It’s Fig Season

With Tatiana Bento From The Marmalade Cookery School

This month Tatiana Bento of the Marmalade Cookery School shares her love of figs.

Originating in Asia, figs are now grown across the Mediterranean. There are hundreds of varieties but are grouped into four colours, green, white, black and red.

Available to buy fresh from August to October, ensure that you are buying the ripest figs possible – they should be plump and rich in colour and smell sweet

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I LOVE FIGS AND I AM NOT FUSSY EITHER; GREEN FIGS, BLACK FIGS, FRESH, AS A STARTER, AS A MAIN, OR IN DESSERTS. YOU NAME IT I WILL HAVE IT.

THIS MONTH I DECIDED TO SHARE MY FIG PASSION AND GIVE YOU A SAVOURY AND A SWEET RECIPE TO GET YOU AS IN LOVE WITH FIGS AS I AM.

Fig, creamy goat’s cheese and prosciutto drizzled with honey balsamic reduction

This is a super easy recipe that I just love. It’s actually my favourite way of eating figs (except on their own). In the summer, when it’s hot and you don’t want a lot of food, I just have these as a main… with a glass of fresh white wine! I have split this recipe into two – fresh and baked, so you can choose if you want your cheese melted or not.

SERVES  4

Ingredients:

8 Fresh figs

200g of your favourite soft goat’s cheese

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

125g of balsamic vinegar

15g of good quality honey

8 slices of prosciutto

A handful of rocket

2 tbsp of walnuts, almonds, pistachios or pine nuts, chopped

HOW TO MAKE:

If you’re going to bake them, turn your oven on to 220C / 425F/ Gas #7.

First make the honey balsamic reduction. Place the vinegar and the honey in a small saucepan over a low flame. Stir constantly until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Let it cool.

Tip   1: Don’t walk away from this while it’s on the stove as it can easily go too thick and burn. Also remember that as it cools it will thicken further. If you find that it has gone too thick place it back on the stove and add a bit of water.

Now the cheese and figs. Chop the cheese into small bits and place it in a bowl, mix until you have a crumbly mixture.

Make a cross in the top of the fig going in to about half way down so it’s open slightly. Gently stuff a teaspoon of your goat’s cheese in there and then wrap a slice of your prosciutto around the fig to keep it from opening.

Tip #2: There is a reason why you should use goat’s cheese in this recipe, and it’s simply down to sharpness and contrast. So whatever you go for, mild or strong just make sure it’s goat’s.

If you are baking the figs place them on an oven tray and pop them into the oven for 5 minutes just until the cheese starts to melt. Otherwise serve straight away.

Tip #3: The only thing you need to consider is the ripeness of your figs. If they are quite soft it might not be a good idea to bake them as they might fall apart.

HOW TO SERVE:

On a plate place a small amount of washed and dried rocket. Gently lay your fig (fresh or baked) on top of the rocket. Sprinkle with your favourite chopped nuts, season with a little salt and pepper and drizzle with your honey balsamic reduction. Enjoy

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Greek Yogurt cheesecake topped with Vanilla poached Figs

I love cheesecake, but I always preferred baked cheesecake and hadn’t really had a fresh one about which I could say “Blimey that’s good!” until now. Ladies and gentleman

I give you the Greek yoghurt cheesecake. This cheesecake is just beautiful. It’s super light, fresh and doesn’t contain any cream (that’s what puts me off the majority of fresh cheese-cakes), making for a healthier dessert. By the way, have I mentioned it tastes delicious?

MAKES 4 INDIVIDUAL POTS

Ingredients for the base:

100g of digestive biscuits

55g unsalted butter

25g Demerara sugar (optional)

A pinch of salt

Ingredients for the filling:

1 tsp powdered gelatine

340g of cream cheese, full fat will give you a better result but you can use light, at room temperature

200g of Greek, plain full fat yoghurt

85g of caster sugar

   1 tbsp of lemon juice

   ½ tsp of vanilla paste

¼ tsp of sea salt

Ingredients for the roasted figs:

4 figs, ripe but firm

40g of unsalted butter

1 vanilla bean divided into 4

½ tsp of caster sugar

HOW TO MAKE THE BASE:

This is a really simple and versatile one so just run with it. Grab your biscuits and break them into your food processor. Pulse until you get a fine crumb, a bit like breadcrumbs, and then tip them into a big bowl.

Add the sugar if you are using and a ‘fat pinch’ of salt.

Tip #1: The reason that sugar is optional in this crust is because it will depend on the biscuits you are using. For this recipe I used oat digestive biscuits that have a low content of sugar to begin with, so I had to add some. However if you are using a richer biscuit you might not need sugar at all. For example I have made this with rich tea biscuits and added no extra sugar as I thought the sugar in the biscuits was enough. What I am trying to say is use whatever biscuits you prefer, just remember to keep to plain flavours as it might not pair nicely with the figs.

Add your butter in a small pan and place it over a low flame. Stir, just enough to melt it, then add it to your biscuit bowl and mix away until you have a uniform dry paste that holds together when you pick a bit up and squeeze between your fingers.

Tip #2: The absorption of butter by the biscuit will depend hugely on the biscuit you choose to use so add the butter slowly and test it along the way. If it crumbles in your hands and doesn’t hold at all, add a bit more, even if that means adding more than the recipe states.

Now that you have your base done its time to bring out your glasses or ramekins. Divide the mixture between the glasses and gently press down to make a uniform compact layer at the bottom of the glass. Pop them in the fridge for one hour while you relax.

Tip #3: I love to use clear glasses for this as it lets you see all the layers, however use what you have to hand or even go freestanding with some kitchen rings. The only thing that matters is that you use something around 7 cm diameter as that will give you exactly the 4 portions.

HOW TO MAKE THE FILLING:

It’s time to tackle your filling and it couldn’t be easier. Take a heat resistant bowl and add 2 tbsp of water. Pop your gelatine in there and walk away.

In your food processor add all the filling ingredients (except the gelatine). Pulse until completely silky.

Now back to your gelatine. Get a small pan and place about one inch of water in it. Put it over a medium flame and once it’s boiling place the bowl with your gelatine on top and slowly mix with the help of a metal whisk or fork.

Once the gelatine is fully melted, add it to your mixture in the food processor while it’s still running.

Tip #4: If you add the gelatine to the main mixture without constant mixing it will solidify in one big lump.

Once you have your final mix, divide it between the 4 glasses and tap them hard on the work surface to eliminate any air bubbles. Cover loosely with cling film making sure you don’t touch the cheesecake and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Tip #5: This is also a great make-ahead recipe where you can leave in the fridge for up to 2 days before adding the topping and serving to your guests.

HOW TO MAKE THE ROASTED FIGS WITH VANILLA:

Start by heating up your oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6.

Now it’s time to take care of your figs, so give them a light wash, pat them dry and make a cross incision on the top. Pop one of your vanilla pod pieces in there and reserve.

Now grab an oven proof dish that you can also place on direct heat and melt your butter over a low flame. Once melted add the sugar and stir to dissolve it. Place the figs in the oven proof dish and into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes.

Tip #6: Make sure your dish is big enough for all the figs to stand upwards but not too big as they might fall on their sides not baking correctly.

TO SERVE:

Remove the cheesecakes from the fridge about 15 minutes before serving so they’re not too cold. Top with a roasted fig and serve. Enjoy.

Tip #7: The figs can be served cold or warm but the warm version creates a fantastic experience.

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