Recipe – creamy fig compote
Following a request from a reader in Italy, here is an idea for everyone trying to cope with a glut of figs this summer. This is a quick and simple dessert that makes a change from baked or roasted, or combining figs with other fruits.
Figs were one of the first crops to be cultivated by early humans, predating wheat, barley and vegetables, and their goodness is so significant, being high in calcium and fibre, and rich in antioxidants. The Biblical Garden of Eden significance of the leaves is well known, and the fig tree is represented throughout world culture, from Greek mythology to being at the heart of diet in many nations.
We have three fig trees close to the house, and three more reaching over the track, offering essential shade in mid summer, and the challenge of a rush of fruit at the end of August, beginning of September. I say fruit, which has become the term by convention, but it is actually an inverted flower.
As I write, ripe figs are exploding as they hit the ground. We just can’t keep pace with the trees, and must rake the ground, otherwise the flies descend and our shoes get covered in the highly adhesive flesh of this most delicious free food.
With more than 700 varieties, we are at a loss to know exactly which trees we have. The biggest tree fruits twice a year, in June and again in late summer, offering purple figs in abundance that ripen before your eyes. There are four trees that offer luscious but smaller green fruit,which, at the very last moment, have a faint cast of red, and we have another vast tree which gives green and yellow striped figs which burst open,like the flowers they are, revealing their deep-red, sweet secret.
One cookbook we dip into and highly recommend is Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Puddings. He is a big fan of figs, but this simple and so delicious creamy fig compote was passed to us by our dear friend and neighbour Barny.
Creamy fig compote
(to serve four)
12 to 18 ripe figs (depending on size), peeled.
4 dessert spoons of brown demerara sugar.
Greek-style yoghurt, creme fraiche or whipped cream.
Crushed walnuts and/or digestive biscuit crumbs.
Sponge finger to decorate.
Halve the figs and put them in a saucepan on low heat.
Add the brown sugar, plus two tablespoons of water (or juice, or a liqueur).
Simmer for 10 minutes, then leave in fridge to cool.
Spoon or pour into bowls or glasses.
Top with yoghurt, creme fraiche or cream.
Sprinkle on walnut or biscuit pieces.
Push a sponge finger into each glass, so people dunk or stir. Yummy and fun for the kids.