Throughout my childhood, my father always kept a bag of Fig Newton cookies around, stored in a cookie tin to preserve a ‘freshness’ I’m not convinced they ever really had. Did anyone else’s family keep those around? The cookie filling was a stale, flavourless echo of what a fig might once have tasted like (twice removed), made all the worse by that orange-essence-enhanced compressed sawdust casing that other, more generous people, might have called ‘dough.’
Needless to say, I wasn’t a huge fan.
Though I expected my tastes to change as time went on, I never really warmed to figs. Perhaps it was the knowledge (foisted upon me by an friend, reluctantly confirmed thanks to the internet) of their particular relationship with wasps? If you’re a fig lover, I highly recommend not researching further in that vein; trust me, ignorance truly is bliss.
But at Potentino, there are a number of fig trees on the property. Last time I was here, Charlotte and Alexander had us harvest some of the leaves and we used them to flavour a potato dish. I was surprised by how lovely it was — fragrant, and slightly herbal, and it lent this wonderful perfume to otherwise plain ol’ potatoes that had me wondering if I hadn’t given the fruit a fair chance. I returned to the trees, harvested a basket of fruit, and decided to give them the same treatment I use on less-than-impressive strawberries: cook them down in a splash of balsamic vinegar. They were delicious!
Back home, I was passing by the market the other day, and there were some figs on display that were just too gorgeous to pass up. I returned with a small container, gave them a rinse, and then optimistically bit into one.
Still gross, it turns out. Still pretty darn gross.
But I wasn’t going to throw out a bunch of perfectly ripe fruit, so I decided to try cooking them down again, this time in another sauce. I love pairing stone fruit with fresh herbs, particularly thyme, and I knew it would complement the figs so nicely. A little honey and butter later, I had a rich, golden sauce. Cooking the figs down made them soft and mellow, and the sharpness of the yoghurt rounded everything out perfectly.
So there you have it! A really quick, easy dessert. Just close your eyes, and try not to think about the wasps! ????
Figs in honey-thyme butter sauce with yoghurt
- 1 container (500g) plain yoghurt* (see notes below)
- 450g (about 18 or so) figs
- 2 Tbs honey
- 2 Tbs water
- 2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter
- pinch of salt
- Line a sieve with cheesecloth and rest it over a bowl that's slightly smaller than the sieve, so that there's space between the bottom of the sieve and the bottom of the bowl. Add the yoghurt, and allow to strain in the fridge for 4 hours up to overnight.
- In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, stir together the honey, water, and olive oil. Add the thyme sprigs, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the butter and cook another 2 minutes, until the butter is melted completely into the sauce. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard.
- Halve the figs, and add them to the honey thyme sauce cut-side-down. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Gently flip (I find chopsticks helpful for this) and cook for another half minute.
- Divide the yoghurt into 4-6 bowls, and top with the figs. Spoon the warm sauce overtop, and be generous with it! Best eaten right away, but swirled-together leftovers with some granola make a lovely breakfast too.