It is early August and farmers markets, grocery stores have a variety of fresh seasonal items to offer and you must have seen fresh figs too while passing through the aisles. Although figs are available throughout the year, there is nothing compared to savouring this delectable and exotic fruit in its fresh form. They are sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. Figs grow on the ficus tree, which is a member of the mulberry family. They are unique in their shape and have an opening called the “ostiole” or “eye” which is not connected to the tree but helps with the fruits’ development and growth with its environment. Figs are full of fibre, potassium, calcium and antioxidants so they can power you through your day or your workout. They are fat, sodium and cholesterol free, making them ideal for snacking or throwing them into your favourite recipes. Majority of the produce is dried, either by exposure to sunlight or artificially. Drying helps increase the shelf life, maintain cost and its availability throughout the year. Fresh figs are available from July through October.
While some people love eating figs all on their own, others prefer fresh figs in recipes. I picked up a bunch of fresh green figs and black/purple figs at the farmers market last week and have been playing with them since. Fresh figs really add such a nice sweet richness to so many recipes. I’ve enjoyed them for breakfast atop toast spread with almond butter or cream cheese and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice, in salads, on ice cream and in sandwiches. What’s your favourite way to use late summer figs? Let’s look at a delicious way to use up fresh figs in cake form, from my kitchen.
Figs have been around for thousands of years and are one of the most ancient of fruits – figs were originally grown in Egypt, before they arrived in Greece. Wild fig trees first grew in Africa and West Asia and South Asia, round the Mediterranean Sea beginning probably millions of years ago. Nutritionally, they are rich in minerals and fibre. A rich source of potassium, they help to control blood pressure. Among all the fruits, they are one of the most alkaline, contributing to a balanced pH level within the body. So consuming moderate quantity of figs is good for overall well-being of our body.
Fresh figs, especially black mission figs, are high in phytonutrients and antioxidants such as carotenes, tannins, lutein, and chlorogenic acid among others and anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, E, and K. Together, these Phyto-chemical compounds in figs help scavenge harmful oxygen-derived free radicals from the body, thereby protecting us from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases, and infections.
Fresh, as well as dried figs contain good levels of the B-complex group of vitamins like niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins function as co-factors for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Dried figs are an excellent source of minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc – all important for healthy red blood cell formation, as well for cellular oxidation.
Figs are self-fruitful, so you need only one plant to produce fruit. Mature fig trees can be 4.5 to 9 metres (15 to 30 feet) tall. Figs don’t “flower”, the fruit is the flower. The black or green orb we eat is called a syconium. It is what botanists call an “enclosed inflorescence” because hundreds of tiny thread-like male and female flowers grow inside the urn-like fruit. Many fig varieties do not require pollination, but in the wild, some are pollinated by fig wasps, which hatch inside of figs. Figs are low in calories and contain soluble dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. Figs are a perfect match with orange zest and warm spices. This lovely moist cake uses both dried and fresh figs for a delicious autumn treat.
Figs and orange zest cake
Unsalted butter 150 gm
Cream cheese 150 gm
Castor sugar 1 ¼ cup
Eggs 4 nos.
All-purpose flour 2 cups
Ginger, chopped 1 tsp
Cardamom powder 1/2 tsp
Baking powder 1 ½ tsp
Sea salt ½ tsp
Dried figs ¾ cup
Orange zest 1 tsp
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
Castor sugar ¼ cup
Plain yoghurt 1cup
Fresh figs to garnish
Honey 2 tbs
Grease a cake tin with unsalted butter and line with baking paper, keeping it 4-5 cm above the rim of the tin.
Combine sugar syrup and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to boil, to dissolve the sugar, keep aside.
Combine cream cheese, butter and castor sugar and cream until very light and fluffy.
Whisk the eggs separately and combine to the butter mixture using a spatula.
Combine the flour baking powder, spices and figs and add to the egg mixture along with the orange zest and mix well.
Pour the mixture to the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
Check by piercing a knife if it comes out clean the cake is cooked.
Poke holes all over the cake with a skewer and spoon over the prepared lemon syrup.
Leave the cake to cool down in the tin.
Spoon the thick yoghurt on top of cake and decorate with figs and honey drizzle.
* Chef Tarun Kapoor,
Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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