According to the California Fig Advisory Board, "While the original figs came from the sunny spots around the Mediterranean, today’s best figs come from California’s sunny spot -- the great San Joaquin Valley." Well, I would beg to differ. The best figs in the world grow (if you are lucky enough) in your own backyard. I was in my twenties when I first tasted an authentic fresh-from-the-tree-melting-sweet-fig and it was the first time I ever saw the point of eating one. Warm, sweet, not at all muzzy and bland, it was heavenly. Prior to that I had experienced the dried fig (nyeh) and once or twice sampled mediocre store-bought ones (under-ripe or so ripe that they seemed to rot on the way home from the store). Once you have tasted the Real Thing (no, not Coke), however, you make more of an effort to find good produce in the store. Last week I found some really good figs in the store.
However good your store-bought figs are, though, they can always use a little help to reach their heavenly potential. When contemplating my new figs, I remembered a recipe from Real Good Food (by my friend and mentor though he knows it not, Nigel Slater): Baked figs in honey. Coincidentally, Mr. Slater wrote about baked figs in this week's Observer. However, I think I went one better on the Real Food Recipe and the Baked Figs in Wine that he suggested on Sunday....I used his recipes as a starting point and used my own proportions and an extra ingredient!
Baked Figs and Blueberries with Greek Yogurt
6-8 figs cut in half
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs lemon juice
3-4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
a large handful of fresh blueberries
Now Nigel didn't mention whether you were supposed to cut the figs in any of his recipes. I decided they would look prettier and give up more juice when cut, and sliced them in half. Mix the honey and lemon juice in a small bowl and then drizzle over the cut figs. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the figs and bake in a hot oven (200C/375F) for 15-20 minutes. Five minutes before you are ready to serve, throw the handful of blueberries in the roasting pan with the figs. Serve with cold creamy Greek yogurt drizzled over the fruit and be sure to use a spatula to get every last drop of purple syrup out of the roasting tin!
Not only is this dessert a delicious end-of-the-summer treat (think warm fruit like a summer day, mixing with cold yogurt like an autumn evening) but it's pretty healthy too. Blueberries are in the news a lot lately for their amazing health-promoting 'antioxidant' nutrients and according to Dr. John Briffa of the Observer they will even improve your eyesight! Figs, of course, are a good source of fiber and have no cholesterol, salt or fat. And plain yogurt, while it may have some fat, is pretty good for your digestion and a source of calcium. Lastly, it's a very quick, elegant dessert: five minutes preparation and 20 minutes in the oven while you finish your dinner (or clear the table). So enjoy your figs and blueberries while you can...their season is short!
And if you are like the Critic and STILL don't see the point of figs even after your loving wife prepares you this heavenly dessert, see GodHatesFigs.com. Well, fig leaves were used for the world's first set of underwear after all....
When writing this yesterday, I forget to include the photo of our other family member who was extremely happy with this dessert as it meant a Greek yogurt container for her to lick clean!