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.


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.


  1. Perfect! A wonderful recipe and as you may know I have a fig tree, so this recipe will be made, but with some of my home-made crab apple jelly in place of earl Grey Tea jelly.Beautiful photos, I also have a book called Fish and Figs!Karen

  2. Thanks so much, Karen. Do let me know how it tastes with crab apple jelly, won't you? I'm very envious of your fig tree. I've been trying to grow one for two years and it's still only 30 cm high. The quinces, though, have produced enough fruit to start a jam factory.

  3. What a delicious sounding recipe, the Earl Grey Jelly sounds intriguing! Your photographs are fantastic, making my mouth water.

  4. Lovely of you, A Trifle Rushed – thank you. The Earl Grey tea jelly is a really interesting ingredient. It's too sweet for my tastes to have with a scone or on toast, but fascinating to cook with…

  5. Oh this sounds wonderful. I've never heard of Earl Grey Tea jelly, I must try and find some.As for figs – I've been growing my fig tree (although in a container and I must be doing something terribly wrong) for about 15 years and so far we've had a couple of figs three or four times!! I am doing something wrong!

  6. Hi Jennifer and thank you. Interesting to hear that I'm not the only one struggling to grow a fig tree. Everyone keeps telling me how easy it is!

  7. The figs we get here in the Middle East are so disappointing – not juicy like the ones in your picture. Ironic that the best fig I ever tasted was from a tree in Devon.Finished reading The Great Gatsby last night (for book club) and never knew the alternative title! Something to raise at our discussion. Your recipe might be just the thing to do with my lack lustre figs.

  8. HI Sally The alternative title is terrible, isn't it… I hope your lack-lustre figs spring into life!

  9. They look delicious and I also have some lacklustre figs (from the lacklustre greengrocer, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised!).

  10. Hi Mary I have a rose-tinted fantasy that all greengrocers are spry, jaunty and aproned and that they sell immaculate, dew-covered lettuces and perfect potatoes dusted with earth. Ah well.

  11. Figs are very attractive but surprisingly underused. This recipe looks a very good way to use them. Your photos make them look delicious.

  12. I can see that the title of figs heaven would be rather appropriate. Now I actually bought 4 (yes four exactly) figs yesterday afternoon and have been thinking of what to do with them.. I think you solved my dilemma (not for lack of recipes with figs ofcourse) as this just looks divine! Now only to figure out how to infuse a fruit jelly with tea… Mmmm

  13. Hi Simone If you heat the wine to evaporate the alcohol and then add the tea, the hot liquid should release the flavour of the Earl Grey and dissolve the fruit jelly at the same time. Let me know if it works…

  14. It must be 20 years since I read Great Gatsby, I'd forgotten that was the name of the island! Gorgeous figs, definitely heavenly!

  15. Hi Sarah I'm so glad to hear you like the look of the figs. It's almost impossible to imagine The Great Gatsby with its other name, isn't it…

  16. Wow! Not to dismiss you curious, funny and interesting post – as a word fiend and a reader I do find it interesting, but boy are those roasted figs amazing! I never ever eat or bake with figs, ever, and husband loves them. Me? Don't know if I have ever even tasted one but I have wanted to bake or roast them for a dessert just to try and because they are so beautiful and this is it! Gorgeous!!! Fig heaven, indeed!

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