I dream of figs

A few weeks ago a chef from Melbourne wrote and inspirational article in the Good Weekend about figs. He was boasting about the abundance of fig trees in the back streets of his neighbourhood that keep him well supplied with succulent fruit during fig season. This got me reminiscing about all the fabulous fig trees I have been aquainted with over the years.

Now figs are an autumn fruit  the same as grapes, so as a girl who has spent the last few years making wine in both hemispheres I’ve been lucky enough to double up on the number of fig seasons I’ve encountered. It’s uncanny but pretty much everywhere I’ve worked there’s been a fig tree ready to donate some of it’s prescious fruit.  From Sonoma to the Barossa, McLaren Vale to the Rhone vintage has always gone hand in hand with a healthy supply of FREE figs. But back in Sydney I’ve been unable to find myself a local fig source and have had to resort to actually buying them from my favourite fruit & veg supplier: Fratelli Fresh.

Figs are one of my favourite fruit and I tend to agree with the ancient Greeks who attributed aphrodisic powers to them. So I wasn’t surprised that the article about figs permeated my subconscious to the extent that I had a vivid dream about my French fig tree in the Rhone that very night. As luck would have it I was cooking dinner for my dear newly parented friends Craig & Juanita so I knew the menu just had to include figs.

I am a massive fan of figs for dessert: ginger poached figs with vanilla icecream, Jamie Oliver’s fig and almond crostata, even fresh figs warmed in the oven drizzled with honey and served with a healthy dollup of marscapone….pretty hard to go past. But on this occasion I already had a dessert in mind: Jill Dupleix’s macadamia and toffee tart with buttermilk icecream so a savoury fig course was in order.  I was toying with the idea of fig, thyme and proscuitto pizza or even roast duck breast with grilled figs when I stumbled across the prefect idea: Karen Martini’s baked figs with walnut cream and tarragon salad.  Light enough to leave stomach space for the heavy tart but fancy enough for a main course….all good things…

baked figs with walnut cream and tarragon salad.
serves 4
adapted from Karen Martini’s recipe published in the Sun Herald last year. I’ve reduced the amount of marscapone and added proscuitto because I just love it with figs.

8 ripe black figs
100g marscapone
150g walnuts, roasted
4 slices proscuitto, ripped into long ribbons
1/2 lemon
4 large handfulls baby rocket
8 sprigs tarragon, leaves picked
8 sprigs flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
3T balsamic vinegar
3T extra virgin olive oil
s&p
sourdough baguette to serve.

Grind 100g walnuts in a food processor and combine with marscapone. season with s&p. Cut a cross on the top of each fig to open them up so that they remain intact at the base and squeeze lemon juice over figs.  Divide marscapone mixture between figs and place on a baking tray lined with foil. Bake at 180oC for 5-10mins until figs are warmed through.

Combine oil and vinegar and season. Use this to dress the combined rocket tarragon and parsley.

To serve place 2 figs on one side of each dinner plate. Wrap proscuitto around the base of the figs. Place salad leaves to one side and scatter with remaining toasted walnuts.  Enjoy with crusty bread.

marinated fig and blue cheese salad
serves 2

I had to include this as it’s my latest fig salad creation and is a bit of an extension on my new favourite salad. I love it with a really strong dry crumbly blue but if you prefer a milder creamier blue or a goats cheese that would work too.

3 black figs cut into 1/2 cm slices
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, very finely diced
2 sprigs thyme leaves
2 handfulls wild baby rocket
1/2 small head of radicchio, finely shredded
small handfull walnuts or pecans, toasted
100g blue cheese, crumbled
Place figs in a small bowl and scatter with shallot and thyme. season with s&p and drizzle with 1T each balsamic vinegar and oil. Leave to marinate for at least 10mins or up to an hour.

Combine rocket and radicchio. Make a dressing from 1T balsamic vinegar and 2T oil, season with s&p. Toss dressing with leaves and divide between 2 plates. Top salad with fig slices and scatter with crumbelled cheese and toasted nuts.

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