In his poem Figs D H Lawrence wrote
“The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.”
The fig tree in my garden is laden and it delivers over ten kilograms of fruit. More than I could ever consume by Lawrence’s method. I’ve been on the hunt for 101 ways to eat and preserve figs as one does when there is an abundance of produce. This has included fig, tomato and prosciutto tart; fig and walnut bread; fig compote; burnt fig jam as well as dried figs and fig leather in the drier. For leather cut up the figs and turn to mush in the blender. Spread on kitchen paper on the drying trays and leave on over night. Great for a sweet snack – just don’t eat too much at once.
When I go travelling I love to learn as much as possible about the local food culture and cuisines. A great way to do this is to eat your way around town on a walking food tour which many places have or to attend a cooking class. When I visited Turkey a few years ago we did three of the walks hosted by Culinary Backstreets to get immersed in the local food scene. We also went on a kebab crawl to try and find the best kebap seller.
Turkey is the biggest producer of figs in the world and at the right time of year their distinct perfume wafts through the streets of Istanbul. A days cooking class in Istanbul taught me how to make some mouth watering Turkish dishes including fig and walnut desert. This is the recipe.
Incir Tathsi (Walnut stuffed figs in syrup) – serves 6
- 12-18 dried figs (kuru incir)
- 100g Walnuts (ceviz)
- 1/2 lt/1 cup water (su)
- 250g lemon (limon)
- 12-18 cloves (karanfil)
Prepare a syrup by bringing the water, sugar, cloves and lemon (squeeze the juice and throw in the peel as well) to the boil.
Meanwhile, stick a little knife into the side of a fig and cut through to a little beyond the centre, then turn the knife in a way that a little less than half of the fig gets opened on its side (big enough to stuff a walnut half inside). Stuff the opened fig with half a walnut, the bulbous side of the walnut under the stem of the fig. Close back up, making the sides stick back to each other. Repeat procedure for all the figs.
Add the figs with their stem up to the boiling syrup (just covering). Simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn them mid-way through the cooking process and then turn again 5 minutes before the end to give them some colour on each side. Take off the heat and let hem cool in the syrup. Transfer the figs to plates plate, leaving behind the syrup. Decorate with ground pistachios and/or grated coconut. Serve at room temperature with kayak (heavy Turkish cream) on the side.
Variation: add Turkish tea and bay leaves to the syrup.
What to do with the leftover syrup:
- Figatini: Cool and shake over ice with vodka (half/half) – tone down with soda water if too sweet. Serve in a shot glass next to the figs.
- Boil down into a sweet thick sauce and drizzle over things that are not too sweet such as yoghurt, porridge, a fresh white cheese, pancakes, fruit tart, etc
What do you do with your figs?
Image: Figs from my garden