roasted figs with black pepper and wild thyme honey

traylike

When I was a child, my mother and I lived in an old red-brick house in suburban Perth, girt by a Bottlebrush hedge and river sand. It was a beautiful old place; slightly cold in winter and hot in summer, but essentially full of character. I loved every part of it in a very sentimental way; the splotchy brown carpet, the crackling warmth of an original oil-fueled fireplace, the speckled, hand-painted kitchen cupboards in bright shades of gold and blue.

My mother poured a lot of love into that old place. It was all we could afford when I was a fledgling human of three short years and little courage. I knew nothing of how little we had, spending most of my irresponsible youth in the garden catching bugs and evasive butterflies. My mother, on the other hand, worked the second shift,  nursing part time whilst caring for me, ironing for extra pennies and maintaining the property’s crumbling old fixtures and superfluous garden on weekends.

Ah, maintenance. It’s the bugbear of many established home owners, and my mother was no different. Well, actually, I need to correct that statement: she was different, in the sense that she attempted to be both mother and father to me and our rambling property.  Around work and mothering commitments, she attacked everything from crumbling lino in the bathroom to invasive rubber tree roots and holes in the kitchen cupboards. Over the years, she amassed a sizeable tool collection, a ‘utility drawer’ and much on-the-job learning, much to the bemusement of men in our social circle.

figsAs for me? Well, I ‘helped’. This mostly included handing my mother tools at various intervals, though I do recollect one occasion when I got up early to ‘surprise’ her by stripping the kitchen cupboards in readiness for a fresh paint job. I think I was about six years old, pyjama-clad and keen. I sat with a paint scraper in the early hours of the morning for about sixty minutes before mum rose wearily from her bed. Whilst rubbing her eyes, she discovered that I’d scraped off all of the primer she’d applied the night before. With a weary smile, she gave her little helper a hug before starting to make me my favourite breakfast: a runny boiled egg with toast soldiers. Now, that’s one hundred percent love: lavishing generosity and time upon someone, noticing their pure intent, when you’d probably rather kick their ass. She’s my hero; she always has been, and she always will be. She’s the strongest person that I’ve ever met.

So; by now you may be wondering why I’m traveling down memory lane as a prelude to a recipe for roasted figs. It’s primarily due to a strong personal association between fresh figs, my childhood and our old house amongst the trees. Living in that house exposed me to the fact that fresh chayotes grew on vine-covered fences, that passionfruit wasn’t always sweet and that mulberries stained fingers and toes. We didn’t grow all of this produce ourselves; rather, there were quite a few Vietnamese immigrants in our suburb who shared a penchant for turning their front yards into market gardens. Mum and I used to walk around our suburb regularly, hand in hand, and occasionally I’d pick a mulberry from a roadside tree. It was during one of these walks that I first discovered the deciduous wonderment of a live, blushing fig tree.

herbslikeI still remember that first bite; sweet, unusually thread-like, with crunchy seeds and slightly savoury skin. I didn’t like it much to begin with, presumably due to the fact that it was worlds apart from my favourite fruit, the Kensington Pride mango. Nevertheless, it left a unique mark on my mind that remained until I rediscovered this fruit in dried form some years later. Being a typical, sugar-obsessed child, I liked this version much more than the fresh, mild fig I’d eaten by the roadside. But now, with both time and experience under my belt, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the delicacy of fresh, perfectly ripe figs. They’re versatile enough to add to both sweet and savoury dishes, whilst their unsurpassed beauty adds a touch of sophistication to any serving platter.

ingredsIn most countries, figs are at their peak in summer and autumn. During these months, I’ll quite happily eat them straight from their skins with sticky fingers and a smile of sweet content. However, towards the end of the season, figs often become more woody and flavourless. On these occasions, I’ll often slice them onto an oven tray with a bit of honey, cracked black pepper and some woody herbs to accentuate their subtle flavour.

In under half an hour, your figs will be transformed into sticky, sweet-but-savoury goodness with a caramelised crust that goes beautifully with mild chèvre. I’ve included a rough recipe below, but feel free to experiment with quantities and whatever toppings you like (well, within reason. Figs don’t compliment tomato sauce). Just remember that you want to accentuate the flavour of the figs, not mask it, and you can’t go wrong. So, I’d encourage you to give this recipe a go: eat well, then smile with seeds in your teeth. Life’s too short to do otherwise.

bite

Roasted Figs with Wild Thyme Honey

Serves 4-6 as a cheese course

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f). Wash and stem your figs before slicing them into 1cm thick slices (vertically) and arranging them in a single layer on a lined baking tray. Drizzle the honey and herbs on top before grinding fresh black pepper into everything.

honeymont

Roast your figs for about 15 minutes, turning them half way if the top starts to brown. When they are ready, the figs should be light golden, softened and fragrant with caramel and herbaceous notes.

At this stage, remove your figs from the oven and cool them on their lined trays. When the figs reach room temperature, place them onto a serving platter with some mild soft cheese, crispbreads and some salty prosciutto.

roasted

Notes:

  • Figs are not only delicious; they’re incredibly good for you. They are the richest plant source of calcium known to man, whilst also containing significant amounts of fibre, copper, manganese, magnesium, vitamin K and potassium. Nutritional analysis has also revealed trace elements of flavonoids, polyphenols and antioxidants.
  • If you like dried figs but often find supermarket versions to be too sweet, try these little figs from Whisk & Pin. They’re chewy, subtly sweet and delicious in everything from your morning cereal to a spiced lamb tagine. Try poaching them in sugar syrup with cinnamon and vanilla before serving them with bircher muesli or yoghurt for breakfast. Yum.
  • Natural partners to figs are prosciutto, bacon (it works!), goats cheese (or any other soft white cheese, such as mascarpone, ricotta and chèvre), walnuts and hazelnuts. For a delicious treat, try stuffing them with thyme-honey-infused mascarpone or ricotta cheese, a little orange zest and fresh thyme.

honeyinfoFor some more information on J. Friend and Co’s organic, carbon zero, single-vintage artisan honey, check out their beautiful website here. This company is a partnership between New Zealanders’ Jeremy Friend and Sharyn Woodnorth, both of whom believe in honesty, integrity and 100% sustainable farming. Their products are available for purchase on line, where you can also meet the bee keepers (apiarists) who lovingly harvest every batch… like Ernest from Central Otago (he seems cool). Oh, and by the way, this promotion has been unsolicited and unpaid, based entirely on my positive view of this particular company. My view is entirely my own.

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61 responses

    • Definitely agree, I only bought a little jar and I’m regretting it. I urgently need to top up my supply! Thanks for the comment Sally. I just checked out your nan’s chutney recipe… it looks absolutely delicious!

    • Thanks lovely. She definitely is, I am really blessed. Argh, your new post is making me want ‘meat’ balls, or rather, those delicious looking potato balls. I think I could eat a whole bowlful with some chilli dipping sauce!

  1. Your mum is a great lady! And that sounds yummy! Bit annoyed now that the figs around here are having a year off :-/ sweet post honey, my fav so far :-) love x (not my fav recipe though, that sticks with the cookies and always will)

    • What do you mean the figs are having a year off? Your own fig tree? There are still some in the shops around here, I should deliver you some. How’s the rest of your hippy garden going? Did you end up making loquat jam? x

    • Definitely get some!! It’s probably the best honey I’ve ever tasted. If you’re also partial to cheese, I’d recommend drizzling some of the wild thyme honey onto a wheel of brie before adding some extra fresh thyme leaves, black pepper and crushed toasted walnuts. Bake the lot in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, then pile the molten, creamy cheese onto fresh baguette. HEAVEN. The thyme honey adds this extra robust, savoury-but-sweet flavour. So, so good.

    • Hi Phil, great idea! You could probably achieve a very similar flavour to the real thing by steeping a bunch of thyme in warm honey for half an hour or so. The woody, aromatic thyme melds so well with the sweet viscosity of the honey. So delicious. Hope it works for you!

  2. I love figs! Though, I’ve never done much with them other than pluck them off a tree and into my mouth!!! I must try this once I get some fresh figs this coming season! :)

    • Samantha, if you have the opportunity to eat them straight from the tree, do it!! This recipe is delicious, but as it intensifies and enhances the flavour of the figs, I reckon it’s most useful when you buy some figs from the local store, later discovering that they don’t taste quite as they should (yep, that’s what happened to me!). By the way, I love your blog. Now I’m craving cheese (at 7am, Australian time!)

      • Thank you! :) I will definitely give this recipe a try, it looks amazing! Anything to make sweet things sweeter is okay by me!!! I’m about to get elbows deep in MORE CHEESE over here… I <3 dinner time! xoxo :D

      • Baha, yep… agreed. Sweetness and cheesyness are both winning attributes (unless the latter is applied in a comedy context, then maybe… uh, less is more?!). It’s now 11am over here and I am about to eat my first cheese of the day. I am genuinely excited. P.S what are you cooking for dinner? :) x

      • HAHAHA! Man, I just saw this! That night I had made a Cheesy Polenta Pie over Mexican style tempeh and beans. :) It was yummy! I took pics so I can post the recipe.. eventually. :D

  3. -This sounds wonderful. And I love your writing. The first time I ate a fig was in the Basque country in Northern Spain, right off the tree. Couldn’t quite believe it. They’re out of season now. But, I did use them in stuffed courgette (zucchini) and that turned out surprisingly well.
    -Lovely post, butw.

      • Haha, I knew what you meant Johnny! Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it. I’ve never eaten figs ripened in the Spanish sun, it sounds much more romantic than wrangling one from my neighbourhood shrub! Is your courgette recipe up on your site? I’ll definitely have to take a look at it… I’m loving the addition of fruit in savoury recipes right now; I tried some cinnamon-battered, fried calamari with cucumber, mint and candied orange rind last night. Surprisingly good, it’s messing with my mind!

      • I just commented on your original recipe post, but… wow. Those courgettes look absolutely amazing. It’s a flavour combination that I never would’ve invented in my mind, but I can imagine it must’ve been delicious! Definitely giving it a go.

      • As I’ve just responded the flavours are fairly subtle. I adore courgette/zucchini so I wanted to keep everything at about the same level of taste, if that makes sense. The melted Brie made all the difference. And I loved the slight crunchiness of the seeds of the figs. Hope it works out for you!

    • Yay, I do the same Brydie! And double yay, your bread tips did seriously help. My batch of sourdough starter is about three weeks old now, so I’m hoping that the second (or third, I can’t remember!) attempt will be even better. I’m also going to try and sprout some quinoa for added nutrition. I’ve got a bag of royal black quinoa in my cupboard right now, I reckon it’d be perfect (haha… then I can have black quinoa in my teeth, very attractive) xx

  4. I am so jealous. I love figs and it is so difficult to get fresh ones over here. And it is so pricey if they are available. I can only satisfy my cravings on the dried ones from turkey. Your photos are driving me crazy. Are they expensive at your side?

    • Aw, sorry to hear that Danny! The Turkish dried figs are pretty delicious… but completely different from fresh ones, unfortunately :( In terms of price, fresh figs vary quite a lot. I bought the ones for this post at AU$12 per kilo, which is relatively cheap, but I’ve seen them as cheap as AU$6 per kilo in peak season! If I thought they’d travel well, I’d definitely send you some!

      • Thank for the information on the price Laura. When is the peak season for figs in Australia? I’ve only tasted the fresh ones once. 4 figs at a price of USD$4! Not kidding. A dollar per fruit. It’s been a while. I can’t remember where is it from.

        Will be checking my mail box from now :-)

    • Thanks lovely. Yes, I definitely agree! I always cut them into thin wedges so it feels like I’m actually eating more, haha… not sure that my stomach is convinced though ;)

  5. Hi closet writer! This was a lovely post – more divine pictures and I loved the writing too. One of the reasons I love travelling is that often my favourite fruits – figs being one of them – are cheaper!

    • Hi lovely Gabriela! Haha, I like that moniker, I should use it (in what circumstance, I’m not sure, but I’m claiming it anyway!). I agree re traveling. It’s always nice to discover new foods that you can’t get back home as well… I still remember sampling mangosteen for the first time in Malaysia. And durian, though the latter left more of a… uh… negative impression on my mind! xx

  6. I felt like i traveled back in time with you, you’re such a fantastic writer! Your mum sounds amazing, how difficult it must have been. The figs look gorgeous, that shot the honey dribbling down the side had my belly rumbling. Beautiful blog, consider me a follower =]

    • Aw, thanks lovely. Yep, she’s definitely resilient, she seems to come through everything stronger than ever… she’s taught me a lot. Thanks for the follow and the encouragement. I feel the same about your blog, I’m looking forward to reading more recipes and stories from the Emma Louise vault! (P.S did you know there’s an Australian singer named Emma Louise? She’s amazing… as are you, for different reasons of course! Here’s a link:

      )

    • Aw, thanks lovely! I love figs too… they’re one of my favourite fruits :) This story is very close to my heart. For some reason, it just wrote itself in about five minutes… something about the timing was exactly right. Easiest blog post I’ve ever written!

  7. Hi Laura,
    thank you for stopping by on my blog – and making me find yours :) It’s so nice to see summery recipes and photos – it’s been freezing over here in the UK and I can’t wait to see the end of winter! These figs look amazing, I bet you could even wrap them in foil and throw them on the barbecue… Oh barbecues… Summer, please come to Europe next!
    x

    • Aw, thanks Anne… I’ll be praying that your Springtime arrives quickly! We’ve just progressed into Autumn over here in Australia. Not that that makes a huge amount of difference, weather-wise (it’s still hot and sunny!) but I am looking forward to some cooler weather so that I can enjoy the heat radiating from my oven again. Love the idea of barbecuing the figs in foil… I’ll definitely have to try that during our next outdoor cook-up xx

    • Aw thanks Brandi! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I definitely agree with you re rosemary. It’s such a lovely herb and I always make sure I have some in the fridge. I’ve recently started making rosemary syrup as well… so good in cocktails!! Yum!

  8. Wow… this is very much my style of cooking. Love this recipe! In Canada, figs are usually quite expensive. But there’s usually a one or two week window in the summer, where the price is reduced. So like a pack of wild animals; we go crazy and buy them all!!!

    I’ve bookmarked this one. I’ll let you know how it goes…. in July. (sigh…) ;)
    -JulieC

    • Aw. Well, just remember that in July we’ll be rugged up in blankets (okay, so it’ll be Aussie winter which is much milder but anyway…!) whilst you’re out in a t-shirt enjoying your sunblushed figs!! :) Whereabouts in Canada are you? I’ve only been to Nova Scotia (don’t ask!) but I have relatives in Vancouver. I’d love to visit one day. I keep seeing photos of how beautiful your country is!!

      • Ah, Nova Scotia. It’s actually on my to-do list! My mom is thinking of retiring over there- it just looks so peaceful. Vancouver is gorgeous too! I’ve been once. The mountains are breathtaking! You can see them from any distance. I’m from Montreal, Quebec! Not the most ‘beautiful’ place in Canada, but at least there’s ALWAYS something to do?! Haha.

      • It’s definitely peaceful… it’s been a few years now but I remember it very well. I’d love to visit Quebec! I’ve read so much about it, especially Montreal. Not that I speak any French (despite studying it at high school… I haven’t used it so it’s pretty much dwindled into greetings only). Hm, hopefully we’ll be able to visit some day soon x

  9. I didn’t really notice this post was about figs (I knew there was a recipe somewhere). I think I was intrigued by the sweet memories of you and your mom. Maybe because I have few and distant childhood memories of me and my mom together. I’ve been perusing food blogs for over a year now and I have to say this is the first fig recipe I’ve come across. Now I’ll have to collect figs from my aunt’s tree this summer and make something of it. I enjoyed reading your post. Great writing!

    • Thanks so much Liuba. Sorry to hear that you only have a few memories of you & your mother together… I’ve been lucky enough to spend my whole life with my mum and she’s truly one of my best friends :) Aw, lucky that your aunt has a fig tree you can raid! Definitely try this recipe… it’s easy, delicious and impressive as a party starter. So glad to have connected with you… love your blog also. Can’t wait to swap more recipes and stories with you x

  10. I can’t wait for figs to be back in season here in San Diego! I love them. This combination sounds divine :)

    • Hey Brandon! What time is it in the USA right now? It’s 7.30am here in Perth, Australia and I’m supposed to be leaving for work (oops). Figs are gorgeous, aren’t they? Both from an aesthetic and flavour point of view. Just checked out your most recent Paleo post. Those date and almond balls look pretty darn good! Thanks for taking the time out to comment :)

    • Hi lovely Epicurean! I definitely understand the ‘food envy’ thing… that’s one of the drawbacks of international blogging I think. I’ve been envying those eating nourishing soups, hot puddings and pies by the fireside as we’ve sweltered through our ridiculously hot Summer!! I wish I could send you a box of figs before the end of our season (though, they might be in an unfavourable condition by the time they get to France!). Thanks so much for the comment! x

  11. Pingback: Picnics and Caramelised Onion Foccacia « Laura's Mess

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