Back in 2009, some friends from England were visiting us here in Spain, and we took them to Almoradi market. They wanted to buy us something as a ‘thank you’ for our hospitality, and my husband decided he’d like a fig tree for the garden. 12 years on, the tree is both enormous and prolific, and also very messy, as the birds are just as keen on figs as I am, and the leaves are always falling.
Like many Mediterranean foods, figs are brimming with good things, and are very versatile. You can read more on the health benefits of figs here. Since writing this, I’ve learned some new things about figs – apart from not to eat too many in one sitting, that is!
Figs are not technically fruit, they are inverted flowers. The flesh is actually a flower inside the teardrop-shaped outer casing of the fig. And fig leaves can be used to make tea, cooked as a spinach substitute or used to wrap fish in for baking, to protect it from the heat and impart a subtle flavour similar to coconut with hints of vanilla. You can also add fig leaves to the water when you cook rice. Maybe I’ll try that – it’ll be a few less leaves to fall on the garden.
I obviously can’t eat all the figs I harvest, and some friends are a bit reluctant to try fresh figs, although they will happily eat dried ones. It’s a constant struggle to find new ways to use those figs that escape the best efforts of the birds. I have made fig jam in the past, but last week, I had about 20 figs that needed using, but not enough time to do anything much with them. I decided to poach them, and they turned out really well, so I’m sharing the recipe here.
If you don’t have a fig tree, head to your local market, where you can buy them for as little as €1 a kilo. Figs in Brandy takes about 20 minutes to prepare, and a week down the line, they are still good to go. I’m keeping mine in the fridge and using them every day in desserts or with yogurt for breakfast, but I will probably bottle some ready for Christmas. If you’re going to bottle yours, you will need some sterilised glass jars. If you don’t have any at home, you can get them for a few cents each from your local Chinese bazaar.
Poached Figs in Brandy
The quantities here are for around 20 figs. You may need to adjust up or down for sugar and honey, depending on the size of your batch.
Serving Figs in Brandy
Figs in brandy are very versatile. They go well with sweet and savoury foods. I enjoyed a couple on a cheese sandwich instead of chutney yesterday, and they also go well with cold meats, and can be chopped up in salads. Serve as a simple dessert with yogurt or ice cream, or use to top cheesecakes or rice pudding. They are fabulous with the Spanish classic Arroz con Leche – that’s cold rice pudding with cinnamon for the uninitiated. Let me know how you use yours in the comments below. Buen provecho, amigos!