Jammy figs for the bleak midwinter

We all know what it’s like in the UK in winter… cold, dank and, more often than not, it’s dreich.

London, in the mid-winter… there be lots of trees and no leaves

This really really simple dish is guaranteed to take you back to any Mediterranean holiday where it’s warm, relaxed and with a whiff of the sea in the air.

Ideally you need to be using over-ripe figs; the ones that you fear may burst when you touch them. However, this is Britain, mid-winter, so we make do with the smaller variety. If using these you’ll need to sweeten them up a little, so I’ve given you the obvious and easiest way of doing this

The result of this gives you sticky, jammy-rich figs with an easy-earthiness provided by the herbs and a zing from the orange zest. They keep for a few days and are great as a cheese course with matured and hard pecorino or for breakfast with ricotta cheese and honey or apricot jam.

Music to prepare this dish to: ‘Summertime’ by Ella Fitzgerald

Ingredients

  • Figs (enough to cover an oven shelf when halved)
  • Handful fresh thyme leaves
  • Zest of two large oranges (use a zester for fine ribbons not a grater)
  • Runny honey (for not-bursting-with-ripeness figs)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 60 degrees fan (the lowest heat you have).
  2. Remove the stalks and cut the figs in half.
  3. Arrange on a wire rack and cook in the centre of the oven for 2.5 hours.
  4. 15 mins before you switch the oven off, sprinkle over the thyme and the orange zest. Pop the figs back in the oven for the last 15 mins.
  5. If using the really ripe figs, you can eat straight away. Those you aren’t eating, leave in the cooling oven overnight. The residual heat will just make them more sticky as your oven cools down.
  6. If using young figs, after the cooking time, remove the figs to a lasagna dish or equivalent, and drizzle with the runny honey. Pop them back in the cooling oven for an extra 10 mins before serving. Any left over can stay in the dish, in the cooling oven, overnight.

These go really great with a dense Oloroso sherry – the nutty notes bounce with the orange and settle nicely with the thyme while its caramel underbelly plays nicely with the figs.

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