Yesterday I ate my first fig of the season – not perfectly ripe but near enough. I have always loved figs – figs for breakfast, figs for lunch and figs for dinner. There is just something so good about a ‘first bite’ of the season – it is a ‘memories conjured up and promises of things to come’ kind of feeling.
Our farm is blessed with an abundance of fig trees that produce well each season. I don’t know much about the different varieties but I do know the ones I prefer to eat. My favourite figs grow on a knarly old tree at the swimming pool and are thick skinned, green and with a tinge of purple peeking through. The other figs we have are those with the deep almost aubergine coloured skins that are smaller in size but sweeter in taste.
I have a several ways of eating figs – other than going for a walk, picking them off the tree and gorging on them straight away. I am not the world’s greatest cook by any means but I have learned that simple works best when you are many and your talents lie elsewhere. I have taught myself to cater for large numbers and with the minimum of fuss. I don’t try and knock myself out anymore trying to be the cleverest of chefs, it’s never going to happen, and there are Michelin restaurants for that type of excellence. I follow the rule that the ingredients should do all the work and I am there to make sure it gets on the table and looks as pretty and as appetizing as possible. Unorthodox I know but it works for me…
Presentation; the setting of the table, choosing the linen, the tableware, the china and glassware and arranging the flowers or whatever is going to decorate my table, that is my thing. It is what I do best and what I adore to spend my time on. For me food preparation has to be easy or I am lost forever in a confused and alien world. It is a conundrum to me how I can spend hours thinking about my table decor, yet if a recipe calls for long periods of preparation time I find myself madly searching for an alternative that is easier to follow. I have friends who are the complete opposite to me, they cook for hours and throw the table together in minutes. I think we are both successful entertainers; the art is knowing your strengths and finding a way around your weaknesses.
I have my ways with fresh figs…For breakfast I drizzle them with the tiniest amount of lavender honey and serve them with fresh bowls of plain yogurt. For lunch I often make a salad of sliced figs, proscuito ham and roquette leaves topped with shaved parmesan. To dress this I add a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of thick balsamic vinegar and many twists of thick ground black pepper to taste. Aperitif time, the best hour of the day in any language, is when I serve the smaller sweeter figs. I cut them across the top in four, pinch them together without breaking them in half and fill them with a soft goat cheese. More drizzling of olive oil and grinding of black pepper and to this I add fresh chopped mint. The tartness of the goat cheese mixed with the sweetness of the fig and the zing of the mint – a taste sensation….
I do hope you like figs….. xv