Brown and brooding, and probably the most de-glam of all in the dry fruit cornucopia, the anjeer isn’t quite the sour face it appears to be. Fresh figs in their charming green bulbish shapes make for a sweet, juicy bite with the crunchiness of their hidden micro seeds, and even their dehydrated versions—rolled in pies, soaked overnight for the morning munch, tossed in salads—they make for a yummy, nutritious intake. So even if you aren’t quite the fig pig, roll in the ‘foodness’ in these avant-garde forms.
IN ALL FAIRNESS
Dry figs are more beneficial than fresh ones, if you ask Abhishek Basu, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu. “Figs are beautifully versatile as they can be paired with both sweet and savoury foods, with the fresh figs bringing in a sweet, honeyed fragrance and soft texture. There are two seasons: first is usually late summer, and the second begins mid-fall. I find the second crop better-tasting towards the end of the season,” he says. He has come up with a rather glam and delicious version in the bruschetta of Cointreau poached figs, goat cheese, and prosciutto and mustard cress.
Whether Japanese style pancakes, or chicken salad, or even crackers and cheese—the fruit arrives as a compatible companion in many ways. “Dried figs work fabulously in dishes like tagines,” says Rachel Goenka, CEO and Founder of The Chocolate Spoon Company, “Whereas fresh figs are wonderfully chewy, and can be used fresh, caramelised, or baked, to play around with their sweetness. Toss up fresh in salads, or bake in desserts to concentrate the flavour.”
Take Executive Chef, Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel, Nitish Kr Singh’s suggestion and pair the fruit with nuts, citrus and vinegar, cured meat, and dairy and you won’t be disappointed. “Anjeer kofta is a classic preparation, much like fig mascarpone gelato in sweet specials. Figs work beautifully as a meat tenderiser and make for a natural fat substitute while baking. Always try to cook them slightly, as it helps release the mild fragrance. While working, soak dry figs in warm water before consumption, dipping the knife in warm water too before cutting the fresh fruit as it tends to stick to the blade,” he says. If already stuck together when you pull them out of the refrigerator, Basu suggests that you heat them in the microwave for 15 seconds, while prepping to separate them. “It is preferable to store dried figs in the freezer for about an hour before preparing them for cooking—this makes it easier to slice them,” he says.
For those suffering diabetes, take heart as Sougata Haldar, Executive Chef, Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park, has the perfect solution for you. It comes in the form of hand-made sugar-free fig jam. “Fig cream cheese sandwiches bring in a stable, sweet flavour too,” she says.
While storing it, use airtight containers. According to Basu, the shelf-life of figs is two-three days at room temperature. You can extend this through refrigeration. If kept away from humidity, figs can last up to one year. “Remember to keep figs away from other fruits and vegetables as they produce ethylene gas which tends to deteriorate the latter. The first indicator of a spoilt fig is the sour fermented smell. The texture turns mushy and the juice leaks from the skin. It’s best to avoid the overly firm and squishy ones,” he shares. Do check for worms though. “Vacuumed packs are always better,” says Gaurav Anand, Executive Chef, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway.