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!
Have you seen all the fresh figs around the local markets at the moment? Some people are a bit unsure about what to do with them, being more accustomed to dried figs. While dried figs are also very good for you, it’s a really good idea to make the most of the fresh ones while they are around. They are great to eat just as they are, and you can also use them for skin care.
We have a fig tree in the garden, and it is heavy with fruit. There are far too many for us to be able to eat – and it’s not wise to eat too many in one sitting anyway. I did that silly trick last year, and spent several anguished hours, praying for something solid to emerge. Good job we have two bathrooms, is all I can say. But I digress. So, this year, I’ve been looking for different ways to use our figs, and there are a surprising number of things you can do with them.
The milky juice that comes from the stem of the fig is a good remedy for warts and facial blemishes. If you have a problem with acne or spots, mash a couple of fresh figs into a paste and spread it over your face. Leave it for 20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.
For a great face and body scrub, mash two figs and mix with a tablespoon of sugar, two tablespoons of fresh orange juice and a few drops of olive oil. Use once a week to remove dead skin cells and leave the skin healthy and glowing.
Eating figs can help your skin from the inside. Figs are high in calcium, which is essential for the production of collagen. And because figs are high in water content, they help to hydrate and moisturise the skin. Figs are also high in antioxidants, which help to mop up disease-causing free radicals, which can also damage the skin, so they’re great for helping you to stay younger looking.
As well as being good for the skin, figs are great for general health too. They help to lower cholesterol and brood pressure, and are excellent for regulating blood sugar levels. Some doctors advise people with diabetes to eat figs to help control the condition. And of course they are high in fibre, so they can help sort out any digestive problems you may be experiencing.
All things considered, figs are one of the healthiest foods around, and here in Spain and the Mediterranean region, we’re lucky enough to have a steady supply of fresh figs through the summer. If you haven’t done so already, maybe you should take a fresh look at fresh figs.