Cinnamon fruit cigars

Makes about 10
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Earlier this year I was in Havana. Not exactly a holiday, as I was doing dinner for 700 people at the annual cigar festival. But I wasn't on my own; our company, Caprice Events, worked with the chefs at the Hotel Nacional. Doing events abroad is never easy and what was to have been a sit-down dinner had to be converted into a stand-up cocktail party on the morning due to a heavy storm coming our way. Luckily the starters were large canapé-type snacks. One of these was spiced chicken stogies, with a paper band bearing the hotel logo around each one, presented in cigar boxes. You can use the same cigar-style wrapping for almost any filling, savoury or sweet, as long as it's not too wet. Cigar band optional.

Earlier this year I was in Havana. Not exactly a holiday, as I was doing dinner for 700 people at the annual cigar festival. But I wasn't on my own; our company, Caprice Events, worked with the chefs at the Hotel Nacional. Doing events abroad is never easy and what was to have been a sit-down dinner had to be converted into a stand-up cocktail party on the morning due to a heavy storm coming our way. Luckily the starters were large canapé-type snacks. One of these was spiced chicken stogies, with a paper band bearing the hotel logo around each one, presented in cigar boxes. You can use the same cigar-style wrapping for almost any filling, savoury or sweet, as long as it's not too wet. Cigar band optional.

150g dates, stoned
100g dried apricots, stoned
50g raisins
30g nibbed almonds
30g pistachios, chopped
1tsp ground cinnamon
40g butter, melted
1tsp icing sugar mixed with 1tsp ground cinnamon
10 sheets of filo pastry measuring 15cm x 15cm

Soak the dates, apricots and raisins in warm water overnight. Drain the fruit and chop it quite finely with a heavy knife, but don't be tempted to put it into a food processor as you may end up with a purée on your hands that won't bind in the filo pastry and will simply be a mess.

Mix the fruit with the nuts and cinnamon. Have the filo pastry sheets covered with a clean tea towel, otherwise, being pastry made without fat, they'll dry out.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/390ºF/gas mark 6. Lay a sheet of filo on a flat surface and put a couple of heaped teaspoons along the edge of the pastry nearest to you, spreading it into a strip, leaving about 1cm at either side. Fold these ends over to form a hem down each side, then brush all the pastry right to the edges with melted butter.

Now roll the pastry up as tightly as you can into a cigar shape and put it onto a buttered baking tray with the join facing down. Repeat with the other sheets of pastry and the rest of the mixture. Space the cigars out, leaving 3-4cm between them on the tray, then brush them with melted butter.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes until golden, then leave to cool on the tray for about 5-10 minutes for the cigars to crisp a little. Put the icing sugar and cinnamon into a fine-meshed sieve and dust the cigars by tapping the rim of the sieve against your hand over the cigars. Serve warm, with thick cream or yoghurt to dip them into, if you're eating standing up (these would end an evening barbecue nicely), or on the plate.

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