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Getting figgy with it

January 25, 2010

About mid January each year I start stalking the grocery shelves for figs.

I’m not sure what it is about figs that just gets my blood fizzling – the textural feast, perhaps? The soft, creamy interior with that slightly powdery skin? Or maybe it’s just that I pretty much always eat them with prosciutto, and that ol sweet/salty flavour bomb is simply irresistible. And then there’s the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder factor; with such a relatively short season, their arrival is cause for celebration and one is simply obliged to make a fig festival of the fact each year.

On Saturday I saw the first display in our grocer’s – of local figs that is, not Californians which have been there for a while, priced at something like four bucks each – and so of course I pounced on a big punnet of squat, heavy little beauties. That evening, before we had a chance to eat them, we went to dinner at our friends Mr & Ms Lilyfields’, and were served a fig salad so delicious that I was compelled to try to replicate it immediately the next day.

Ms Lilyfield used the classic combo of prosciutto, soft cheese & figs (I’ve used gorgonzola and other blue cheeses before – and oh, my it’s good) but she chose that amazing Persian feta, to which she added the lovely, slightly bitter, sharpness of radicchio. The finishing touch was a drizzle of luscious caramelised balsamic vinegar.

As I say, we loved it so much we tried a similar thing ourselves the next evening, and it was fantastic. So here’s my made-up copycat version. You gotta be careful not to overdo the sweetness in this, specially with the dressing. You can buy caramelised balsamic (I was given some of this last year and it is gorgeous stuff), but it’s also very simple to make. Oh and I reckon this salad would be incredible with labneh too; that’s my next plan.

Ms Lily’s luscious
fig salad with caramelised
balsamic dressing

– 1 punnet fresh figs

– 4-5 slices prosciutto, torn

– radicchio leaves

– basil leaves

– marinated feta cubes

– ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

– 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)

  1. Cut figs into halves or quarters and brush with a teeny bit of olive oil.
  2. Grill these on a tray with the prosciutto for a few minutes until the figs are warmed & the prosciutto crisp.
  3. Meanwhile, simmer the balsamic vinegar and sugar in the smallest pan you have, and gently reduce it till it’s thick and syrupy.
  4. Arrange the radicchio leaves in a bowl (or, more glamorously, on separate plates for each person) and drizzle with good olive oil.
  5. Top with the figs, prosciutto and add as much feta as you like – about three tablespoons is probably plenty.
  6. Gently mix these and the leaves together with your hands, add the basil and drizzle the lot with the balsamic syrup and season.
  7. Stand by for groans of delight.

Of course there are lots of other things to do with figs, including just popping one in your mouth for the pleasure explosion – I’m keen to hear your faves. Any fig festival contributions to share?

15 comments

  1. Oh my. I have four fresh figs sitting in the fridge just waiting to be made into this luscious sound salad. The cheese I am going to use is the Binnorie Dairy ‘Valencay’ one the of the most beautiful cheeses I have ever eaten & I’m a cheese addict. Bought at the Eveleigh Markets on Saturday. Might use my caramelised vinegar.


  2. Oh yes, I’m a full-fee-paying member of the figs-and-cheese club too. At this time of year, I break out the recipe for peppered fig and goat’s cheese tarts. (Figs! Goat’s cheese! Together! Does it get any better than that?) Actually, melting some gruyere over figs and prosciutto comes pretty close.


  3. Same! But I got beautiful figs $3.50 per punnet (3-4) at Marrickville Markets, gorgeous figs gorgeous value. I usually am not able to wait and end up eating them before they make it into a salad!


  4. Charlotte, try growing your own fig tree. They do great in a pot (a big pot) and the nice thing about growing your own is that you get completely and utterly figged out in late January and early February every year. Death by figs, no less! Figs for breakfast. Figs with prosciutto entrees. Then the fig tarts, baked figs and all the other figgy desserts, including figs with cheese.


    • Jamie, don’t they have to be netted? Our neighbours had a tree for a while and it was decimated every year by the birds.


      • My parents net their fig tress. It’s a bit of an eyesore but who cares when you can seriously pig out on figs during January and February.


  5. Hmm you are a figgy little crowd, aren’t you? Funny you should mention a tree Jamie, as we do have one in a pot – probably not a big enough pot – which has struggled rather since we got it a couple of years ago. It’s got one lone fig on it, which we would have got excited about but for previous years’ experience where they didn’t ripen and just fell off, hard little inedible nuggets. Would love any advice – including Steph’s netting query…

    And glad to hear you are all getting into the fig festival, Eileen and Ali and brasseriebread! Your tart sounds RATHER good Ali, and I think now you’ve mentioned, time to give the recipe. Can you do it in a comment, do you reckon?


  6. There is a little road near the big pineapple at nambour where they sell figs at about 50c a fig, cheaper in march when the jam figs come in and i get a box and make a years worth of fig jam. They are top quality too.


  7. That salad looks and sounds yumbo scrumbo. I’ve traditionally stuck to the gorgonzola/fig/prosciutto combo, but I am always willing to branch out, especially as I suspect, Charlotte, you’re bang on about the labneh. Smacking lips.


  8. Last night I had them just quartered & wrapped in prosciutto to pop in the mouth, little lollybombs of goodness. Beeso you country kids get all the good stuff; fig jam is something I’ve never attempted but hope one of my jammy friends might read this and take a hint …? And Di – gorgonzola. Oh, yessss.


  9. Pepper Fig Tart(from Gourmet Traveller March 1997)

    Let’s presume that you’ve got a shortcrust pastry case (blind baked) sitting in a 20 x 27 cm flan tin with removable base, and cut straight to the good (and easy) bit.

    8 figs, sliced
    1/4 cup black-pepper oil

    Filling
    400 g goat’s cheese
    2 large eggs
    Grated rind of 1 lemon

    For filling, whisk all ingredients until well combined.

    Spoon filling into patry case, top with sliced figs and brush with black-pepper oil. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes.

    Serve warm or at room temperature.


  10. Stephanie. No, I find the birds eat one fig at a time, and quite neatly, too. They don’t go and peck willy-nilly at all the figs and wreck the crop. They just perch in a spot where a fig is within pecking distance and hollow it out, then they move onto the next one. Meanwhile, the tree produces a zillion figs for greedy humans, and a couple of hundred of figs for the birds. I didn’t find sharing to be any kind of problem. When I moved here to Marrickville 19 years ago we had an established fig tree and EVERYONE rabbited on about needing nets. I didn’t bother and every summer we were totally figged out with bumper crops. My original tree keeled over with rot a year or so back (figs do better in a dry-summer spot like Adelaide), and this year I’m going to plant up a new one in autumn, this time in a pot. Figs actually like being in a pot (so I hear).


  11. Charlotte. I missed your comment on growing them in pots. I’ll keep you posted once I learn a bit more, but the basics would be: the biggest pot possible, sunniest spot, steady water at all times, slow-release fertiliser for fruit trees, pot feet for good soil drainage (no saucers, ever), top quality potting mix (Debco).


  12. Jamie, very timely – we JUST this second ate one half each of the single, amazingly delicious and perfectly ripe fig which is the bounty of our tree. My, it was good. But I would very much like that figged-out business you speak of …

    And Ali – that TART. Call me thrilled. Will get back to you when I’ve made it.


  13. […] glut. But I was moved to ponder chutneys the other day when Ms Lily – she of last summer’s amazing fig salad – asked me for a tomato chutney recipe, as her glut was getting out of control. Clueless, I […]



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