Sunday, 19 January 2014

' FIGS .' fresh & baked

Figs served fresh & baked , Fig sap Ricotta fresh & baked , Mulled Red & White wine syrups and Toasted Fig leaves .

                I've been itching at doing this dish, but having to wait and show patience. It was around early december that figs started surfacing at the shops but if I remember at a hefty price of AUS $ 59.99 / kg. A couple of days ago after work, I went to the same grocers and picked up 4 for $5 and the quality is outstanding, beautiful purple tinged plump fruit, the time was right. The ricotta in this recipe has been made by curdling the milk with fig sap, I've done this cheese in the past and I must admit with better success. This is an old method used by herders, one would travel light with just provisions of water, a chunk of bread and a small pot to make tea and cheese. At meal time the herders would boil the milk from their flock with either stinging nettle or a freshly broken fig branch to make the curds for their bread. My Fig tree is yet to bear fruit and was looking very tall and in need of a prune and with the warmer weather the sap is running free and perfect for using in this recipe. Toasted fig leaves is something else and when toasted right imparts flavours and aromas of figs with caramel, marrying both the flavours of the fresh fig with the baked fig, plus the enhancement of textural crunch to the dish.          
                The ricotta was the first preparation of this dish and was done the night before. I first heated cows milk in a saucepan gently until just before the boil and then added three pieces of 3 inch long stem that had been nicked all down the length to allow more sap to run. Once the curds started to separate from the whey I removed the pot from the stove stirring gently. The curds were then ladled into a cheese cloth lined colander to drain. At this stage I reserved some of the curd for presenting as is, before tying the four corners of the cloth and hanging for about 1-2 hours. The cheese was then re-wrapped and pressed into a mould with a 1kg weight on top, this was placed into the fridge overnight and the next morning turned and pressed for a further 2-3 hours. The cheese was then un-moulded and un-wrapped, brushed lightly with olive oil and baked in a 160 deg.c. oven until golden in colour. The baked ricotta still fragile while warm was allowed to cool before being sliced into small wedges for plating. The baked fig was simply cut in half and sprinkled with panela (evaporated sugarcane juice) before being placed on to a tray and baked at 160 deg.c. until the panela caramelises and the fig collapses. The leaves were simply toasted under a grill until caramel in colour and deep in aroma. To make the syrups I used a dessert white from Crete, Greece which is made from brandied grape must and thyme flavoured honey. This was reduced with lemon peel and sugar to a thick syrup, to make the red syrup I used a young shiraz from the Barossa along with cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf and sugar.

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