Thursday, October 15, 2009

A bucket full of figs

On our second day in Pacentro, Italy, we were all sitting up on the rooftop terrace admiring the views and enjoying a lazy lunch of local bread, cheese and hams, when there was a knock at the door. After peering over the balcony Dad noticed no one there but instead what looked like a bag of food. He headed down the 3 storeys to the front door where he was greeted with a large carrier bag containing a bucket full of figs! The lady next door, a stereotypically Italian mama who dressed entirely in black and worked on her doorstep every day, had been watching the busy arrival of us all in preparation for the big wedding. Once she decided we must have all arrived she gave us a huge bucket of freshly picked figs, telling us to use what we could.

Since there were so many, we gave half of them away to other family staying close by. If I had lived there and had the proper jars or utensils I would have set to work making a chutney or jam, however I didn’t and time wasn’t on my side so instead that night I made a simple but delicious salad of figs with gorgonzola (and a mozzarella version for myself – distraught not to be able to eat blue cheese when pregnant – and Mr. Vanilla who can add blue cheese to his list of foods that I love and he hates!). The figs were absolutely delicious – sweet, bursting with sun-ripened flavour and best of all, picked freshly from a tree in the area!

Figs are going out of season now, however if you are able to get a hold of some I recommend trying the following recipes for easy starters or lunches. If you can’t get them then definitely keep these recipes in mind for next September when they are at their peak. As for me, from now on whenever I eat figs I will be sitting in Pacentro with all my family, enjoying the generosity of an Italian mama!

Figs with Gorgonzola

(Serves 6)

A couple of bags of mixed salad leaves, including rocket (arugula)
12-18 fresh figs (depending on how big they are)
A good wedge of gorgonzola
150ml Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 400F. In a small pan reduce the balsamic vinegar until it has become syrupy and you have a few tablespoons left. Set aside to cool completely. Scatter the salad leaves on a large platter or on 6 individual serving plates. Cut a cross, ¾ of the way through each fig so that the fig stays intact but you can open it up, then place a good cube of cheese in the centre of each fig. Sprinkle over some freshly cracked black pepper and a small amount of salt then place on a baking tray and bake for roughly 5 minutes or just until the cheese has melted. Serve the figs on top of the salad leaves then drizzle over the reduced balsamic vinegar and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve at once with lots of chewy, crusty bread. Delicious and easy!

Fresh Figs with Buffalo Mozzarella, Rocket & Chilli

(Serves 4)

I have been making this for years with great success. It is similar to the above recipe although you don’t bake the figs so I thought I should include it. This is as simple as it gets but with maximum results that are sure to please everyone. I like to serve it ‘family style’ on one large plate that everyone can help themselves to, however if you prefer to serve it on individual plates by all means please do so! I’ve stated 2 large handfuls of rocket which I know can seem vague and unspecific but the point is that all you need is enough to scatter and cover the bottom of your serving plate, so use as much as you see fit.

2 large handfuls of rocket (arugula) or mixed greens
6 ripe figs – either brown or green
2 x 150g balls of mozzarella
1 long red chilli
3 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
A good sprinkling of Maldon sea salt

Scatter the rocket over the bottom of your serving plate, reserving a few leaves to garnish on top. Cut the figs into quarters and casually place on and around the rocket, then do the same with the mozzarella. You don’t need to be fussy with the presentation as it is meant to be quick and casual. Finely chop the chilli – it’s up to you whether you want to keep the seeds in or not – then scatter it over the figs and the mozzarella. Finish by drizzling over the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and sprinkling a good amount of crushed Maldon sea salt over everything. Strew the reserved rockets leaves over the top and serve with some crusty French bread.

Fig and Goats Cheese Bruschetta

(Serves 4)

These are perfect as either a starter or for lunch. If you want to make it a bit more substantial serve with a larger salad with some crispy proscuitto or bacon, cut into small pieces.

4 slices of ciabatta, cut at an angle
1 clove of garlic, sliced in half
4 figs, each sliced into 3 or 4
3.5oz/ 100g soft Goats cheese
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Drizzle of Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Mixed salad leaves or rocket to serve (optional)

Brush the slices of ciabatta with a little olive oil and grill until golden on both sides. Rub one side with a little garlic then spread with the goats cheese. Top with the sliced figs then season with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little balsamic vinegar and oil. Return to the grill and cook for a further minute to warm up the figs, being careful not to burn the toast. Serve with a small handful of mixed salad leaves or rocket drizzled with some balsamic vinegar & olive oil.



  1. This sounds amazing!!! I love figs and sweet bruschetta. Such a fun appetizer!

  2. Thanks Kori! It's so tasty and now just reminds me of Italy - hope you enjoy it when figs are in season : )


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