Figs are the most quintessential of summer fruits and a particular favourite of mine.
Once, rather drunk at a house party in Australia in the summer of ’98 in Fremantle, where fig trees grow in backyards like Boganvilleas do in Spain…I spied a laden fig tree in the early crepuscular light! Seizing opportunity and armed with an enthusiasm that only a drunk can muster, I found a large stock pot and picked every single fig, found a bag of sugar and a lemon and threw it all on the stove with some water and proceeded to tell everyone at the party that I was making fig jam.
As I recall, it was a party of work friends when I was a waitress, so the chefs looked on with bemused indifference and returned to their beverages. Needless to say, I promptly fell asleep and woke a couple of hours later to the distinct smell of burning sugar. The jam was a deep, dark, sticky mass in the bottom of the pan. I had burnt it and ruined the stock pot in the process, and even though I thought it actually tasted good, the nick name ‘fig jam’ and it’s absurd other meaning stuck to me like, well, burnt jam, from then on. As a saving grace, I might add that a very famous Australian foodie now markets “burnt fig jam” and it’s really very popular – I wonder if she stumbled on it the same way I did?
So, get ‘em while you can folks; the last of summer’s indulgences still available in the mercados to make the most of, any way you like. A friend of mine who used to have a fabulous French restaurant in Valencia… loves to toss them through a fresh green salad, with lots of canónigos (lamb’s lettuce), mixed leaves, coriander leaves, caramelized hazel nuts and raspberry vinegar and a Dijon vinaigrette, perhaps a little crumbled goat’s cheese if you like as well. They’re great on ‘barbacòa’ skewers with pork, or if you’re feeling as fancy as my friend, as a garnish to a minted, chilled cantaloupe soup – whacko the dandy-o!
Here, I like them hot, there’s nothing quite as sublime as a hot, juicy fig! This is a great breakfast, or a pretty sexy dessert…if you’re trying to impress with flawless ease. It’s quite important that you choose a good triple cream brie here, or at least a double cream, you need that sweet flavour of creamy bries to feature here, this is what makes it so sexy, it’s not just plain, sweet cream, it’s decadent, in a more adult way.
1-2 figs per person
1 small round of a good triple cream or double cream brie
A lovely local, flowery honey
Fresh thyme sprigs
Cut each fig in half and place cut, side up, on a grilling tray lined with tin foil. Drizzle the figs with the honey and place under a hot grill for a few minutes. In the meantime, cut slices of cheese to fit roughly over the figs. Pull figs out from under the grill and lay cheese slices on top with a few leaves of fresh thyme. Put back under the grill just until the cheese has melted, and is starting to bubble, you don’t really want it to brown, just to properly melt.
Remove from under the grill and garnish each with a sprig of thyme and serve immediately. If it’s breakfast, you will absolutely need a fabulous cava. If it’s supper, they will be lovely with the red you’re on…or a dessert wine like a Hungarian Tokaji would be superb!
I hope everyone is gearing up for a great summer break. If you’re staying local, enjoy it! Lots of other Europeans make Valencia a summer destination, so there’s fun a plenty as everyone lets their hair down. Keep cool, keep dancing and, naturally, keep a fig in your fridge!
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