Tag Archives: Fig Vinegar

Figs

 

Figs evoke such wonderful memories…

 

Fig tree - 2

To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. (Elizabeth David)

The beautiful big fig tree down by the creek at our old family home – we always knew that if the creek flooded in the spring and/or summer that we would have a wonderful crop. Then there is the Christmas cake and pudding that I make every year, that has a jar of fig jam included in the recipe – I am happy to say it is always fig jam from our store cupboard. And who could forget a day at the races in the country, with my beautiful friend Sophia, where a platter scattered with fresh figs, feta, walnuts and prosciutto, drizzled with honey was handed around to get the day started. This is where I totally fell in love with the flavour of the fresh fig.

Freshly picked figs - 4

A great fig should look like it’s just about to burst its skin. When squeezed lightly it should give a little and not spring back. It must be almost unctuously sweet, soft and wet. (Yotam Ottolenghi)

We both have very fond memories of our time with an elderly couple in France where I received some of the best advice ever. Over breakfast, we were talking about the fruit grown on their property and how it was stored… Genevieve told me that the apples were stored in the old stone chapel across the way, and, in fact, we were eating the last of what they had stored away from last season for our breakfast. I asked, what to do with excess figs, apart from drying them or making jam etc. She told me that she just threw them in a bag in the freezer, then whenever she was cooking a roast, she would grab a few out and scatter them around the roast as it cooked – she assured me that they would keep their shape and not become mush, and she was spot on!

So whenever anyone asks if I could use some figs, I never turn them down. I bring them home, wash them, and throw them in a bag in the freezer.

This year I don’t know how many kilograms we have received, but I recently weighed what is left and there are still 11 kilograms frozen and waiting for me to use. I follow Genevieve’s advice and toss them around a roast, but I also take them out and dehydrate them. Occasionally I grab a few, slit them down squish in some feta and wrap them in prosciutto, grill them and then scatter with some toasted walnut and drizzle with a little honey or fig vinegar glaze.

Last week the weather turned very wintery providing the perfect opportunity to use some of the figs from the freezer, together with some dried figs and fig vinegar. This Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds was the perfect warming meal on such a bleak, cold day. The pork just fell apart and was perfect with all the sticky figiness!

Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds

This delicious winter warmer was inspired by the onset of winter and the need for some yummy comfort food - the thought of combining some delicious Coltish Pork with figs and fig products I had been making over the last month or so seemed obvious!

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pork neck
  • 150g diced onion
  • 80g diced celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup fig vinegar
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • ¼ cup dried figs, diced
  • 2 cups pork stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 150˚C.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, pound the fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt to a powder.
  3. Cut the pork neck into four even sized, thick slices and season lightly with the spice powder.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy based, ovenproof pan or casserole and fry the slices of pork in two batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from pon and set aside.
  5. To the same pan, add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender. Add the remaining spice powder and stir.
  6. Turn up the heat and the fig vinegar and diced fig, stirring to deglaze the pan. Cook until the fig vinegar has reduced by half, then reduce the heat, and stir in the sage.
  7. Place the pork in a single layer in the pan, add the stock and bring back to the boil.
  8. Cover with the lid and place in the preheated oven for 1½ – 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  9. When the meat is cooked. Remove it to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  10. Skim the fat from the juices in the pan, then place the pan over a medium heat to reduce the sauce to a nice syrupy consistency.
  11. Serve hot with steamed greens, creamy mash potato, and if you wish, some grilled fresh figs.

Notes:

  • Source: SBA’s Kitchen
  • If you do not have pork stock, I would suggest using chicken stock.
  • I prefer to purchase the pork neck in the piece and portion it myself, but you could ask your butcher to do this for you.
  • If you do not have fig vinegar, try using a combination of cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
  • I love to support our local farmers, so purchase my pork from Coltish Pork. It is wonderful to get to know the producer and become friends with those who are providing such a wonderful quality of product to work with.

 

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Finally just this weekend we had our great friends, Caitlin and Paul visit, and to start a long, leisurely evening meal we prepared a Salade de Chevre et Figues. I love it so much when our guests join in the food preparation – I had such fun cooking and chatting and catching up.

Of course there is always a good supply of figs waiting in the freezer so that I can make another batch of fig vinegar, which is fast replacing balsamic vinegar in a lot of dishes in our meals.

Until next time…

Happy cooking & bon appétit!

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Generous Gifts

I love coming up with new recipes to highlight new produce, and this weekend we received a wonderful gift of home-cured meats from a friend. Mike, Chris and Mon, our son’s future in-laws, visited from Melbourne and came bearing beautiful gifts, including beautiful flowers, some wonderful wine and Mike’s cured meats.

The flowers went straight onto the table, they were so pretty, and the meats were put to good use as the foundation of a couple of amazing anitpasto platters, one as a starter to our evening meal, the other for a light lunch on the terrace.

Meal times were wonderful chatty affairs and we spent a lot of time getting to know each other better, talking about family, funny experiences, food and gardening. Previously we only seemed to catch up at family gatherings where there was little or no time to talk and get to know each other.

On Saturday while they went visiting, I took the opportunity to race into the local farmer’s market -I wanted a little something to send home with them, and the vegie patch is really not quite up to speed at the moment. I also needed to top up our supplies of Wuk Wuk steak.

When they returned they came bearing another gift, a wonderful heritage apple tree for our garden, a Ribston Pippin – another lovely thoughtful gift. Ribston Pippin - Feature ImageI have already worked out where it is going to live and how it will be espaliered… We were so pleased to be able to give them a bag of fresh local produce – potatoes, beetroot, zucchini, corn, eggs, etc. as well as rhubarb from our garden and some Jalapeno Chili and Sprouting Broccoli seedlings. But after they left I was kicking myself, as I also wanted to give them some preserves from the store! Oh well, next time, they will be returning in March to help with some repairs to our home, and there are some cooking projects on the agenda as well.

Now… I wanted something different to cook to highlight one of Mike’s cured meats. Inspired by a recipe Endives Rôties au Roquefort, Chips de Jambon from Saveurs no 234 p59, I created Roasted Belgian Endive (Witlof) with Shadows of Blue Cheese and Mike’s Prosciutto, a recipe highlighting a luscious, creamy local blue cheese, Mike’s amazing prosciutto, and my fig vinegar. It’s a wonderful entrée with the bitterness of the endive, the crispness of the prosciutto, the creamyness of the cheese, the salt from both, and the sweetness of the fig vinegar all complementing each other.

This is a recipe that will definitely be reappearing on our table in the future.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

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