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
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
Extras
indybest
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Latest stories from i100
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

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style