These sweet and tasty 'cigars' are easy to make and delicious. Photo: David Reist
So I'm back again, at the interstate bus terminal, waiting for another of our vintage crew to arrive. I'm playing "Spot the winemaker". I messed up last week, as the graduate winemaker from San Francisco wasn't the flowers-in-your-hair kinda guy I was expecting. Waiting out the front of the YHA for me was more a dapper, well-moustached, Ricky Gervais-type character.
This time, my new arrival is French, so that is so much easier; striped shirt, beret, smells of garlic, right? Wrong again, and he looks nothing like Asterix the Gaul either. Makes you wonder what people expect before you meet for the first time. I said to our incoming Frenchman: look for grey hair, George Clooney on a bad day.
Ultimately, the stained red hands are the giveaway and, given the time of year, looking tired and slightly crazy will also help us hook up. The same kind of issue came up the other day. A beekeeper was coming out to have a chat and I wondered what he would look like. He makes natural, wild honey so there's a chance he'll be all rugged-looking, unkempt and smell of beeswax. Put it this way, I'm pretty certain he won't be in a Canali suit.
Preparing the filling for Bryan Martin's "cigars". Photo: David Reist
Tim Malfroy is an interesting guy, so laid-back with magnificent mutton-chops, bright eyes, totally engrossed in, and enthusiastic for, his chosen profession – that of tending bees in a natural way. What's that I hear you ask? Don't bees do it naturally anyway? Sure, but it's more the fact that Malfroy lets the bees form their own comb rather than inserting plastic, sterilised combs to collect the honey. The hives are not moved around, so rather than taking the bees' nest to the flowers, these bees have to find it themselves. They will travel vast distances and presumably get to know their district, rather than waking up and thinking "Where the hell are we now?" (in bee talk obviously).
The main idea, it seems, is to create a home that is as close to a wild hive as possible. The bees do their own design and build with the comb. Therefore, they don't have to deal with the esoteric nature of builders. Apparently, bees spend most of their lives on this comb within their hives. It's a "multi-function living space" – the kind of thing we are trying to create at home if the builder would just bloody-well turn up.
You can read up on Tim's old-school beekeeping system yourselves by going to his website www.malfroysgold.com.au. I clearly didn't because I thought he was talking about (amongst other things I didn't get) "war bees and hives". How cool would that be, I thought, if they went into battle with planes and tanks, machine guns. Which they don't. At all. Warre bees are those from a type of hive designed by one Abbe Warre.
Preparing Bryan Martin's "cigars". Photo: David Reist
The bees respond better to an environment that they were involved in the planning and building of, as we do. Sure they make less honey, as they have to expend a lot energy building and maintaining their digs, and flying great distances to find pollen, so there's less honey for us but it's one of those great trade-offs: amazing honey, happy bees, awesome sandwiches.
Tim's honey and honeycomb are in high demand. A lot of chefs will sell their souls, or what they have left, for this gear, so it's not available year round on his website. The big jar of this thick, cloudy, alive-looking honey is like gold for me. Cold-pressed pretty well straight to the jars, the honey is full of pollen and stuff like "propolis" – a resin they use to patch their hives. It's hard to describe because it does clearly smell just like honey. But this is so powerful, almost heady, perfumed, floral, with some citrus. Spread straight onto sourdough with a little Pepe Saya butter and, I tell you, it's an explosion of yum.
In the Middle East – Turkey, Israel, North Africa – they use honey to sweeten the beautiful dessert, baklava. Layers of filo pastry dotted with butter and chopped nuts, then baked. An offshoot of these are the "cigars" of filo pastry. They are really easy to make, though the result is dependent on some other good products like Malfroy's Gold honey. Quality ground nuts, such as pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, are made into a paste, flavoured with citrus or vanilla, and bound with an egg yolk. Then they are rolled up and fried or baked, then rolled in honey while still warm. It's one of the easiest and best desserts I've ever made.
Cooking the "cigars". Photo: David Reist
Pistachio, almond and walnut cigars with Malfroy's Gold.
24 sheets filo pastry, cut into squares about 20cm
¼ cup clarified butter
100g unsalted pistachios
rind from 1 lemon, grated finely
rind form 1 orange, grated finely
1 egg yolk, keep the white to seal the pastries
Roast the almonds in a little butter until caramelised. Add to the other nuts and grind to a fairly fine mixture though not to a powder. Place in a dry pan and warm through, toasting it just a little. Add a quarter cup of water plus the sugar and stir for a few minutes until you have a paste.
Remove from the heat, add the rinds and egg yolk and stir in. This should be spreadable like chunky peanut butter. Lay out one sheet of filo, keeping the others covered as they will dry out in an instant. Paint this with butter and cover with another sheet. Spread a heaped tablespoon of the paste in a line about 2cm from the front edge.
Fold this over once and fold in the sides. Roll up into a tight cigar, paint with a little whisked egg white and seal. Repeat until you have a dozen cigars. Fill a wide pan with about 1cm of grapeseed oil and heat. Place the honey in another pan and heat it so it flows but doesn't boil in any way. Fry the cigars in batches in the oil so they stay at a sizzle. Fry for about 3-4 minutes or until they are crispy. Drain quickly on paper and roll in the warm honey. Repeat and serve dusted with chopped nuts or icing sugar.