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Autumn is fig season in France.  Brown ones, beige and purple ones, black and green, in France we call them la Noire de Caromb, la Dorée, la Bourjasotte, la Dauphine and la Marseillaise. Figs add a wonderfully subtle sweetness to almost any recipe and are a delight when sampled chopped fresh in a salad or as an entrée wrapped in ham and drizzled with honey for a savory salty-sweet sensation.

Before I moved to France, I had never eaten a fig. Well, not raw anyway, only as the filling of a Fig Newton. As I’ve mentioned before, I was well set in my routine of buying and eating only a handful of fruit and vegetables, venturing very rarely, due to a lack of time not curiosity, from what I knew and loved.

The first time I ate a fig (figue in French) I was actually in Northern Italy with an Italian friend visiting her parents. They took me to a lovely small town near Trieste and we ate Prosciutto di parma with fresh figs. And there began my love affair with the small teardrop purple fruit with a heart of delicate rose speckles.

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My mother-in-law recently sent me an article from le Figaro featuring several exciting uses for figs. I’d heard of fig preserves and fig chutney – my belle-mère makes both each autumn. But did you know you could turn figs into tiramisu and tart, that they could be candied into a confit or stuffed as figues farcies à la mousse de jambon?

Here’s how: (recipes for 4 people)

Tiramisu aux figues (Difficulty 3/5 Time 20 mins at least 2 hours in advance)

You’ll need:

  • 200g almond cookies (biscotti)
  • 500g small ripe figs
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 3dl (1 ¼ cups) fig nectar (or prune juice)
  • 3 tbsp orange flavored honey (or regular)
  • 1 orange
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g raw sugar (natural)

In a saucepan, let the nectar and 2 tbsp of honey come to a boil and let them simmer on med heat for 10 mins. Clean and peel the figs. Slice half of the figs into 6ths. Put sliced figs into the nectar and let poach for 4 mins on low heat. Remove the figs from nectar and continue to simmer nectar for 10 more minutes.

Break cookies into fours and place them at the bottom of four serving dishes. Add the sliced figs on top. Drizzle half of the nectar syrup over the contents of the four serving dishes.

Grate the orange zest and juice the orange.

In a bowl, mix the mascarpone with the sugar and the zest. Mix in two egg yolks, 1 tbsp of nectar you made on the stove and ½ of orange juice. Mix together until creamy. Whip the egg whites until firm, then incorporate into mascarpone mix. Divide the mix between the four serving dishes and put in fridge for 2 hours.

Before serving, cut the remaining figs into 4ths and place on the tiramisu. Sprinkle the remaining zest and drizzle with the remaining nectar.

Figues farcies à la mousse de jambon (Difficulty 1/5 Time 15 mins)

You’ll need :

  • 8 medium figs just ripe
  • 60g Fromage blanc (or cream cheese)
  • 100g jambon de parma
  • 1dl (2/5 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp honey vinegar (or mild vinegar and a touch of honey)
  • Ground pepper

Wash and dry the figs, slice in cross at top (see photo), then set aside.  Grind ham and mix in a bowl with fromage blanc and vinegar. Whip the cream until firm then incorporate into ham mix. Fill each fig from top with spoonful of mouse. Chill until ready to serve.

Confit de figues à la coriandre et au laurier (Difficulty 2/5 Time 10 mins)

You’ll need :

  • 750g small figs still firm
  • 1.5 L (6 cups) Gewürztraminer wine (or a Riesling)
  • 1.5 L (6 cups) cider vinegar
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g honey
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 6 pepper seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • You’ll also need jars for preserves.

Zest the lemon and juice it. Wash and dry the figs.  Cross the figs at the top without cutting them completely into 4ths. Pour wine into a large saucepan with vinegar, honey, sugar, 2 tbsp of lemon juice and the zest and bring to a boil. Let simmer on med heat for 10 minutes while skimming the top. Add the figs for 2 minutes. Remove quickly and place them in jars. Skim. Add coriander, bay leaves, and pepper and let simmer for 3 minutes. Pour into the jars through strainer so that the fruit is totally covered. Seal the jars and turn them over. Let them cool off completely before putting in fridge. Goes beautifully with roasts, sandwiches, toast, foie gras, or cheese plates.

Bonne dégustation!

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