Obviously, the best way to eat a fig is straight from the tree, in the shade, while the fruit is still warm from the sun. This isn’t always possible, though, in which case allow me to make the case for the fig as a canape. A fresh fig, sliced open enough to admit a dollop of dolcelatte or another blue cheese as this recipe suggests, is simplicity itself. If you prefer something warmer, switch the dolcelatte for goat’s cheese and roast the fruit.
Stuffing a fig will introduce you to its two best friends: salty cheese and fancy ham. If you want to experience this taste sensation, but don’t often get the opportunity to neatly pick such canapes off a silver tray at a snooty event, you can always just bung them on a pizza instead. Food and Wine has a recipe for gorgonzola, fig and pancetta pizza, but any combination of blue cheese and cured pig will get the job done
Don’t like pizza? Figs also lend themselves well to salads, but guess what? The vast majority of these also require cheese and ham. Fear not: Yotam Ottolenghi has achieved the impossible with his fig salad; the fruits are accompanied by roast onion and hazelnut.
If you’re looking for something more substantial, figs go incredibly well with a surprisingly large amount of meat dishes. Throwing some figs – dried or fresh – into a beef or lamb stew, for example, will add fibre and sweetness. But they work just as well with roast chicken, and you can make an excellent gravy with them. Alternatively, Daniel Clifford has a recipe for roasted pigeon that requires the use of figs. A word of warning, though: the recipe calls for more than 40 ingredients and takes eight days to make. Good luck!
Perhaps a better start for a fig novice would be a savoury tart. Here I have good and bad news. The good news is that the invention of ready-rolled pastry means that it has never been easier to make a tart at home. The bad news is – you guessed it – you’re going to have to go back to the cheese mines. Donna Hay’s tart is fairly typical, calling for gorgonzola, but you will also find plenty of recipes that require goat’s cheese and stilton. I once manned the vegetarian table at the British Pie Awards and all this talk of cheese pies is giving me flashbacks. Perhaps we should move on.
Let’s return to the relative safety of the roast dinner. If you don’t want to roast the figs directly, or make a sauce with them, you can always enter the glittering world of fig stuffing. The use of figs lifts a stuffing beyond its usual dense clag. Nigel Slater’s recipe also uses pistachios, sausagemeat and two types of oat.
Then again, a fig is a fruit and fruit is for puddings. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for roasted figs with honey and ricotta is handy if you need a dessert in a hurry. Alternatively, they’re great poached. Fearnley-Whittingstall also suggests stabbing the fruit with a cocktail stick and then cooking in red wine and orange juice for 20 minutes.
But if you have the inclination to go a bit more technical, you’re spoilt for choice. Tom Kine has a honey-roasted fig and almond tart that is not only delicious, but might be enough to convince you that fig tarts don’t always have to be cheesy.
If you can wait for autumn, Good Food’s recipe for toffee fig pies – made with melted-down Werther’s Originals, no less – is beautifully comforting. And Ottolenghi, reliable as ever, makes a fig and thyme clafoutis that is giant and light and served with ice-cream.
Figs also lend themselves to the sort of paleo “energy bites” that supermarkets put near the tills to try to kid you that you aren’t two aisles away from a massive pile of Rolo multipacks. The Lemon Bowl has a no-cook recipe, where you put dried figs in a processor with walnuts and flax seeds and roll the ensuing mush into balls. I am certain your gut will thank you. Or, you know, you could just dip them in melted chocolate like Regina Yunghans from The Kitchn does. I’m sure it’s the same thing, really.
Now you’re loaded up with every type of fig-based foodstuff you can possibly think of, you might as well go the whole hog and get drunk on the leftovers. There are any number of fig cocktails on the internet. By far the most appetising is the fig, honey and thyme prosecco smash from Half Baked Harvest, which is both pleasantly summery and happily low-effort. Or you could just put a load of figs into a jar, drown them in vodka and leave them for a fortnight, if you want your vodka to taste slightly of figs.
Clearly, no round-up of fig recipes would be complete without a mention of fig rolls. Paul Hollywood has a very good recipe for these although, as with most Bake Off recipes, you can walk to the shop and buy a whole packet for about 60p. You are welcome.