Hear the phrase “prune log” and most likely your first thought isn’t “WOW! That sounds YUMMIDELICIOUS!”
But bear with us here at Found Recipes. We wouldn’t even suggest you try pastilla if it wasn’t good.
“It tastes like a not-too-sweet jam,” says Merelyn Chalmers, one of the women behind the Monday Morning Cooking Club. They’re a group of home cooks from Sydney, Australia, who collect and preserve recipes from the Jewish community there.
Chalmers says pastilla, which is also made with honey, walnuts and shredded coconut, is between candy and cake in hardness. It can be easily sliced with a serrated knife.
“I serve it with a cheese board,” Chalmers says, “or sometimes when I can’t find the time to make a proper dessert for the family, I just slice that up and have a bowl of dark chocolate alongside it. I love the combination of prunes and dark chocolate.”
The pastilla recipe belonged to the late Zina Komonski, who was born in 1914 to a Russian Jewish family living in Harbin, China. They moved to Israel when she was young, then a few years later, they settled in Australia.
She said it was an old family recipe — passed down to her from her great, great grandmother. Komonski liked to make the logs as gifts, rolling them in aluminum foil. She especially liked to serve the prune walnut logs during Passover.
“It makes me laugh,” says Lisa Goldberg, another Monday Morning Cooking Club member, “she thought the qualities of the prunes used to be a perfect antidote to the ill-effects of the matzo that you ate at that time of year.”
Zina Komonski’s prune and walnut log recipe is the basis for “Pastilla Nash”, which is sold throughout Australia. Interestingly, this Russian Jewish treat has become a very popular Christmas item down under. But if you like to try the original recipe, look no further.
Makes 15 logs
800 g (3 cups) pitted prunes, minced (see note)
600 g (2 3/4 cups) sugar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice
400 g (4 cups) walnuts
125 g (1 cup) desiccated coconut
Put the prunes and sugar in a very large saucepan and mix together with a splash of water until combined into a sludgy mixture. Cook on a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the honey and lemon juice and cook for about 15 minutes until the mixture becomes a very thick jam that sticks to the side of the pan. Test if it is ready by putting a bit on a spoon and placing it in the fridge – it should go hard after a few minutes. Add the walnuts and cook for a further 5–10 minutes, stirring.
Spread the coconut over two boards or trays. Place tennis ball-sized spoonfuls of the mixture onto the coconut. When cool enough to handle, roll each mound into a sausage shape, so it becomes a smooth log covered in coconut. Wrap in foil and refrigerate until cold. Slice thinly on the diagonal to serve. Keeps well.
Note: For the best results, the prunes should be minced in a mincer.