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.

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