Figs can be used in a variety of ways; they are quite delicious served fresh for breakfast with a thick yoghurt or crème fraiche. They are equally delicious poached with sugar and lemon juice and served in the same way. But I like them best when they’re combined with various spices and fat cloves of garlic and made into a glorious compote to eat with Duck, Goose and Pork in the first chill of winter. In fact in November when the hunting season is in full cry, this is just the thing. However if you can’t wait that long it also make a delicious accompaniment to a good strong cheese, a Cantal Vieux perhaps with a warm baguette and a good glass of Cahors.
There are several varieties of fig and as a general rule I find the smaller purple ones the most attractive for this dish. They all work however and in August and September in the Quercy the gardens and hedgerows are full of their sticky sweetness.
1 Kilo Ripe (but not squashy) Figs
1 Small Red Onion, finely chopped
2 Cms Fresh Ginger, peeled and chopped
2 Cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 Small stick Cinnamon
1 small dried, crushed chilli (optional)
Half a bottle White Wine
500g Caster Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
You will also need clean, sterilized screw top jars. I use empty jam jars and sterilize them in the microwave.
You can of course multiply this recipe and make a far larger quantity and if you have a garden laden with figs, as I have, you may be sorely tempted. A note of caution however, the compote has a limited shelf life, and is used in smallish quantities. Unless you are intending to give some to a few neighbours and friends it may be better to curb your enthusiasm – at least for the first year – until you know how much you’re likely to eat.
Wash the figs and cut off the stalks, then cut them in half.
Put all the other ingredients into a large saucepan or preserving pan and bring to the boil. Boil for two minutes, then take off the heat and carefully add the figs. Bring back to the boil, turning the figs in the syrup every now and then. Boil for five minutes.
Take off the heat and skim off any “scum”. Ladle into the hot jars and screw on the lids to form a seal.
Keep the jars in a cool dark place, preferably a cave, where they will keep for up to two months.