Call It Anything, So Long As It’s Figs

It’s aston­ish­ing the num­ber of food books that include the word ‘fig’ in the title: A Plat­ter of Figs & Other Recipes by the won­der­ful cook David Tanis, Roast Figs, Sugar Snow by Diana Henry, Realm of Fig and Quince, Girl & the Fig Cook­book, Fig Heaven, Fab­ulous Figs and From the Lands of Figs and Olives.

Book titles are cru­cial of course. Just think what would have happened to a 20th cen­tury lit­er­ary clas­sic if F. Scott Fitzger­ald had stuck to his work­ing title for The Great Gatsby — the shock­ingly awful Trim­al­chio in West Egg. The worst fig title has to be the revoltingly-named Fish and Figs which neither makes me want to cook or even to eat.

But ter­rible names aside, what is it about the fig that drives writers and edit­ors to get it into the title some­how? The fig seems to com­bine great beauty, ancient her­it­age and sim­pli­city, as well as a cer­tain exotic mys­tery. I’ve just bought the most glorious-looking figs, partly for their looks alone. I could simply have eaten them on their own and they would have been deli­cious. But a while ago I was given a jar of Earl Grey Tea Jelly, which is a sweet, per­fumed, slightly smoky, clear fruit jam. And its per­fect eleg­ance seemed the ideal part­ner for the figs.

FIGS BAKED IN RED WINE AND EARL GREY TEA JELLY, WITH CREAM CHEESE BRIOCHE

Serves 4

  • 4 figs
  • 200ml soft, fruity red wine
  • 4 dessert spoons Early Grey tea jelly — essen­tially, it’s a sweet apple jelly, so you could try infus­ing a couple of Earl Grey teabags in a fruit jelly for the same effect.
  • 1 vanilla pod split down the middle
  • 8 small slices bri­oche, toasted
  • Home-made cream cheese — make my earlier recipe, but omit the salt
  • Hand­ful chopped pista­chio nuts

Heat the Earl Grey tea jelly gently in a small fry­ing pan, with the red wine and vanilla pods. This would be the time to add the Earl Grey teabags if you’re using a simple apple jelly. When the liquid is hot and the jelly has melted, remove the teabags and add the halved figs to the pan, cut side up. Spoon the liquid over the figs and place under a mod­er­ate grill for ten to fif­teen minutes. Don’t allow the figs to burn and keep spoon­ing the liquid over them. This will both bake them and intensify their fla­vours by grilling them at the same time.

Remove from the grill and with a slot­ted spoon take out the figs and put them on a serving plate. Put the fry­ing pan on the heat and reduce the liquid by half, to a deli­ciously rich red syrup. Allow to cool, while you toast the bri­oche and spread with the home-made cream cheese. Sprinkle the bri­oche with the chopped nuts and dec­or­ate with the vanilla pods if you like. Spoon the reduced syrup over the figs and the brioche.

On the sub­ject of ter­rible names, my recipe title isn’t too great either. It’s far too long for a start. So, on reflec­tion, I’m simply going to call it Figs. Heaven. Always.… and leave it at that.