Goat’s cheese and mascarpone stuffed figs with pea shoots, caramelised walnuts, balsamic glaze, garlic-infused olive oil and cherry vinegar dressing.
Often associated with Mediterranean cooking, fresh figs make me smile. I have fond memories of picking figs during holidays visiting my Mum’s side of the family in Malta. Here in the UK, figs are in season during the months of September and October. They’re rich in minerals and a good source of potassium, manganese and iron. They also contain vitamins A, B and C and include a decent amount of fibre. My Mum usually makes this as one of the starters we have on Christmas day (see below, Mum’s version – taken in Dec 2013). They also make great canapés. She prefers to wrap the stuffed, juicy fig with salty prosciutto dry-cured ham, which you can do if you like, but below I’ve created a vegetarian version which works just as well.
Below you’ll find three easy steps: Prep Nuts, Prep & Cook Figs & Garnish!
1) Prep the pine nuts & walnuts: First, toast a teaspoon of pine nuts per person, either in a dry frying pan or in the oven, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn. Set to one side so you can make the star of the show (the walnuts). In a large frying pan place 100g walnut halves, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of salted butter. On a medium heat for around 5 – 8 minutes stir the walnuts until they are coated in the sugar and butter – the mixture will gradually soften, melt and then caramelise. Cool by placing individual walnuts on a piece of greaseproof paper or on some foil, ensuing each walnut is separated otherwise they will stick together. An alternative, healthier way (and how Mum makes this) is by wetting the walnuts with a bit of water and coating in icing sugar before popping on a baking tray on a medium oven for 5 – 10 minutes.
NB: Using 100g of walnut halves serves 4 – 6 so you’ll have some leftovers if you’re cooking for less. Once cool, they make nice snacks or sweet after dinner treats. They also work well on a cheese board.
2) Prep & cook figs: Wash figs and score each one twice, so that there is a cross shape that allows you to open up the middle. In the middle is where you can place your filling. Here I’ve used a small teaspoon of mascarpone cheese and topped with some goat’s cheese I had in the fridge. Generally, I prefer to use purely goat’s cheese (the crumbly feta style, not the log with a rind). But if you’re not a fan of the flavour then pure mascarpone works well. Season with sea salt and black pepper and then bake for 10 minutes on 180°C.
3) Garnish: Place two figs per person on a plate and garnish with: trimmed pea shoots, toasted pine nuts, caramelised walnuts and a drizzle of both balsamic glaze and garlic infused olive oil with cherry vinegar. If you don’t have cherry vinegar in your cupboard then red wine vinegar works fine too. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
NB: If you don’t have any in your cupboard, you can make your own garlic flavoured olive oil by crushing half a clove of garlic into two tablespoons of olive oil (rest for an hour).