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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Honeyed Figs

Just before Christmas I bought a packet of dried figs with the idea that I'd stuff them with some goats cheese and wrap them in proscuitto to have with drinks, but they were the wrong sort to do that. These are the really dehydrated, scary, shrivelled up, kangaroo poo looking pellets, not the slightly moist, chewy things you need for that idea. Sure, I could have soaked them but things are busy enough around Christmas. I bought them as an easy-to-prepare idea, and they weren't easy to prepare, so I threw them up on the shelf, where they remained, occasionally being subjected to my accusing beady eye. I felt like they were taunting me with their shrivelled ugliness and I wanted to soak the hell out of them and make them scream ....umm.... restore them lovingly to life. Yes, that's it. A beautiful reincarnation. Ahem.

So, I flicked through a few books and found something that jumped out at me towards the end of Nigella's book, Feast, in her chapter on mezze feasts for Honeyed Figs. They used cardamom pods, bay leaves, pistachios and orange peel as well as honey, which made it sound an interesting combination of sweet, savoury and spicy. It was really easy to do; I had the pot bubbling away while I made something else at the same time. I halved the recipe to fit the amount of figs I had, and hit a problem near the end when I found most of my liquid had boiled away, leaving me with none to boil down further. This may have had something to do with me getting distracted and popping into the study to check my emails.... :-), but I just added a few splashes of water and all seemed fine. In fact, I think it's even better for the syrup boiling down because some figs became really dark and sticky where they sat on the pan (see the bottom fig in the photo). Hey, I created a version of Fig Pot Stickers!
These figs are still seedy; their seeds seem to explode throughout the syrup too, so if you're one of the many not keen on the texture of figs, you may not like it. The combination of flavours, though, is wonderful; it tastes really exotic and middle-eastern - the cardamom especially adds a great touch.

But I find myself with a dilemma. They are lovely on their own or with some yoghurt. But I think they'd also be wonderful used with my original idea of some goats cheese and wrapped in proscuitto. Alternatively, I'm also having ideas of dipping them into dark chocolate - I think they'd work that way too. I don't have enough to do both, so what would you recommend???
Read on for the recipe:

Honeyed Figs
From 'Feast'

Note: This recipe uses the 'ugly' organic, real dried figs which are truly parched and need a lot of liquid to rehydrate. If using those squishy plump dried figs from a packet, reduce cooking time and halve the water and honey.

1 litre water
350g honey
3 bay leaves
2 cardamom pods, bruised
(I'd recommend more than this. Maybe 4?)
2 strips orange peel, about 12cm
60ml fresh orange juice
500g organic dried figs
To serve:
1 tablespoon nibbed, splintered or chopped pistachios
Creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt (optional)

Put the water in a pan and stir in the honey to dissolve over a low heat. Add the bay leaves, bruised cardamom pods, orange peel and juice, and bring to the boil. Let the syrup bubble for 10 minutes.
Add the figs and cook for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the figs stand in the hot liquid for 10-15 minutes. Remove the figs to a contained using a skimmer. Put the syrup back on the heat and bring back to the boil, letting it bubble away for 5 minutes. It should have reduced to about 375ml or just over a third of your original liquid. Put the figs back into the reduced syrup and let cool. Store in a jar until you want to use them.
To serve, put the figs in a bowl, pouring over a scant amount of syrup and scatter over the pistachios. And pass around the creme fraiche or Greek yogurt.


  • I vote for goat's cheese and prosciutto! :) I bet chocolate is nice too, but it might be overly sweet.

    I saw your comment on the Diane Mott Davidson books! I had no idea some were out of production. I bought most of mine in a big bundle on Ebay - really, really cheap, too! :)

    By Blogger Anne, at 4/14/2005 03:23:00 am  

  • Niki,

    I love honeyed figs!!!!!

    And I love panna cotta!!!!

    I reckon either an orange panna cotta or an almond panna cotta or a honey panna cotta would go with the figs.

    And what about using the honeyed figs to make a dessert pizza? Just slice the figs into thinnish slices, arrange them over a thin pizza crust that has been brushed with some melted butter, then mash some goat cheese (amount is your choice) adding some sugar and grated zest as you mash and place little bits of the mashed goat cheese all over the figs, next scatter some slivered almonds over the cheese and finally bake until the crust is cooked. You could serve this as is or put some warmed chocolate sauce in a squeeze bottle and drizzle this over the pizza.

    Whatever you do ... ENJOY those figs!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/14/2005 08:17:00 am  

  • I'm not a fan of goat cheese (I know, that's something I need to work on) so I wouldn't vote for that, but I think my first choice would be to eat them just as they are (this recipe sounds wonderful and I'd love to try it). I do like the idea of figs and chocolate though. I recently purchased a bar of chocolate from the Lindt store and it's 85% cocoa solids! I bought it mostly out of curiousity and partly because everyone's been talking up the health benefits of eating dark chocolate. Coincidentally I recently opened a small bag of figs that my parents had given me for Christmas. The last couple of nights I've been eating a square of chocolate (which is not at all sweet and quite different from any chocolate I've ever tasted - it's almost fruity) followed by a fig. It's a nice combination!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 4/14/2005 09:35:00 am  

  • I welcome another way of serving dried figs. We Portuguese love to eat them on their own, with almonds, with a sip of Port wine, and many other ways.

    Figs cooked with honey, cardamom, and bay leaves sounds absolutely decadent.

    By Blogger Ana, at 4/14/2005 09:58:00 am  

  • Yum. These look fantastic! I've only (relatively) recently become a fig convert -- I used to think they had too many seeds -- but now, I can't get enough of the stuff. Esp in the La Tartine fruit loaf.

    I would have it with yoghurt or creme fraiche, but I tend to be a bit of a purist, especially if the main ingredient involved so much effort. Or maybe with some poached pears?

    By Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop), at 4/14/2005 10:19:00 am  

  • Hi Anne - Yes, I think I agree. The goats cheese/prosciutto combo was the one that was really jumping out at me.
    I'm really enjoying the Diane Mott Davidson books; currently i'm half way through my third! Maybe I can order them on ebay as well...

    Sandra - That idea for a dessert pizza sounds spectacular. I'm seriously considering abandoning my serving-them-with-drinks idea and making that for a functions. It's a really good idea!

    Cathy - I'm ambiguous about the Lindt 85%; I find it just a bit *too* strong and bitter. I enjoy the 70% to eat on its own, but the 85% is better to cook with, I think. Actually when I was in Vienna last year I bought a block of Lindt 99%! It had eating instructions printed on the foil which suggested very small amounts with sweet coffee. I tasted a bit and....bleeahhhh, it tasted like solidified unsweetened cocoa powder. Better suited for cooking!

    Ana - I thought of the Portuguese/Spanish influence as I was making these, acutally and how I've occasionally sipped port or sweet sherry with the semi-dried figs ins some restaurants down here. With almonds - that is a great combination!

    AG - I understand you completely, especially when they took a while to make. I would like to serve them with drink next weekend, though, as my uncles will be in town for a birthday and I think they'll enjoy them with some good wine and liqueur. But I might steal a couple before then to have with yoghurt!

    By Blogger Niki, at 4/17/2005 12:09:00 pm  

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