A happy fig tree can produce hundreds of fruit, so how best to use them all up?
Istared wide-eyed at the fig tree on the patio: this Aeolian tree was like none I’d seen before. It was heavy with a thousand fruits, and filled the air with an intoxicating aroma, accentuated by the balmy heat. I picked the most bulbous fig I could find and took a bite. The flesh was jammy and sweet, yet also refreshing. I ate another and another, gorging like a bird preparing for migration, even though we were only hiking up a volcano.
A glut of figs can be turned into a million and one different desserts, and are at their simplest just dried in the sun. The leaves make an exquisite ice-cream, simply by infusing them with the milk, while under-ripe fruits work beautifully when preserved in sugar. Today’s galette works with either slightly green or very ripe figs.
Fig, radicchio, blue cheese and walnut galette
The ancient Egyptians discovered foie gras after noticing how geese and other birds gorged on figs and other crops in preparation for their annual migration, causing the birds’ livers to become enriched and unctuous. When I first saw the abundant plump and ripe figs on an Aeolian tree, it helped me make sense of this history.
While dreaming up today’s recipe, I thought of the many different ways there are to enjoy a squishy, ripe fig: simply roasted with goat’s cheese, honey and marjoram, boiled into jam, cooked into a chicken tagine, caramelised in tarte tatin … A galette is a rustic and thrifty tart made from a round of pastry that is folded in on itself to create a border. This gets over the usual problem of wasting the offcuts when trimming the pastry to fit its casing. I love to make galettes both for this reason, for their sheer casualness and for the fact they are so quick and easy to prepare.
For the pastry
85g cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
125g wholemeal spelt (or wheat) flour
60ml cold water
For the filling
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
50g whole walnuts
150g blue cheese, crumbled
50g radicchio, shredded
1 sprig rosemary, leaves stripped
6 figs, quartered
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6.
In a medium bowl, stir the cold diced butter into the wholemeal flour, then add the cold water and mix until the pastry comes together into a homogenous ball. Working quickly to avoid the butter melting, roll out the pastry on a floured surface into a large rectangle. Fold one side of the dough in by one third, then fold the other third over the top, so that you have three layers. Roll out the sheet again, then repeat the folding process. Transfer the pastry to a tub with a lid and refrigeratefor at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in heavy-based frying pan over a medium-low heat, then add the sliced onion and saute slowly for 15 minutes, or until golden and caramelised.
Roll the chilled pastry on a floured surface into a rough circle about the thickness of a £1 coin, then, using the rolling pin, carefully lift it on to a cold baking tray.
Crumble half the blue cheese into the caramelised onions, then spread this mix evenly on top of the pastry all the way up to the edges. Scatter the walnuts and shredded radicchio over the top. Quarter the figs and arrange them on top up to 5cm from the edges. Fold the edges of the pastry up and over some of the onion mixture so it forms a 4-5cm-wide border. Pick the leaves off the rosemary sprig, scatter them over the top, then scatter over the remaining crumbled blue cheese. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar all over the galette, then bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot or cold with salad leaves.