Dog walk figs

Foraging for figs
Foraging for figs
Foraging for figsForaging for figsForaging for figs
Foraging for figs
Foraging for figsForaging for figsForaging for figsForaging for figs, fig breadForaging for figs, fig bread
"Is that a fig tree?," I ask Duncan as we walk our energetic eight-month-old Border Collie Kelpie cross, Walt along Nundle Creek. I make a bee-line for the tree and I am ecstatic when I see it is covered in miniature, virescent green figs...albeit hard as rocks. I wonder if they are going to ripen and make a promise to myself to keep watch on this potential bounty.  
About a month later, after being swept up by our beachside holiday, children returning to school, swimming carnivals, and Sydney trips buying stock for the shop, I check on the figs. It is a gnarly tangle of trunk and branches, perched on the elbow of a creek, left to its own devices. No fertiliser, pesticide, pruning, bird netting or watering - although it probably has its roots in the creek and underground water.
I write on Instagram, 'I've been keeping watch on a wild fig tree on our Walt (dog) walking route. Today as we approached the tree my heart soared; dotted on the tree were plump figs, the perfect shade of green and brown. Breaking one open with my fingers and biting into the flesh confirmed they are RIPE. This is what I could carry in my t-shirt. Tomorrow I'm going back with a bucket.'

I'm glad there is not a lot of passing traffic as I set off on our morning dog walk, crossing a fence and walking with a step ladder under my arm. We are rewarded though as I reach high for the most appealing figs, thinking 'Don't overbalance, they're not worth breaking a bone for." Another part of my brain replies, 'Yes, they are.' I return home, happy with my haul of fresh figs, enough to have a play with, eating them fresh with yoghurt, baking them drizzled with honey to stir through porridge, and softening and freezing a few bags of figs.

As soon as I pick the figs I start thinking of recipes I can make. The first recipe that comes to mind is Sophie Hansen's Fig frangipane tart from her book 'Local is Lovely'. Sophie has a similar recipe for Plum frangipane tart on her blog, plus recipes for Fig and goat's curd galette, and Fig and hazlenut cobbler. Sophie posted on Figs, honey labne and rosemary crackers this week.

The second recipe I want to make is a step back in time. I was introduced to Fugazza di fichi - Sweet Venetian fig bread nearly 20 years ago in my mid twenties, when I was on staff at Country Style magazine reporting on an Italian Country Cooking school hosted by food writer and stylist Elise Pascoe in the Southern Highlands. I used to make fig bread often, usually with dried figs. It is an unusual dish to share with friends, served with a wedge of parmesan cheese and sliced pear, and perfect as part of an antipasto platter. This time I use fresh figs, enjoying the nostalgia trip remembering writing about the cooking school, and occasions when I've made the bread aiming to impress my future in-laws.

For the next few weeks when we walk Walt, the fig tree will be a daily pit stop. There are still plenty of green figs to ripen and we'll happily bring home a few each day. 

Postscript. A day after writing this I received an email compilation of fig recipes from Gourmet Traveller here.

Sweet Venetian fig bread - Elise Pascoe

What you need: 3 eggs, 150g castor sugar, 6 tbsp Grand Marnier or Kirsch, 75g unsalted butter, softened, 300ml milk, 400g plain flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, pinch salt, 200g dried figs, soaked in warm water 10-20 minutes until soft (or 200g firm fresh figs), 100g raisins, soaked in warm water 10 minutes, icing sugar for dusting.

What you do: Grease and line a 25cm spring form pan. Pre-heat oven to 180C (I have a hot oven so I reduce temp to 150C). Beat eggs and sugar until frothy. Add liqueur, then butter and mix well. Add milk and mix. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt.

Drain figs and raisins. Chop figs. Dredge fruits through dry ingredients, then fold through cake mixture. Pour batter into pan and smooth surface. Bake in the centre of the oven for 45-60 minutes, or until cake shrinks from the edge of the pan and is firm to touch. If the cake starts to darken more than you'd like, finish cooking with tin foil over the top of the pan.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Sift icing sugar over the top before serving. Cut into wedges and serve with a wedge of parmesan cheese and sliced fresh pears or grapes.

 

  

Megan Trousdale
Megan Trousdale

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