Figs are a fabulous fruit on their own but I dont think I have ever appreciated or explored their versatility until this year. We are lucky to have a tremendously productive fig tree in our garden, a monster that generates more juicy figs than it is possible to consume, unless you start to get creative. Of course it is a pleasure just to pluck them from the tree and eat them fresh as they come, all sweet & soft yet slightly crunchy from their seeds. Knowing how expensive they can be to buy, I am aware of the value some may put on this marvelous tree of ours and this year I was determined to make more use of these little purple nuggets!
This year I have played around using figs in a few canapés, with Roquefort or goats cheese and other such familiar partners. You can check out my Fig, Roquefort & Walnut Prosciutto Cups or Fig, Goats Cheese & Tomato Wrapped in Prosciutto or Herby Goats Cheese with Balsamic Fig Crostini.
But even after filling my face with fresh figs and using them in my many canapés, our tree was still laden with purple ripe fruit begging to be eaten by us and not the wasps. So I made it my mission to try and use figs in ways I wouldnt normally have thought of.
First off, I decided to try Chicken stuffed with Figs & Mozzarella. I often find that cooking figs makes them lose a little of their natural sweetness so that they lend themselves to savoury dishes in a balanced way, as well as desserts. On this occasion I stuffed a whole fig into each chicken breast followed by a nice slice of Mozzarella and wrapped it all with Bayonne Ham which held it all together and kept the stuffing from oozing out when cooking. I served it very simply with Flageolet beans tossed with onion and lots of garlic. This was a wonderful rustic dish. The fig nestled inside the chicken was completely delicious and the highlight of the dish. It became super soft and its natural sweetness contrasted perfectly with the mild creamy Mozzarella. It honestly was a harmonious dish and an excellent way to bring more fig into your everyday dishes.
Then I started to ponder the combination of duck with fig. I mean why not? If duck can work with cherry sauce or orange, why not try fig! Duck breast with Fig Sauce, Lentils and Chard emerged, a truly autumnal dish that worked a treat! Beautifully cooked, pink, moist duck with a sauce of figs in Balsamic vinegar, red wine and a touch of redcurrant jelly the figs were not too sweet but soft and juicy against the rich duck meat. Paired simply with lentils, onions and garlic, topped with sautéed chard leaves, I cannot stress enough how goddamn delicious this was! I started by dishing out just a few pieces of fig to each plate and very quickly went back for more. Honestly, I love duck and this is now my absolute favourite way to have it. Epic success!
And finally, a pud that uses up figs by the bucket load. Fig Tart with Goats Cheese Cream, so simple to make but quite an unusual combination for a pudding, it will get your guests talking (in a good way) for sure! Puff pastry base, covered with a layer of jam and then piled high with ripe juicy figs its a beautiful, unpretentious thing. Bake in the oven until warm and glazed and then offer dollops of fresh, super soft goats cheese, whipped with a little cream and sugar and touch of Floc or Port if you fancy. The figs and goats cheese unite as you can imagine, sweet figs meeting slightly savoury, creamy sauce. Two words – D-vine. Thanks must go out to my friend Florence who steered me towards this masterpiece at a girly dinner party I recently hosted. She re-jigged my ideas and together, we made something beautiful. Cheers Florence!
I know that figs can be hard to come by for some people and even expensive, but if you do see them, know that they are a true treat and to be savoured. Think of all the fabulous ways you can use them .they are a multitalented little fruit. Go on, have some figgy fun!