Tag Archives: figs

Red Wine Poached Figs Baked with Fourme D’Ambert

27 Feb

I could eat these figs all day. They are sensuous, sweet, sticky, salty, just a little burnt… totally delectable. I created them for the O’Gourmet Food Hall wine tasting, and they were paired with (and poached in) a Luberri 2009. The figs interacted extremely well with the wine, opening it up and accenting its unique properties.

This is an easy dish to prepare, as long as you take your time, and are aware of the quality of ingredients. I used large, soft Turkish dried figs to start with, and slowly poached them in a bottle of red wine until they were succulent and very soft. I then drained them, and allowed them to cool for a few hours.

When they were ready, I split them sideways, and stuffed them with a dream of a cheese: one of the oldest French cheeses, Fourme d’Ambert. This blue is nutty, semi-hard and complex. Its manufacture dates back to Roman times, and it has an ageless grace and elegance. Baked stuffed in the figs, the cheese goes soft and slightly burnt around the edges, capturing and contrasting with the sticky sweetness of the figs. Fourme d’Ambert also has wine notes, so it also picks up and amplifies the flavours of the wine the figs have been poached in.

These gorgeous babies can be prepared a few hours in advance, and still be incredibly delicious. I must admit though, they are phenomenal straight out of the oven, with the Fourme d’Ambert bubbling away, and the scent of wine and cheese tantalising. I would serve a few with a bitter salad as a starter.

I made 20 figs for the wine tasting. Do adjust to your own crowd 😉

Red Wine Poached Fig baked with Fourme d'Ambert

  • 20 large, soft dried Turkish figs
  • 1 bottle Luberri 2009 (or other complex red Spanish wine)
  • 300 g Fourme d’Ambert (or other semi-hard blue cheese)

Place the figs in a large saucepan. Cover the figs with wine, and bring to the boil over medium high heat. As soon as the wine is boiling, turn the heat down to medium low, and poach / simmer the figs for at least 20 – 30 minutes or until very soft and yielding.

Drain the figs out of the wine (reserve the wine for the optional sauce below), and leave to cool for at least 2 – 3 hours, or even over night.

Preheat the oven to 180C (360 F). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a scissors or very sharp knife, split the figs in half side ways – though if you really want to do it top to tail, who am I to stop you?

Stuff about a tablespoon of cheese in the centre of each fig, and place the fig on the baking sheet, stem side up.

Once you have stuffed all the figs, bake in the hot oven for 5 – 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted, and is bubbly and starts to burn just around the edges. The wine soaked figs will also become shiny and sticky.

Serve hot, or at room temperature.

These figs will keep for 2 – 3 days, covered in the fridge. To serve, bring to room temperature.

For optional wine glaze:

If you are serving the figs as a starter, you could glaze them with a reduction of red wine.

  • Remaining wine from poaching figs
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp balsamic

In a medium saucepan, combine the wine, cinnamon, honey and balsamic. Simmer over medium low heat until reduced to a thick shiny glaze. Taste and adjust seasoning. Drizzle over figs just before serving.

Wine Tasting + Tapas at O’Gourmet Food Hall

25 Feb

Last night was really exciting in my adventures as a cook. M. Sebastien had been after me for some time to create some food pairings for his monthly wine tastings at O’Gourmet Food Hall. It was a tasting of Spanish reds … and M. Sebastien was intrigued by the notion that vegetarian food could be paired well with such bold strong wines. When people think of red wine, they almost immediately think of red meats – robust, dark and complex flavours.

M. Sebastien challenged me to think up a menu that would complement his red wines which steadily built in terms of taste and complexity. We went through the list together, and he told me the spices, notes, flavours and depth of each wine. I came up with a food pairing that I felt would match and bring out the unique attributes of the wine. Together, we refined the flavours, and discussed the cheese I would cook with (three of the courses had cheese in the recipe).

In my life as a cook, this was a daunting, and yet ultimately satisfying project. I had 24 hours to cook for 20 people, I helped to serve all the courses, and enjoyed the positive feedback and interaction. I never would have imagined I could do something like this a mere six months ago, but I have been stretched to challenge myself – by good friends and loved ones – and it has paid off.

I will post the recipes for all five courses in the coming few days, but I thought you might like to take a glance at the menu from last night.

O’Gourmet does wine tastings every month. Please contact them here to be put on the mailing list for further events. Who knows, I might be cooking again!

Santonegro Syrah 2008 – A light wine, simple and fresh.

Paired with tapenade on crusty french bread toasts. I brushed the sliced french bread with a mixture of Maldon salt, garlic and organic olive oil and baked it in the oven. The tapenade was a gorgeous mixture of black olives, green olives, organic olive oil, caper berries, a touch of garlic, and grated lemon peel. The lemon peel elevated the flavour and made the tapenade sparkle.

Tapenade on crusty french bread

Gotes 2009 – interesting palette, contrasting flavours.

Paired with red peppers and goat’s cheese feta with smoked paprika. The red peppers were marinated overnight in herbs, garlic, olive oil and a touch of old balsamic. They were then enriched by the deep dark notes of smoked paprika.

Peppers with Feta and Smoked Paprika

Luberri 2009 – a unique open taste – people have strong opinions about this wine as it stands up to you.

Paired with Turkish figs poached in red wine and baked with fourme d’ambert. These gorgeous dried figs were poached until they were velvety and succulent, split open and baked with a beautiful french blue cheese. The taste was a fascinating melding of sweet and salty, sticky and sensuous.

Wine Poached Figs baked with Fourme D'Ambert blue


QV Crianza 2005 – a fantastic wine, organic, deeply lush and beautiful.

Paired with a caramelised garlic and raclette tart baked with a light custard. The caramelised onions were cooked for four and half hours, in a bottle of the QV Crianza, until they were dark and sticky, almost an onion jam. They were then baked in a butter puff pastry shell, with a light kiss of savoury custard and some smooth raclette to finish.

Caramelised Wine Onion Tarts with Raclette

Humiliat 2008 – a wine that starts out closed, but opens up into complex and deep flavours.

Paired with a chili chocolate mousse with vanilla whipped cream. The chocolate mousse was made with pure bittersweet chocolate, and I made sure not to add too much sugar. However, the whipped cream gave it balance, adding sweetness and creaminess to the final taste. The chili brought everything alive, and added fire and passion.

Chili Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream



O’ Gourmet Goat’s Milk Cheese Ice Cream (with a Fig Mangosteen Ripple!)

9 Dec

I love goat’s milk cheese. It has an incredible, lush richness, and a particular ripe tang that comes from the flavour of the milk. Its made in a huge variety of forms, from soft spreadable cheese to firm cheese that melts beautifully. It is one of the earliest known forms of dairy products, and there is something very intense and primal for me about goat’s cheese. From Greek feta to the multiple varieties of French chevre, goat’s milk cheese is always intriguing and wonderful to cook with. I particularly love a good soft chevre, accompanied by dried of fresh figs, spread on toasted french bread. This woman can definitely live on cheese alone!

Given my adoration of goat’s milk cheese, it shouldnt be surprising that I have been wanting to make a goat’s milk cheese ice cream for ages. Ice cream is a pretty simple recipe – eggs, milk, sugar – and the addition of whatever flavourings you wish. I had an intense conversation with M. Sebastien of O’Gourmet Food Hall, and he suggested a Pave de Jadis – a soft chevre, with a thick, fudgy consistency. A tad sweet, slightly tangy, with a hint of lemon, pave de jadis literally translates as “paving stone” and gets its name from the ash which covers the brick of cheese. Its a French cheese, made in the Loire valley, and it tastes of springtime, of green grass pastures and sunshine. Its gorgeous and bright, and its soft texture is perfect for making ice cream.

As I spoke with M. Sebastien, I decided that I wanted to elevate this ice cream by adding a ripple of contrasting flavour through it. I decided on dried fruit that had been poached in white wine. I first thought of a Sauternes or other sweet wine, but M. Sebastien suggested a very beautiful, light and crisp De Martino Sauvignon Blanc from the Maipo Valley of Chile. This is an organic wine, and it was perfect. It paired perfectly with the cheese as well as the fruit, and brought out the lemony notes in the ice cream. I am going to use it to poach mango with peppercorns as well (but that is for tomorrow…).

Meanwhile, I needed to find my fruit. I decided to use dried fruit because the sugar in dried fruit would add a sweet note, and confirm that this is a dessert ice cream rather than a savoury one. Dried figs from Turkey seemed to be perfect, voluptuous and golden, bursting with jammy honeyed ripeness… but then my interest was caught. O’Gourmet has a large and amazingly exciting selection of dried organic fruits that are very Malaysian – rambutan, lychee… and mangosteen! I tasted everything, and fell in love at first bite with the mangosteen. Dried mangosteen. Have you ever heard of such a gorgeous idea? All the honey mango peach tastes of the mangosteen are highlighted and intensified. Its totally delicious, and I decided then and there to mix the fig and mangosteen into the ripple.

Because I wanted a taste testing that was as broad as possible, I decided to make two batches of the ice cream – one with a fig mangosteen ripple that had been poached in the De Martino wine, and the other a ripple in which the dried fruits had been poached in a Pear and Elderflower Presse by Belvoir Fruit Farms. This sparkling juice had the same crispness and brightness as the wine, though it was a little sweeter. It gave me the chance to make a non-alcholic version of the ice cream for those who choose not to consume alcohol. Lovely!

This recipe is actually incredibly easy to make, its just that the ingredients are exotic and beautiful. Treat them with a lot of care and respect, and plan ahead. The ripple can be made up to a week ahead and stored in the fridge. The ice cream custard needs to be made at least four hours before you decide to churn the ice cream, and the ice cream must be churned at least 12 hours before you serve it to give the flavours time to ripen and bloom in the freezer. It is a dramatic and gorgeous presentation, and will intrigue and challenge your guests. I will be serving it with fresh mango lightly poached in white wine and peppercorns, which is a memory from one of my favourite restaurants from long ago… but more on that next time.

Meanwhile, enjoy this ice cream. I think its a wonderful introduction to the seductive goodness, the natural deliciousness of goat’s milk. It has an almost cheesecake flavour, and is very dense, rich and thick. Its not too sweet, and definitely reflects the quality of the cheese you choose to use – so choose well! Enjoy!

Makes 1 quart

with De Martino Wine

Fig Mangosteen Ripple

Obviously, if you cannot find dried mangosteen, you could just add more figs, or think up your own decadent combination. Dried cranberries and blueberries might be gorgeous here. Sun dried tomatoes would also be pretty wonderfully wild.

  • 1/2 cup (about 100 g) dried figs
  • 1/2 cup (about 100 g) dried mangosteen
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine (I used De Martino Sauvignon Blanc) – for the non alcoholic version, use 1 cup of sparkling juice (I used Pear & Elderflower Presse by Belvoir Fruit Farms)

Chop the dried fruit into small chunks. I used a scissors, and just cut the fruit into small bits right over the saucepan.

Place the fruit and the wine in a small saucepan, and on the lowest heat possible, poach the fruit in the wine. You want the liquid to be just simmering, never boiling. The liquid will plump up the fruit, and the fruit will absorb almost all of the wine. When the mixture becomes a sticky, gooey paste (about 10 – 15 minutes depending on your heat source), let cool and store covered until you are ready to ripple it into the ice cream.

This also makes an amazing topping for ice cream on its own. Very seasonally apt too!


Goat’s Cheese Ice Cream

  • 2 1/2 cups milk/cream mixture. I used 1 cup of goat’s milk to 1 1/2 cups of cream. But you be the judge on how rich you want it! I also keep an additional 1/2 cup milk/cream for thinning out the mixture just before it goes into the ice cream maker – sometimes, the custard can be just a tad too cheesy
  • 1/3 + 1/3 cup of caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks (reserve the whites for other uses – making macaroons may be?)
  • 7 oz (about 200 g) soft fresh goat’s milk cheese (I used Pave de Jadis) – make sure it is a soft, fudgy, fresh cheese
  • Pinch of sea salt

Place the milk/cream and 1/3 cup of caster sugar in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk together to combine, and heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 175F on a thermometer, or until it just begins to steam, and bubbles begin to form on the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. I always use an electric stand mixer for this because I really want to incorporate the eggs and the sugar into a creamy whole. Use whatever youve got though, but make sure to beat for at least 3 – 5 minutes, until the eggs are light and lemony coloured, and thick in consistency.

Take the milk mixture off the heat, and add about 1/3 to the egg mixture, stirring well all the while. Once you have tempered the eggs, add the rest of the milk, slowly, stirring constantly.

Crumble the goat’s milk cheese into a large bowl and set aside.

Place the egg/milk mixture back into the pan, and cook for a further few minutes, until the mixture becomes a custard. It will thicken and coat the back of a spoon. When you draw a line through the custard on the spoon, the line will hold. The temperature will be about 175F.

Have two bowls ready, one with the crumbled goat’s milk cheese at the bottom, and a good sieve.

Take the custard off the heat, and pour through the sieve onto the crumbled goat’s milk cheese. Once all the custard has been sieved, allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, while the heat of the custard softens and melts the cheese. Mix well, using the edge of your spatula to break up the chunks of cheese.

Sieve a second time into a second bowl, ensuring that the cheese has incorporated into the custard. Taste and adjust the level of milk/cream. Sometimes I add a further 1/2 cup of cream at this stage if the cheese is too tangy and overwhelming.

Sieve a third and final time to ensure total smoothness of the mixture. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When you are ready to make ice cream, taste the cold custard. I usually will stir in a pinch of fleur de sel (or Maldon) to just highlight all the different flavours – the sweet, tangy, creamy all benefit from just a pinch of salt. Pour the custard into the ice cream maker, and follow manufacturers instructions.

With Fig Mangosteen Ripple

Goat’s Milk Cheese Ice Cream with a Fig Mangosteen Ripple

  • 1 quart goat’s milk cheese ice cream
  • Fig mangosteen ripple

Once the ice cream has been churned, you need to work very quickly. Have clean containers ready, a good spatula, a spoon, and the dried fruit ripple.

Scoop out about half of the churned ice cream into the container. Spoon over the dried fruit ripple, going right to the edge, and then scoop over the remaining ice cream. Smooth over the top with the spatula and freeze for about 1 – 2 hours until semi-firm.

Using a knife, ripple the ice cream so that the dried fruit is swirled throughout. You choose if you want it really mixed in or you want large chunks of fruit ripple sitting in the immaculate pale white ice cream.

Freeze overnight to allow the flavours and depth of contrast to blossom.

Enjoy this elegant, unique creation with those you adore 🙂

Port Wine Poached Figs Oven Roasted with Cashel Blue

25 Jul

Figs roasted in port wine with Cashel BlueAs I have written before, I am being inspired by things all around me. Recently, I read a post on Facebook about oven roasted figs with a gorgonzola sauce and thought, hmmmm, I want to do that! But of course, I wanted to work with what I had, and I wanted to make it perfect for my taste. This dish seems to be “high-falutin gourmet food” (as my friend Jobby said), but actually, its so easy to make, and so dramatic and beautiful to present. I adore figs – they have a luscious, sensual earthy appeal. They are perfect just as they are, but add port wine, a touch of spice, and some deep oven roasting and you get ambrosia. These can be served as starters or main courses, and one per person with a bitter green salad is perfection. Though the greedy ones in your family might demand more, so be prepared!

You could actually make these with dried figs, especially because of all the poaching in wine. But I prefer fresh figs… there is something so inspiring about these deep purple swollen fleshy fruits. And obviously, something downright sexy. I used to really dislike figs, but as I grew older, they somehow just grew on me. I am still not a fan of dried figs – the intensity of all that flesh and sugarsweet is just not for me. But fresh figs have a unique place amongst fruit, and they are surprisingly good for you too – a rich source of potassium, dietary fibre, and manganese. That, and they are yummmmmmy.

This recipe is really easy. You dont even need measurements, though if you are a stickler, I have given you some broad strokes. Work with what you have. Port wine for me, juice for you and red wine for someone else. Add or subtract things you like and dont like. Figs are precious. Make them as YOU want them, not someone else!

For 4 people you will need:

  • 4 – 8 figs
  • 4 cups (2+1+1) port wine (you could make this up in a variety of ways – port wine + red wine + a berry based fruit juice or use all of one or a mix)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice (or cinnamon or nutmeg)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp old balsamico vinegar
  • 1 tsp Cashel blue (or other blue cheese) per fig

In a large saucepan or frying pan, over medium-high heat, poach the figs in 2 cups of port wine and 1 cup of water for about 20 minutes. You want the figs to plump up and the port wine to reduce by at least half. If you are using dried figs, add about half an hour of poaching time, at a slightly lower heat. You can leave them largely unattended, though it is nice manners to go over a few times, and bathe them in juices 🙂 About 10 minutes in, sprinkle over the mixed spice.

When the figs look lovely and thick and plump, take them out, and transfer to a heatproof serving pan. Try and get the figs to fit just nicely in the pan – something too big will make the gorgeous juices dissipate and possibly burn. Leave to cool for a moment.

Meanwhile, pour another cup of port wine, or some juice, into the bubbling thickened juices from the poaching. Boil this down to a very thick jammy sauce. As it thickens, stir in the butter to give more body, and taste – you might want it a bit peppery or slightly more spicy. If so, adjust accordingly. Set aside to serve with the figs.

Using a kitchen scissors, cut the figs open from the top. I usually cut them with one “half” bigger than the other, and then split this “half” in two, so I have a three petaled fig. Open up the fig, and drizzle some very old very delicious balsamic vinegar in the centre. Pour the remaining port wine into the pan, and oven roast the figs for about 30 minutes, in a 180C preheated oven.

Take the figs out of the oven, and switch on the broiler. Stuff the figs with a teaspoon (or more if youre feeling wealthy!) of Cashel blue (or Stilton or other blue cheese), and broil for 5 minutes or so or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Serve with a walnut and rocket salad, with the port wine sauce on the side.