It wouldn't be until I started working that I would sample a fresh fig for the first time. Am not sure why that was the case considering I have always loved them in their dried avatar and you always got them easily in Bombay. It would take my flatmate's parents to come visiting to get me to try one. Clearly ignoring the fact that we were no longer in college, her mother, much like mine, would stock up the pantry with the essentials and the freshest fruits and vegetables. They clearly had no faith in our housekeeping skills!!
Anyhow, on one of their visits, they brought home a box of fresh figs and that's how I got to eat my first fresh fig and have been hooked ever since. I have always loved how a dried fig tastes but cutting through the dark purple skin of a fresh fig and then encountering the luscious, soft, deep red flesh inside has a charm of its own. And since then, I wait every January when the fruit makes it to our markets!
I enjoy them just as they are, no adornments, no embellishments. But, over the years, they seem to be much more in abundance than before. So, I couldn't let them leave the market without giving this cake, on which I have had my eye on for the longest time, a shot!
The recipe is available on Ottolenghi's website, so, you know you are in safe hands! It is a cake made with almonds and Greek yoghurt and the top is adorned with fresh figs. The recipe states that while it was not needed, a red wine caramel syrup with fresh figs was recommended to go with the cake. Well, when the masters of cooking recommend it, who am I to say no!
The cake comes together very easily. I liked the fact that it has ground star anise, a welcome change from the usual cinnamon that I normally turn to. You won't only taste the star anise but you will smell it as the cakes bakes. Remember, there is no baking powder, so this is a dense cake in terms of consistency.
The recipe is right. You don't need the red wine caramel syrup but I will insist that you do not miss out on it. Toss some fresh figs in the syrup and then serve them with a slice of cake and some Greek yoghurt. The fresh figs along with the figs in the cake pay a fitting tribute to the fruit. The almond meal not only provides a different texture but ensures that a small slice goes a long way!
The red wine caramel syrup ties all the elements together and the Greek yoghurt ensures that it never gets too sweet for the palate. The hint of star anise that you encounter plays up the Middle Eastern heritage of the fruit.
If you love the fruit as much as I do, there is no way you should miss out on this cake. My mother, who personally does not like figs, enjoyed the cake with all its accoutrements. But, then again, I think she is unfairly biased towards this baker!!
Fig And Almond Cake
Source : mildly adapted from Ottolenghi
For the cake:
For the cake:
- 200 gms unsalted butter
- 200 gms caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 180 gms ground almonds
- 100 gms plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground star anise
- 100 gms Greek yoghurt
- 12 figs
- 3 tablespoon caster sugar
- 6 tablespoon red wine
- 6 ripe figs, quartered
- Greek yoghurt, to serve
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 deg C. Grease and line the bottom and sides of a 24cm loose-based cake tin with baking parchment.
- Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs lightly, then, with the machine on medium speed, add them gradually to the bowl, just a dribble at a time.
- Once all the egg is in, mix together the almonds, flour, salt, vanilla and anise, and fold into the batter.
- Mix until the batter is smooth, then fold in the yogurt.
- Pour the batter into the lined tin and level roughly with a palette knife or a spoon.
- Cut each fig vertically into four long wedges, and arrange in circles on top of the cake, just slightly immersed in the batter.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 170 deg C.
- Continue baking until it sets - about 40-45 minutes longer. Check this by inserting a skewer in the cake. It's done when it comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool down before taking it out of the tin.
- For the syrup: Put three tablespoons of caster sugar in a medium saucepan and put on a high heat until the sugar starts to caramelise.
- Remove from the heat, carefully add the wine - it will spit a bit - then return to the heat and let the caramel dissolve in the wine.
- Add the fig quarters and quickly toss them around just to warm them up.
- Serve a slice of the cake with some Greek yoghurt, warm figs and a drizzle of the syrup all over.