I love figs. They’re such a gorgeous exotic fruit: deep grown-up colours, a soft fragrant centre and, when ripe, a heady perfume that excites the senses. Their sensuous quality was most famously described in Ken Russell’s 1969 film version of DH Lawrence’s Women in Love when Alan Bates (playing Rupert) explained to a table at a garden party how one should eat a fig – both the ‘polite’ way and the ‘vulgar’ way. In both cases, he threw the skin away but I have to say that’s something I rarely do. Occasionally, when I’ve been lucky enough to be given fresh figs from a friend’s tree, the skin will almost rub off when they’re ripe. Usually here in UK these homegrown figs have a thinnish green skin but the ones I bought this morning – far too tempting to leave behind on M&S Simply Food’s shelves – was dark Bursa figs from Turkey with black-purple skins.
While wonderfully delicious eaten just as they are, one of my favourite ways to enjoy them is grilled with some goats’ cheese, over which I then drizzle a little runny honey. And I decided that was what my lunch would be today. I thus bought some goats’ cheese too and a pack of walnuts. Back home, I heated the grill. Then I cut the top of the stem off two figs and sliced them into quarters from the top, but take care not to cut all the way through. Now gently ease the quarters apart to make a hollow where you can put the cheese. Brush the fig with a little olive oil then put slices or crumbled pieces of goats’ cheese, depending on what kind of goats’ cheese you have, into the centre.
Put under the hot grill and leave until the cheese is melting and browning at the edges. Meanwhile toast a few walnut halves in a dry pan and then chop roughly. On a serving plate, put a handful of salad leaves, drizzle over some olive oil and a little balsamic or cider vinegar and season. Toss lightly with your hands.
When the figs and cheese are ready, carefully transfer to the plate, laying them on top of the salad. Now drizzle a little runny honey over the cheese and scatter over the walnuts. Season with a little more black pepper if you like.
Well, there was an almost instant and gorgeously delicious lunch, which I was able to enjoy in the garden, the sun finally making its way through the clouds on this mild September Saturday. The tangy, slightly salty cheese had melted beautiful and made a fantastic contrast to the sweet fig. Figs cook beautifully too; the warmth suits them.