The other day, my friend Liesel came over bearing gifts, late summer presents from her garden, pears and figs. Two pears have since been consumed, but the ripe figs required a little more detailed attention. What do you do with a kilo of figs, if you’re not really interested in making jam? Easy, you make chutney!
Searching online for a recipe, I came across the website of Traci Antonovich aka “The Kitchen Girl“. Low and behold, her most recent post was titled Serrano Spiced Fig Jam – auspicious, right? Developing my own recipe with ingredients I happened to have around, I was nevertheless heavily leaning on The Kitchen Girl’s recipe. Thank you, Traci!
First Chapter: FIGUES AIGRE-DOUX
Let’s get the ingredient list out of the way, shall we?
- 50 ml blood orange juice, freshly pressed if possible
- 1 Kg ripe figs, trimmed and quartered
- 2 Espelette chiles, seeds & ribs removed, sliced thinly
- 1 heaped tsp grated ginger plus 1 chunk about 2 x 2 x 1 cm
- 1 heaped tsp grated lemon zest
- 20 g light brown sugar, or less to taste
- 0.5 tsp of powdered cinnamon, or more to taste
- pinch of salt
- 0.5 tsp powdered Curcuma [Turmeric]
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 20 g butter
For a spice package to be cooked with the figs, you need a Tbsp of toasted coriander seeds, 5 cloves, and a small thyme & laurel bundle.
Slicing and dicing all these ingredients is a little annoying, but once you’ve assembled everything the rest is a breeze. Start out by toasting the coriander seeds at medium-low temperature, which then go with the other aromatics in the flexible rubber turkey leg or any more boring spice satchel you have at hand. Then pour the orange juice into the still hot pan [watch for the splash!] and immediately add the figs and chiles. Now turn the heat all the way down and relax. Stir the pot lazily while incorporating ingredients 4. through 8.
Gently simmering, let it all turn into a soupy slush, occasionally scraping the sides and bottom of the pot while excess moisture evaporates. Oh, I almost forgot, put the turkey leg in the center of the fig soup and turn it ever so often to release the aromas.
While we’re hanging out in the kitchen, let me tell you about the Piment d’Espelette, the bright red peppers we’re using in this recipe.
These pretty chiles are fairly spicy, but a lot milder than Serranos. They are cultivated, who da thunk it, in Espelette, a town in the Basque Country not all that far from us in the SW of France, right in the Pyrenees mountains separating France from Spain.
The region is very beautiful
with many small villages where one finds local specialties like yaourt au lait de brebis [incredibly creamy sheep-milk jogurt] to be enjoyed with a dollop of rich, black cherry preserve, also a regional product. As you see in the close-up above, the chiles carry the AOP label [Appellation d’Origine Protégée] which means that only the Espelette community may sell peppers under this name.
And, if you will indulge me, staying with these chiles a little while longer …
DO NOT PROCESS THEM WITHOUT GLOVES! The scorched skin capsaicin effects are NOT pleasant.
Once you are satisfied with the consistency of your chutney, add ingredients 9. through 12.
Then turn off the heat and let your chutney rest for a little bit before ladling it into jars or similar.
Second Chapter: MORNING GLORY* CHEESE PIE with FIG CHUTNEY
Now that we have all that lovely chutney, what are we going to do with it?
As we also happen to have a large, hairy sweet potato and a nice chunk of reblochon melty cheese, we might as well bake a deep dish pie. I’m a notoriously inept baker, but as silly as my creations look, they do usually taste alright.
We recently bought a fancy new kitchen machine and I’m still learning how to use it. Our lovely Morning Glory project thus offered both kneading and slicing teaching moments for me. The dough was just a simple bread dough of flour, water, salt, and yeast, to which I added one egg before the second proofing. It rose quite nicely but was such a sticky mess that I ultimately had dough up to my elbows. And I left the high rim in the baking dish much too thick, resulting in a lumpy skyscraper of an awkwardly towering crust, oh well. While the dough was fermenting, I ran the tuber through the slicing disk of the machine, thankfully not encountering any problems. The pie filling consisted of alternating, irregular layers of chutney, sweet potato, and cheese.
The baking time for such a monster is considerable. I left it in the oven first for 45 mins at 180C [convection] plus another 30 mins at 160ºC, plus a few mins of broiling to brown the cheesy surface – and the sweet potato slices were still ever so slightly underdone. Better than a totally mushy mess, I hope?
And then there was the third Chapter: PLAIN-TOMATO-PIE
As it happened, I had some dough left over. Loath to throw anything away, I made a second, very simple small pizza pie consisting of a thin base spread with mustard & olive oil, over which I layered sliced tomatoes and topped them with a little grated parmigiano and spices. Basta! That was it!
I have to admit, I do have a great affinity for tomatoes and cheese – and the right wine to complement them 🍷 For our Double-Pie-Fiesta, I opened a bottle of nicely chilled Châteaux Penin 2017 Bordeaux Clairet. For just a second, it looked like we might enjoy an elegant dinner …
… when we moved operations back into the kitchen to eat in front of the TV.
It was, after all, college football night!
[* Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, are in the Morning Glory family of Convolvulaceae]
BEAUTIFUL! How come you don’t weigh 400 lbs. with all the great cooking you do?! We are still getting figs off our trees, too. Gave a ton away to friends and neighbors. We have the Mission and Kadota figs. I’ll have to try that “pie” recipe. Looks amazing.