The fig is the first fruit referred to by name in the Bible. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve – tempted by the serpent, ‘more subtle than any beast of the field’ – taste the unspecified fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. At once realising their nakedness, they sew fig leaves together to cover up their exposed bodies. The Hebrew Bible goes on to mention six types of tree fruit in total, with the apple, olive, pomegranate, date, and grape appearing in addition to the fig; while in the New Testament, the fig tree is the central symbol of several of the parables of Jesus.
In fact, the fig emerges in more chapters of the New Testament than any other fruit. And so at this time of the year, as we celebrate the coming of Christ, what better fruit is there to eat than the fig?
And though we as Jews do not celebrate the coming of Christ, still we may refer ourselves back to the Hebrew Bible and – remembering the prominence of the fig therein – eat figs and be merry.
Yet we as Muslims neither celebrate Christ nor read the Hebrew or Christian bibles; but all the same we find that the fig is an important fruit for us too, presiding as it does in the 95th sura of the Quran, Sūrat al-Tīn.
Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, devout as we are, remain equally devoted to the sacred fig, the Ficus religiosa.
And that we choose to neither celebrate Christ, nor follow the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, or Jain faiths – this does not render the fig obsolete. For what better to enjoy, at this time of year, than the delicious fig, especially succulent in all of its secular goodness?
The point is that the fig, aside from all historical resonance, is a tasty fruit. And one of the few things more tasty than the fig, resonant but ever humble, is ice cream. Combining fig and ice cream into one produces fig ice cream. So becomes the object of the following recipe.
Fig ice cream makes for a rich dessert, fulfilling on its own and tasty too with a whole assortment of festive cakes, puddings, pies, and pastries. Eat it with Christmas pudding, for instance, instead of brandy cream – and walk home evenly, and drive home safely.
Where some fig ice cream recipes call for layering fig jam and ice cream and allowing the layers to set, sometimes for many hours and across multiple stages, my fig ice cream recipe is more straightforward: from start to finish, it should take little more than an hour, with half that time the preserve of your ice cream maker.
For the fig mixture:
- 5 figs
- 2.5 dl/1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- Cinnamon (1 stick or 1 tsp ground)
- Lemon juice
For the ice cream mixture:
- 300 ml double cream
- 300 ml milk (preferably whole milk)
- 1.5 dl/2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla (essence or from a pod)
- Wash the figs, remove their stems, and quarter. Place the quartered figs in a pan on a medium heat, with the sugar and a modicum of water.
- As the sugar begins to caramelise, reduce the heat, and add the honey, cinnamon, and lemon juice.
- Optionally, add some alcohol to the pan: brandy or rum, red wine, mulled wine, or whiskey.
- Cook until the figs break down and the mixture begins to form a jam. Add water (or another of the aforementioned liquids) to prevent this mixture from sticking.
- Once the fig mixture has cooled slightly, you might want to separate the jam from the remnants of the skin. Pressing the mixture through a sieve is as good an option as any.
- In a bowl, combine the double cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add the fig jam to the ice cream mixture.
- Put the combined mixture into your ice cream maker, for however long it takes. Probably around thirty minutes.