There was a glut of fresh figs on our market during the autumn and I was able to buy a whole tray really inexpensively. My family could eat a whole tray in one sitting and these were particularly sweet and soft, but I squirrelled a few away so I could try this wonderful sounding dish. At the same time on the market there were the last of the years peaches and nectarines, a little hard and not easy to ripen, so not especially good for eating, but ideal for cooking which brings out their flavour beautifully. A good reminder of the last of summer.
My starting point for this recipe came from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson and had the exotic sounding name: Figs for 1001 Nights. I gently grilled the fruits in the spiced butter as in the original recipe but using peaches as well as figs. An alternative would be to pop them briefly in a hot oven, but I would only do this if I already had the oven on to cook something else – flash grilling is fine. Nigella used a little rosewater and orange flower water in her basting mixture. I used the orange flower but although I had the rose water in my cupboard I left it out as my daughter sadly dislikes the traditional rose turkish delight flavour. I do have a bottle of rose syrup in the cupboard, however, so I used this as a pouring sauce for those of us who do like it. (As an alternative she used a little honey, which proved equally as good as honey and figs are also a good match.) Rose syrup is a lovely item to have in the cupboard and is delicious with rhubarb and yoghurt, or poured over ice cream, however it is very sweet so I suggest it is used sparingly at first as it can be quite overpowering. I have some sachets of vanilla sugar, bought on holiday in France, with one being just about 1 tbsp. If this is not available then substitute granulated sugar and a very small amount of vanilla extract, one or two drops maximum.
Grilled Figs & Peaches
(Serves 6 – 6 figs & 6 peaches/nectarines)
1 fresh fig per person (or 2 smaller ones)
1 fresh peach or nectarine per person
25 g unsalted butter
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tbsp granulated sugar & 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
½tsp orange flower water
50 g pistachio nuts, chopped
Rose syrup, to drizzle – to taste or honey
1. Preheat the grill on a high heat – alternatively use an oven set to a high heat, at least 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.
2. Carefully cut the figs with a cross shape as if quartering them but do not cut righ through to the bottom and then gently press each fig. They should look like four petalled flowers.
3. Cut the peaches or nectarines into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing the stones.
4. Place the opened figs and peach/nectarine pieces in a snugly fitting single layer in a heatproof dish.
5. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a glass microwave proof bowl or jug. Stir in the cinnamon, sugar and orange flower water until the sugar has dissolved. If you are using rose water rather than syrup, as in the original recipe, add it at this point (½tsp should be enough). Stir well and baste the figs and peaches/nectarines.
6. Place under the hot grill or into the oven for just a few minutes. The fruit should warm through slightly and the skins should start to blister from the heat. Beware leaving too long, especially if oven cooked, as the fruit can become over soft and could also burn.
7. Serve immediately giving each person two figs and one peach or nectarine (either two or four pieces depending on how they have been cut. Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and pour over the brown cooking juices and a drizzle of rose syrup (if you have not used rose water in the cooking mixture) or honey. Finally sprinkle over some chopped green pistachio nuts.