Before my tan fades completely, please excuse my last rant on holiday eating! I was prompted some time ago to write about figs by a dear old safari days friend who lives in Lusaka, he has one overly enthusiastic fig tree and few ideas as to what to do with the produce, so as promised back in July here is 5 minutes on figs.
I can’t help thinking that the fig really should have been the ‘forbidden’ one. A little controversial I agree, but come purple or green they have to be the most tempestuous of fruits. Alas, the apple was chosen, and it was left to the leaves of the fig to clad the nether regions of nude figures in paintings and sculpture for evermore! But figs are tempting and I was reminded of this all too quickly when shuffling through a pile of holiday snaps I came across the photo above and simply couldn’t believe how utterly edible, ripe and oozingly sensual these figs appear. I know they were of course, I ate enough to be able to qualify that, at 2.50 Euros a kilo it was shameful not to. Ripened in their own time under the Puglian sun, it was like eating honey, liquid gold, nectar, everything the ‘forbidden fruit’ should have been both inside and out, and more.
I don’t know a huge amount about figs and fig cultivation. I know we have a fig tree which sadly produces about 1 inedible, shriveled specimen every other year, so my guess is, though I admit through no real due diligence, is that ‘Blighty’, tragically is just not suited to fig growing. I’ll put it down to climate – it’s blindingly obvious isn’t it? The upside is of course, figs to me are a luxury while travelling abroad, and as the price indicates – they really are ‘2 a penny’, so much so that we strangely struggled to find places that sold them. The local supermarket sporadically had punnets of small, bulging, green ones, one day the covered ‘mercato’ in Maglie has a withered gentleman selling a mix of purple and green ones, probably from his back garden, but that aside they were not that easy to come by, and the reason for this is (at least my belief is) the local Puglian population is ‘figged’ out, hence it was left to the scooter collecting team to go marauding around the grounds of the Masseria we had rented in search of the not so ‘forbidden’ fruit.
Thankfully we were not, (‘figged out’ that is) and consequently consumed vast quantities. The versatile little gems lent themselves to all sorts of dishes on our Puglian adventure; they had a unique ongoing affair with prosciutto, salami and bresaola, they married well with gorgonzola and docelatte, they were surprisingly popular on top of pizza, pitched perfectly in salads, and were a heavenly pick me up in the morning broken over natural yoghurt with a drizzle of honey and some toasted nuts. They were seriously good and I mourn my loss, as try as they might, the figs that I buy here simply don’t taste the same. That said I am not so proud that I will deny myself them until next summer and a return trip to Italy. No way, I will endeavour to hunt some down, after all Turkey produces vast quantities of the purple fig that is about to hit our shelves any minute now. These will never replicate the shockingly ripe and sensuous morsels I have been spoilt enough to consume recently but they are still worth eating whether in Lusaka, London or Lambourn.
A few ‘Fig’ solutions:
Breakfast: Figs broken over yoghurt – drizzled with honey and toasted nuts /made into compote / made into smoothies
White onion, fresh fig and gorgonzola pizza
Fresh fig, rocket and prosciutto salad with toasted hazelnuts
Radicchio, rocket, fresh fig salad with toasted ground walnuts and shavings of Pecorino
Fig, Parma ham and quince skewers
Fig jam – the obvious accompaniment for Fois Gras but can also be good with a rich chicken liver pate
Rolled leg of lamb stuffed with fresh figs, pine nuts and goats cheese
Couscous, with figs (quartered), crumbled goats’ cheese, fresh parsley, pistachios and lemon dressing
Tagliatelle with fresh figs, blue cheese, mascarpone and walnuts
Baked figs with maple syrup served with pannacotta or vanilla ice cream or mascarpone
Glazed fig tart
Or, quite simply eaten as an adulterated fig!
Types of figs we have been eating: Kadota Figs and Black Mission Figs