Last month, when I wrote about ‘cooking with leaves’, my friend Milli – of Milli’s Kitchen – asked whether I’d ever used fig leaves as an infusion. To be honest, it was the first time I’d ever used blackcurrant leaves to flavour a dish, and I was still buoyed with the success of that. So the answer was no – my only experience of fig leaves was in lovely, oily, savoury dolma. Never anything more elaborate.
So I took the opportunity, when I went home last weekend, to continue my experiments – and scrump some of my mum’s figs (and leaves, and jam…)
I decided to make a panna cotta, as I was also continuing my experiments with gelatin. It’s something I have been a bit terrified of in the past. Probably because I started my adventures with gelatin by wanging it rather than following a recipe, which is never a good idea when confronting slightly tricky ingredients. Several disasters resulted in a deep-set fear of the stuff. So I’m now using a ‘get back on the horse’ mentality, and cooking with heaps…and it turns out that it’s not that tricky after all.
Anyway, both the fig leaf flavour, and the gelatin was a triumph – which is why I am recording this recipe here. As it’s one which I would encourage anyone to try if they stumble across some fig leaves.
So keep your eyes peeled. Since I started looking, it’s remarkable how many fig trees there are in both countryside and city…
Fig Leaf Panna Cotta
30g caster sugar
8-10 fig leaves, cut into quarters (to maximise surface area for the purpose of infusion)
3 sheets of gelatin
Good fig jam/fig compote (even with added geletin, if you want to make it into a jelly-like tower)
1. ‘Bloom’ the gelatin – by putting the three transparent sheets in a bowl and covering them with cold water.
2. Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan. Add the sugar. And then add the fig leaves. Stir constantly over a low-medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Allow the milk-cream solution to heat until it’s close to simmer. Keep it at round that temperature for a couple of minutes, and then take it off the heat.
3. Let the milk-cream mixture stand for five minutes, to allow the fig leaves carry on infusing, and allow the liquid to cool a little (though you want to keep it warm – so no longer than five minutes, and not in the fridge). Strain through a sieve into a measuring jug, removing the fig leaves in the process.
4. Add the jelly-like gelatin to the warm jug of fig leaf-infused milk and cream. Stir.
5. At this point, I put a tablespoon of some of mum’s fig jam into the bottom of each hole in a silicone muffin mould tray. If I had more time, then I think that I might have added some gelatin to a fig compote, and spooned that into the moulds in advance. But fig jam was just delicious, and ‘non-gelatined’ fig compote would also work. Because fig contains a lot of pectin, it becomes quite thick-set anyway, so when turned out, is a nice, sweet mound of intense fig-flavour on top of the panna cotta – and if it drizzles down the side, well, who cares?!
Note – this step is not necessary if you want to just make a traditional, white panna cotta.
6. Pour the fig leaf-infused liquid into the silicon muffin tin, over the fig jam/compote. Refrigerate for at least two hours. To serve, turn out onto a plate decorated with…a fig leaf.