Adam and Eve used the leaves of figs but there’s so much more to this versatile fruit, writes SX’s new food writer, Clancy Atkinson.
In Greek mythology figs were used as a symbol of fertility and Adam and Eve’s use of its leaves certainly qualifies the fig as an ethereal fruit. With its subtle, sweet, honeyed notes, biting into a ripe juicy fig is simply heavenly.
Figs are generally available from late December until early May with April being the best month for sweet, ripe fruit. Figs are generally classified by the colour of their skin: white, black, purple and red. Black figs are the most common in Australia with most fruit grown in the inland areas of NSW.
When choosing a fig look for plump fruit with unbroken skin, they should have a slight softness but definitely not mushy. Be warned, figs are extremely delicate, so handle with care. Ripe figs should also have a wonderful sweet perfume. Avoid figs that are firm to the touch – they are under-ripe, as well any that are seeping juices as they are over-ripe. The delicate fruit perishes quickly, so is best eaten straight away. However, they can be stored in the fridge in a brown paper bag for two to three days.
Part of their beauty is their versatility – figs can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Lightly grilled figs compliment a roast duck breast beautifully. Wrap a whole fig in prosciutto for a great canapé or simply drizzle figs with honey and serve with sweetened whipped cream for an elegant dessert. Figs are also superb with cheese, dessert wine and liqueurs. That is true versatility. Viva la fig.
Fresh figs with gorgonzola cream, crostini, vincotto and bitter greens
This simple recipe is perfect to serve with cocktails or as a pre-dinner appetizer. The sweetness of fresh fig and vincotto contrast beautifully with the sharp gorgonzola, the crostini adds texture and crunch.
100g of good quality gorgonzola cheese
100ml pouring cream
1 small sour dough baguette
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of bitter greens (watercress, rocket, Italian parsley)
Vincotto to taste
Gorgonzola cheese and Vincotto (a condiment of reduced grape juice) are available from most delicatessens.
1. For gorgonzola cream: process gorgonzola in a food processor until smooth, add cream and continue to process until mixture is combined and smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until required.
2. For crostini: pre-heat oven to 150c. Thinly slice the sour dough baguette until you have 16 slices. Brush each side of the baguette slices with a little extra virgin olive oil, place on an oven tray, season with sea salt then cook until lightly golden and crisp (10-12 minutes) then allow to cool. The crostini will keep, stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
3. To serve: slice each fig into 4 round pieces, on a serving plate arrange the figs, the gorgonzola cream, crostini and bitter greens, then drizzle with vincotto just before serving.