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braised figs on toast

Still on figs, and this is just the white figs, the first to come into season.  The brown figs are still to come. This white fig tree was pruned last winter, not too heavily, and this year has been such a good crop I’m thinking that pruning might become much more regular.  Figs are deciduous and this one is on the west-south-west side of the house.  In winter it lets sun and breeze through onto the verandah where we hang washing in uncertain weather. In summer it’s a thick green curtain.

Hardly worth a recipe, but this has been so regular a breakfast, I thought it worth sharing with you: my 11 Grain Sourdough toast with feta cheese and braised figs.

The figs are simply roughly chopped and cooked for a few minutes with a little water just to start them off, till they are soft and the juice reduced to a syrup. You can add a little honey if you have a sweet tooth.

This is why I don’t bother with jam much these days.  By the time the figs finish, the guavas and persimmons will be on, and then the citrus will start, and still have kumquat marmalade on the shelf from last year!

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fig and rosemary schiacciata

I’m still on a fig roll.  Figs are in season in the southern hemisphere, and our trees all have a decent crop this year.  I made a baked fig rice pudding for a barbeque last night, but it was only ok.  I think maybe rice pudding really needs no eggs and to be served in a bowl rather than sliced.

This fig and rosemary schiacciata (or focaccia? I’m not sure of the difference) though was recipe-writing worthy.   It starts with a sourdough and a rosemary infused honey oil, for which you need almost no time for making but at least 10 hours or so for proving. So this is a magnificent weekend brunch that fits with a lazy Sunday morning, but you need to remember to start it the night before.

Step 1:

The Rosemary Oil

  • Roughly chop a good handful of fresh rosemary.  Put it in a small pot and just cover with olive oil.  Add a good teaspoon of honey and a pinch of salt.
  • Heat the oil till it just starts to bubble, then turn it off and let the pot sit, so that the rosemary infuses the warm oil

The Sourdough

  • Take the sourdough starter out of the fridge.
  • Mix 1  cup of unbleached bakers flour, 1  cup of water, and 1 cup of starter.
  • Put half of it back in the fridge.  You should be left with 1 cup of fed starter, to put in a bowl covered with a clean cloth on the kitchen bench for a few hours  (depending on how lively your starter is and how warm your kitchen) to froth up and get breeding.

Stage 2:

  • Mix in 1 cup of baker’s flour, a little dollop of olive oil (perhaps a tablespoonful), and half a teaspoon of salt. It will be more like a sticky batter than a dough.  Let that sit for half an hour or so and miraculously it will lose a lot of the stickiness.
  • Flour the benchtop well, and tip the mix out onto it.  Sprinkle flour on top.  Knead it briefly,  kneading in just enough more flour to get a ball of soft, springy dough.  To get the open, chewy crumb you want to keep the dough as “hydrated” (as in, wet) as you can. Put a good dollop of  olive oil in a large bowl, swirl the dough ball around in it to coat, cover the bowl with a clean cloth, and leave out on the benchtop for another few hours (or overnight) to prove. It should double in size.

Stage 3:

  • Turn your oven on to heat up to medium hot.
  • Oil a shallow baking pan.  Mine is an oblong pan 30 cm long.  Tip the dough out onto a floured bench, knock it down, and pat and stretch it into a shape that fits the pan, then transfer it in.
  • Slice half a dozen large figs into 1.5 cm slices and arrange over the top.
  • Strain the rosemary honey oil and sprinkle it over the top of the figs and the crust.
  • Bake for around 40 minutes until the crust is browning and the figs are caramelised.

For a spectacular taste sensation, slice off warm chunks and spread with goat’s cheese.

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honey roasted figs and pecans with feta salad

The riff of sweet, caramelised figs, salty white cheese, peppery leaves, and nut crunch is a classic one.  And like most classics, for very good reason. This salad was so good it’s been repeated regularly this year since the figs started coming on.  It’s a starring role salad – a dinner party first course, or a totally indulgent lunch, or a plate to take to a party.  If you are in Australia, figs are now in season, and only for a little while.

The Recipe:

Turn the oven on to medium hot to heat up.

Quarter the figs, spread them out on a baking tray and drizzle them with equal quantities of balsamic vinegar and honey.  I used a tablespoon of each with six large figs cut into quarters for this platter salad I took to a party.

For the pecans, in a small saucepan, melt together a teaspoon of honey, a teaspoon of butter, juice of half an orange, a scant teaspoon of garam masala, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of chili powder. Toss the pecans in this mix and spread them out on another baking tray. (I thought about using macadamias first, but the first of ours are only just coming on now, and I still have some of last year’s pecans needing using.)

Put both trays into a medium hot oven and roast for about 20 minutes until the figs are soft and caramelised and the pecans are roasted and their marinade reduced to just a coating.

You should be left in the  fig pan with a couple of tablespoons of juice.  If it is already reduced to a syrup, then you can just cool the lot.  If it is not syrupy yet, pour it into a small saucepan and reduce. If it has turned to sticky toffee, take the figs out and add a little water to dissolve.

Arrange a bed of rocket on a serving tray. Cover with a good sprinkle of cucumber quarters, then a layer of crumbled feta, then the figs and pecans, then a light sprinkle of mint and/or basil leaves.

Drizzle the fig juice over and serve.

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