I love the notion of a dish that traverses the threshold of what is dessert and savoury; bouncing in alternate mouthfuls from one to the other. A combination that has been playing around with the culinary grey cells is the combination of fig, balsamic vinegar and goat’s cheese. As luck would have it I procured some plump, juicy and soft figs a couple of days ago and have kept them in a fruit bowl to soften even further, just so they are ready for some action.
A fig is a wonderful work of nature. When dried it has an intensely sweet and sumptuous flavour often offset with some sourness. In its fresh form, and when ripe, it has a more delicate sweetness and a very heady perfumed character. Catching them just at the right stage is crucial, and as they are difficult to transport at this stage they are usually sold under-ripe. The ones I bought, however, were only a couple of days off being perfect.
The beauty of cooking is that sometimes the most complex flavoured dishes require only the minimal of ingredients, and this dish is a perfect example. One must note however that much of the complexity has come from the making and ageing of the balsamic vinegar, nature’s artistry in presenting the fig, and the mastery of farming in the curdling of goat’s milk. Suffice to say my part is just a little wizardry to meld all those magical ingredients in to an elegant and flavoursome plate of food.
Serves: 2 as a starter | Preparation: 5 minutes | Cooking: 20 minutes
4 whole Soft plump figs | Should be eager to give way when firmly pressed, but not too soft that they split when touched.
200ml Aged balsamic vinegar | Try not to skimp on this one as a really great balsamic vinegar does wonders for this dish.
About 100ml Water |
100g Goat’s cheese | I used ash coated – it is rich and creamy and has a great acidic undercurrent.
Cut each fig in half lengthways – that is from top to bottom.
Place the fig halves skin-side down in a non-reactive small to medium pan. Pour over the balsamic vinegar and water. It’s ok if the liquid level does not completely cover the figs. Bring to the boil and simmer (just below the boil) for 15 minutes. Very carefully turn the figs over so that they are flesh side down. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Gently remove the figs from the pan and put on a serving dish. Elegantly spoon the balsamic reduction left in the pan over the figs. Crumble over the goat’s cheese and watch it daintily, but not completely, melt. Eat immediately.