Jewel of the Med: Skye Gyngell reveals how figs can add perfumed subtlety to sweet and savoury dishes

Plump, soft and delectable, figs have grown around the Mediterranean for 10,000 years. Their honeyed, perfumed flavour combines beautifully with almost all the other ingredients to be found in southern Europe.

When buying, look for figs that are heavy for their size, without bruises or blemishes and which, when lightly squeezed, give slightly. They make almost perfect jam, which can be stored through the winter, so that this burst of summer can be enjoyed even when the weather has turned.

The classic combination of figs with Parma ham is hard to beat, but try baking them into galettes or serve them with lightly whipped cream with a little raspberry purée stirred through. At Petersham, we also poach dried figs in red wine, which pair perfectly with goat's or sheep's milk cheeses.

To prepare figs for eating, run gently under cool water, pat dry and remove the top stem, where they have been attached to the tree. They are easy to peel, but I think the skin is an integral part of the fruit and, unless particularly tough, I eat them with the skin on. Enjoy them fresh now, for they will soon be gone and only if we are lucky will we see them for a second, brief moment in the autumn.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, www.petershamnurseries.com

Leg of lamb with figs and anchoïade

Anchoïade is a rough-pounded paste that hails from the South of France, consisting of little more than a handful of anchovies, walnuts, garlic and olive oil. It is best made just before serving in order that its flavour remains pure.

Serves 6

1 small leg of lamb
A little olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A bunch of lemon thyme
12 ripe figs

For the anchoïade

6 anchovies
2 cloves of garlic
24 fresh walnuts
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
A squeeze of lemon juice
80ml/3fl oz olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Rub the lamb with the olive oil, season generously with the salt and pepper, place in a roasting tin and scatter over the thyme, cover loosely with foil and place on the middle shelf of the hot oven. Cook for 45 minutes then remove the foil and continue to cook for a further 45 minutes. Now remove the lamb from the oven; it should be gloriously brown and tender to the touch. Rest in a warm place while you make the anchoïade.

Pound the anchovies, garlic and walnuts to a rough paste with a pestle and mortar. Roughly chop the parsley and stir into the paste, squeeze over the lemon juice and stir in the olive oil.

Once the meat has rested for 10 minutes or so, carve into generous slices, arrange on to six plates, tear over the ripe figs and spoon over the anchoïade. Serve with nothing more than a simple green salad comprising of slightly bitter leaves such as chicory and rocket.

Salad of Parma ham, figs, tomatoes, dates and basil

This salad is simple and light, comprising ripe, sweet, summer dates pinned down with the slightly salty flavour of the Parma ham. Heritage tomatoes are not difficult to find these days and the basil here I have seemed to grow very easily this year in my garden at home. You don't have to use either these tomatoes or the basil – but do make sure the ingredients are ripe.

Serves 4

3 ripe tomatoes, sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
The zest of one lemon
60ml/21/2fl oz light extra-virgin olive oil
4 ripe figs, torn
11/2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
8 very fine slices of Parma ham
2 Medjool dates, deseeded, finely chopped
16 leaves of basil
1 tbsp grated Parmesan

Start by seasoning the tomatoes with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the lemon zest and a little olive oil. Now tear the figs and season them with some black pepper and a drizzle or two of balsamic. Arrange the Parma ham, figs and tomatoes on four plates, layering slightly so the flavours mingle together. Gently pour over the rest of the olive oil, drizzle over the remaining vinegar and scatter the dates, basil and grated Parmesan to finish. Serve at once while all the flavours are still vibrant.

Figs with warm honey

Perfectly ripe figs served on their own without any adornment make for a simple and beautiful dessert. But if you feel you are in need of something slightly richer, try this: it is just as lovely.

Serves 4

8 ripe figs
2 tbsp acacia honey
2 tbsp water
2 sprigs of thyme

Heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Now tear the figs roughly and unevenly and place into a roasting tray. Once the oven is hot, place the tray on the middle shelf and roast for 8-10 minutes, or until the figs have slightly puffed up and their juice has begun to ooze. While the figs are cooking, place the honey and water into a small saucepan along with the thyme. Place over a low heat and stir until the honey has melted. Now remove the figs from the oven and arrange on to four plates. Spoon out the sprigs of thyme from the honey and pour the warm honey over the figs. Serve while the figs are still slightly warm.

Suggested Topics
Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried