We got our first hard frost here this week and the scent of the air changed noticeably to a sharp spice. The mornings are dark when I get up, and I watch the sun rise with my frosty breath on my walk to work. Autumn is in its glory.
The perfection of fall is often fleeting, which is no doubt one of the main reasons why I await it so anxiously each year and throw myself fully into its out-of-doors embrace while it’s here. Equally fleeting and perfect is the season of figs. It too must be emphatically embraced with lots of quick and tasty recipes like Fresh Fig Compote.
A fig tree is relatively easy to grow, but the fruit itself is a bit finicky. Figs often ripen and go past their prime all within a few short days. To make it even trickier, you have to pick figs ripe as they won’t ripen off the tree (unlike a pear that is often best picked a little under-ripe and left to come into its juiciness on the kitchen counter). Is it any wonder most people have never had a fresh fig and producers took to drying them instead?
Fortunately for me, I now have several mature fig trees in my “backyard” at Longwood, and I’ve been religiously checking them to get the figs just as they ripen. Sometimes I cheat and take a few that aren’t quite there yet though…I can’t help myself. If you’ve not had a fresh fig, I’d encourage you to seek them out for their succulent fruity flesh that’s a bit like cross between a berry and a peach (that’s a bit of a stretch comparison but I’m hard pressed to come up with anything better).
But to be real frank with you, this fig compote is not about the figs. The figs are just a vehicle for the outrageously good pairing of coffee, honey and vanilla bean. I would have licked the cat’s water dish clean if it’d had a few drops of this syrup in it. I kid. Um, no, I wouldn’t do that…really…
A few generous spoonfuls of the compote over vanilla ice cream will make your autumn days glow even more beautifully. The syrup is rich and smoky sweet while the figs are just the right amount of chewy to make the whole dish a really decadent dessert. And it only has four ingredients (+ ice cream)!
FRESH FIG COMPOTE
Taken from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Four Ingredient Cooking
1 2/3 C. fresh brewed coffee (I used Kona)
½ C. honey
1 vanilla bean
12 fresh figs, washed and dried
Choose a skillet large enough to hold the figs in a single layer. Set it over medium heat. Add the coffee and honey, stirring to incorporate. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise to scrape out the beans. Add both the beans and scraped pod to the skillet. Bring to a rapid boil and cook until mixture is reduced to about ¾ of a cup.
While the syrup cooks, pierce the skins of the figs with a sharp knife and cut them in half lengthwise. Add the halved figs to the syrup in the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet (use tin foil if your skillet doesn’t have a lid) to simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the figs from the syrup with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Strain the syrup over the figs and allow the compote to cool to room temperature for at least an hour. Serve over vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt. Store in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week.