’s scenario of seeing Christmas in while frenetically trying to get the cream to whip in my sauna-like kitchen, I will be happy (I’m hopeful this experience will transform itself in a sentimental memory any day now…).
I DO, however, have several sticks of the most beautiful fig butter hanging out in my fridge, waiting patiently to be dropped into Santa’s sack. Dried figs are high in dietary fibre, manganese, potassium, magnesium and calcium, and their natural sweetness pairs wonderfully with the whole spices which infuse the butter with their lovely Christmas notes. I’m happy to say that coconut butter works a treat too, so it also makes a perfect dairy-free gift.
Christmas spiced fig butter
To make a dairy free version of this butter, simply use coconut butter. Coconut butter can be found in many healthfood and organic food stores, or can be made easily at home by processing dessicated coconut in a blender or food processor until creamy.
Makes 2-3 sticks of butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup red wine
200 grams dried figs, stems removed
100 grams butter or coconut butter, softened
Measure water and honey into a saucepan. Add spices. Bring mixture to the boil over a medium heat then add the wine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half.
Remove the spices and pour cooled figs and liquid into a food processor. Purée until smooth. Add the butter or coconut butter and process until smooth.
Wrap in baking paper or store in a container. Will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month.
Adapted from Good to the Grain.