A highlight of our recent holiday in the French countryside was the incredible produce: Every fruit and vegetable was bursting with flavour. I sliced open a fennel bulb and it perfumed the entire kitchen with its fresh scent!
The best thing, however, were the two fig trees in the garden of our holiday home: they were absolutely weighed down with the most delicious figs I've ever eaten. Small and possibly a little unimpressive to look at, each was a flavour bomb, juicy and crunchy from the seeds.
We collected vast amounts of sun-ripened figs and there seemed just one logical conclusion about what to do with them: jar them up as jam and chutney. F was roped into collecting them too, he was the one that got to the higher branches that even jumping didn't help me reach.
My research brought me to a David Leibowitz recipe for a fig chutney that seemed interesting. I adapted it based on personal preference—I’m not a raisin or allspice fan—and added in my current favourite spice, coriander seeds, both whole and roughly ground. The result is earthy, and I cooked the chutney a little longer than in the recipe, which resulted in more chunky, sticky consistency. Feel free to play around here, depending on what you like: for example, I halved the figs so the chutney would have more texture, but you could cut them smaller. Eat this with cheese, on toast or with a bowl of yoghurt. As my friend Miriam puts it, this is a reminder of summer, bottled away for the middle of winter.
Chunky Fig Chutney
Makes 2—3 jars
450—500 gm fresh figs, stemmed and chopped into halves or quarters
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive/ sunflower oil
2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
Juice and zest of 1 organic lemon
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
2 cm piece cinnamon
2 teaspoons coriander seeds whole
2 teaspoons coriander seeds toasted and roughly ground
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the cinnamon, cloves, coriander and mustard seeds and allow the spices to gently sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the onions. Cook until translucent, about 5—6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the figs, and cook on a low simmer for 15 minutes. Add the figs and mix well to combine. Cover the pot and cook for another 5—10 minutes until the figs are tender. Remove the lid and cook over very low heat, stirring occasionally: 5—10 minutes will give you a more jammy consistency, 15—20 minutes will result in a more thick chutney.
Whilst the chutney is cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the jam jars and lids in the pot and sterilise for 5 minutes. Remove and dry throughly. Once the jam is cooked through, transfer into the sterilised jars, close tightly and place in a cool dark place.
Images: Vatsala Murthy