Figs and Fig Recipes

 

Freshly picked figs

This is the time of year for figs, those strangely luscious and fleshy fruits. We have plucked these figs from our own tree – alas, we have only one. They are unusual in that they are not the small purple variety. Rather, they remain green with pinkish tinges when ripe and are much larger than the purple ones.

Having written this, I notice that blogging pal and novelist Deborah Lawrenson has just posted about figs too. Sorry, Deborah – great minds think alike, obviously. Her post is imbued with her ability to bring out the poetic in everyday objects.

I didn’t discover figs until I moved to France. I suppose we must have tasted them before. But there is nothing to compete with a freshly picked, ripe fig. They are odd fruits, almost meaty in texture, and strangely addictive while also being peculiarly alien. They need sun to ripen but also water to plump them up, so we have our tree connected to a trickle irrigation system.

Figs were probably one of the first plants cultivated by humans, possibly as far back as 9000 BC, thus predating cereal crops. The fruit we pick from the trees is actually a casing which contains both the flower and the seeds. Some varieties require pollination by the fig wasp: if you look at a fig you will see a small hole at the base of the fruit that allows the wasp to enter. Other varieties manage it on their own – parthenogenesis, I believe this is called. Fig trees usually crop twice – once in the spring and more abundantly in late summer.

Fruit and flower encased together

The hedgerows around here are laden with fruit in late summer, including figs, quinces and late plums. This year particularly is a fruit year. We have to inspect our fig tree every day. Animals and birds are already nibbling at the lower hanging fruit and ants enter the opening at the base and gorge on the sweet flesh inside.

Figs are delicious halved or quartered in a salad with goat’s cheese and country ham (Deborah has a great recipe here). Drizzle a little honey onto the figs and you have a meal fit for the gods.

I have two lovely recipes for figs. The first is for fig and walnut jam. In Corsica, my ideal second home, they eat fig chutney without the walnuts with their pungent goat and sheep’s cheese. It goes wonderfully well with cheese and we have adopted the habit whenever we can get hold of the jam. To my shame, I am not a jam maker, but I am indebted to our friend Jenny for providing her excellent recipe for fig and walnut conserve.

Fig jam

Fig and walnut conserve

1 kilogram fresh green figs, not quite ripe
2 large lemons
750 g sugar
2 good handfuls shelled walnuts cut in pieces

Wash figs and cut in half. Rinse lemons and remove zest, cutting into fine strips. Remove all the white pith from the lemons and slice them thinly. Remove all seeds and place seeds in a small cheesecloth bag.

In a large heavy saucepan, mix sugar with 50 ml water. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup until it reaches 105°C – you’ll need a jam thermometer. Add figs, lemon zest, lemon slices and seed bag. Bring to boil and cook on low heat until setting point – around 2 hours. To determine setting point, drip a few drops of liquid onto a cold saucer and if it sets quickly, it’s ready. Remove seed bag. Add walnut pieces and cook another 5 minutes.

Seal jam in sterilised jars.

The second recipe is for fig clafoutis. Clafoutis is more commonly made with cherries and consists of a batter poured on top of the fruit and baked in the oven. The recipe is the same for figs. Like cherries, they achieve a kind of jammy consistency when baked like this. If figs are no longer available you can make this with plums or any stone fruit. This recipe comes from HyperU supermarket’s monthly magazine.

Fig clafoutis with almonds

Serves 6.

10 ripe figs
100g butter
100g brown sugar
Few drops vanilla essence
4 whole eggs
100g powdered almonds
50cl crème liquide
60g maize flour
50g flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 180°C. Melt butter in a saucepan till it becomes foamy then remove from heat and set aside. Using a pastry brush spread a little melted butter on the base and sides of an oven dish and sprinkle with a little sugar. Cut figs in quarters and place in dish.

In a food processor, mix eggs, brown sugar, vanilla essence, powdered almonds, cream, melted butter and maize flour until well combined (about 2 minutes). Pour the batter over the figs and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Then lower temperature to 160°C, sprinkle clafoutis with flaked almonds and cook for a further 15-20 minutes. Insert the point of a knife – if it comes out clear, it’s done.

Serve warm or cold with pouring cream.

Copyright © 2011 A writer’s lot in France, all rights reserved

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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9 Responses to Figs and Fig Recipes

  1. Pingback: Walnut Time | Life on La Lune

  2. robinnis says:

    I too have just one fig tree in my Costa Blanca garden which annually produces kilos of the lush dark figs which my Spanish family love to eat, providing they can pick them faster than the birds eat them!

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    • nessafrance says:

      The birds and other animals are eating ours quicker than we can pick them! You do get the dark purple ones around here but ours are basically green with a pinkish tinge. I would really like a fig tree that produces the dark ones, but I’ll have to find a sunny corner for it.

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  3. Deborah says:

    OOh, now these look utterly delicious! Fig and walnut conserve…and we have an excess of both, hmmm!!! Your photos, as ever, Vanessa are just superb – and thanks for the lovely mention. (And too for your kind comment on my blog just now. I just know that I have to stop blogging for a while – fun though it is, and brilliant for connecting with other like minds – as it’s far too time-consuming when the hard slog of a first draft has to be done. But I will still be visiting as normal.)

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  4. No figs around here sadly, but pretty much everything else. I love figs. I will have to buy some to make the fig and walnut preserve as we have lots of the latter. I like the sound of Liz’s dried figs too.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Figs are only just viable here in the Massif Central foothills, but they do well in a sunny and sheltered spot. I shall have to make the fig jam this year – so far, we have benefited from what Jenny has given us, the friend who provided the recipe. I’m definitely trying the dried ones.

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  5. What two mouthwateringly delicious recipes which make me want to rush off and try them immediately! We’re almost out of figs here, but here’s a Tuscan way of doing them if you have a old bread oven; first you have an evening of pizza with your very hot oven, then you cut open the figs and flatten them out on what looks like an Eskimo snow shoe called a “grattaccia”, made out woven willow, but I think you could put the opened figs on a raised metal grill, then place a peeled almond in the middle of each, keeping them flat, leave them in the slowly cooling bread oven overnight and in the mornng you have delicious dried figs to keep for Christmas, unless you eat them all straightaway.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Your recipe sounds delicious, too. I don’t think we would be able to resist eating them up before Christmas! I always think the simplest recipes are the best and I find the Italians are better at simplicity in cooking than the French.

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