Saturday, May 12, 2012

Baked Figs with Walnut Tarragon Cream & Rocket Salad and Cookbook Sundays # 23

Baked Figs with Walnut Tarragon Cream 5
Props courtesy of Stevens Homewares, Nelson (details below)

My neighbour has a good sized fig tree which fruits quite prolifically - lucky neighbour!  My neighbour doesn't eat figs and, although the birds do, if I'm really vigilant I can get a fair share of them before my feathered friends swoop on them - lucky me!

As luck would also have it, I recently picked up a copy of Karen Martini's book "Where the Heart is" for an absolute song on TradeMe (the New Zealand equivalent of eBay).

Where the Heart is

I had been wanting this book for ages, and when it finally arrived and I prised the package open, the first page it fell open at was this recipe for Baked Figs with Walnut Cream and Tarragon.  With all those figs ripening on the tree I knew that Karen and I were going to get along famously.

Karen Martini describes herself as an "intuitive cook" and, in the introduction to the book, talks of the challenge of bringing together her recipes of the last 20 years as one which made her reflect on her past.  She says ... "My recipes were sometimes typed, often handwritten and frequently scrawled on endless sheets of paper, on the back of old menus, gas bills, invoices and business cards.  They reflect times shared with family and friends, at home and on holiday, barbecues, raucous parties, romantic moments and solitary dinners.  They articulated my obsession with particular ingredients - artichokes, fennel, the unloved pea.  They traced my journeys to the source of special ingredients, recorded triumphs over unavailability  and celebrated the seasons.  Most of all, they seemed to chart my life."

The book is packed full of recipes which are just made for sharing with family and friends.  Recipes are uncomplicated and inspirational, rather than relying on a lot of "cheffie" techniques that need to be slavishly followed.  Most of all these are recipes which make the most of fresh, seasonal produce, and I know that I will be doing a lot of cooking from this book.

I have a couple of other fig dishes in my repertoire - this Grilled Fig, Haloumi & Pomegranate Salad, Fig & Blue Cheese Wontons, Blue Cheese, Fig & Walnut Flatbread, and a Caramelised Fig Pavlova - but this dish just rocketed to the top of my list of things to do with figs.  A divine dish, and I'm going to be watching that fig tree like a hawk over the next week to make this a few more times before the season is over.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe.  Firstly, the original recipe called for the inclusion of fresh tarragon in the salad.  I couldn't find any fresh tarragon, so I used a little dried tarragon in the "stuffing" for the figs instead.  Now, there are not many things in which I use dried herbs, but in this case the slight "earthiness" of the dried tarragon worked well with the walnuts and the figs.  Use judiciously though - tarragon has a strong flavour and too much can be a ghastly thing.  I suggest adding a pinch, taste, add a pinch more, taste again, etc, until you get the flavour right.  I also added some grated lemon zest to the mascarpone filling - the lemon cuts through the creaminess and also balances out the sweetness of the figs.  Make sure that you use the best extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar that you can afford here.

This recipe would be a perfect appetiser for two people, or for one greedy person like me makes a fabulous light lunch.

Baked Figs with Walnut Tarragon Cream & Rocket Salad Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Karen Martini from
Serves 2 as an appetiser
Serves 1 as a light meal
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

4 ripe figs
1/2 cup mascarpone
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
dried tarragon, pinch or two
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon, zest & juice
2x large handfuls of rocket (arugula)
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F).

Put the mascarpone into a small bowl.  Add 1 dessertspoon of cold  water and whisk till loosened and smooth.  Put 1/2 cup of the walnuts into a mortar and pestle and pound until finely crushed - alternatively you could do this in a food processor.  Add to the mascarpone, along with the grated lemon zest, flaky sea salt, ground black pepper and pinch of dried tarragon.  Mix well and taste.  Adjust lemon, seasoning and tarragon to taste.

Cut figs into quarters, almost to the base - enough to "open up" the figs like petals, but making sure that they stay intact.

Baked Figs with Walnut Cream 1

Squeeze a little of the lemon juice over each of the figs, and then "stuff" each of the figs with a dollop of the mascarpone mixture.

Baked Figs with Walnut Tarragon Cream 2

Place the figs in a small ovenproof dish and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the figs are soft and the filling is starting to get "oozey" and melty.

Baked Figs with Walnut Tarragon Cream 3

Pile the rocket leaves in a serving bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and the rest of the lemon juice.  Nestle the figs amongst the rocket leaves, spooning any of the mascarpone mixture that might have oozed out of the figs back over them.

Baked Figs with Walnut Tarragon Cream 4

Sprinkle the remaining walnuts over the top, and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.

Props courtesy of Stevens Homewares Ltd 
"Prepare" individual tea towel 

I'm sharing these figs this week at Cookbook Sundays, where my friends are delving into their cookbook collections and sharing some of their recipes.  Do keep reading to see what they're cooking - you might even feel inspired to link up a recipe from one of your own cookbooks.

I'm also sharing this post at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by Michelle at Ms. enPlace, and at Gallery of Favourites hosted by April at 21st Century Housewife.

Cookbook Sundays Badge 

If you're anything like me you have dozens of cookbooks gathering dust on your bookshelves, some of which have never even been cooked from.  Sure I spent hours browsing through them when I first bought them, marking all the recipes I was going to make with little post-it notes, and yet still those books languish in the bookcase and never make it to the kitchen.  There are others from which I have made but one recipe which was such a resounding success that I've made it over and over again, and yet somehow I've never made anything else from that book.  Sound a bit familiar?!

Take comfort - you are not alone, and now Cookbook Sundays is your opportunity to change that.  Every Sunday I'm going to share with you a recipe that I haven't made before from one of my ever expanding collection of cookbooks.  And, because I know that if you have read this far then you are guilty of this too, I'm inviting you to join in with me.  Each week my Cookbook Sundays post will have a linky for you to share something you've cooked from one of your cookbooks.

The rules for joining in are simple:
  1. Your post must state the author and the title of the book your recipe has come from.
  2. Your post must mention Cookbook Sundays and link back to this post.  Including the Cookbook Sundays badge is optional, but always appreciated.
  3. You may submit as many entries as you like, and you may use the same cookbook as many times as you like.  Old posts are also welcome.
  4. Lastly,  remember that what goes around, comes around - one of the reasons you are participating in this is because you want people to read your posts, so do the right thing and go and visit a few of the other participants - you can even "Like" your favourites. 
Now, go and dust off those cookbooks and get cooking!  Use the linky tool at the end of this post to submit your entry/entries - simply scroll down to where it says "You are next ... Click here to enter", and then follow the instructions.  The linky will be open for one week.

Lastly, if you would like to use the Cookbook Sundays badge in your post, simply copy the code in the box beside the badge below and paste it into your post.  Feel free to also use it in your sidebar if you wish.



  1. lovely combination looks wonderful

  2. Lucky you all those figs. I got 6 off mine this year, mind you they are baby trees so hopefully next year will bear more fruit.

    1. Have been really lucky, Alli - six figs is a good start for your fig tree this year - the tree obviously doesn't mind the "salty air"? Hope you get a few more next year. I'm thinking about planting our own tree - good to have the neighbour's tree to fall back on in the meantime :-)

  3. I love figs and tarragon and the combination sounds lovely. Thank you for sharing with Souper Sundays. I need to get back to Cookbook Sundays soon. ;-)

    1. Figs and tarragon are definitely a lovely combination - would love to have been able to add some fresh tarragon to the salad.

  4. Where the Heart Is sounds like my kind of cookbook! Your baked figs with walnut tarragon cream sound so delicious. It's lovely that you have access to a fig tree! Thank you so much for sharing this post with the Gallery, and also for hosting Cookbook Sundays. I've shared another recipe from my 'antique' Betty Crocker 'Cooky' book - Oatmeal Coconut Crispies. Have a lovely week!

    1. It's a great cookbook, April - I think you would really love it. Your Oatmeal Coconut Crispies definitely sound like my kind of cookies - thanks for sharing them xo

  5. Ah you have figs too! But yes, as you say, in the Mediterranean countries the figs taste different!

    1. Yes, the figs here are definitely nothing like there Mediterranean counterparts, but still local figs are better than no figs xo

  6. I love figs and once, we had a fig tree. But the crows ate all our figs or ruined the fruits on the tree. I ought to plant a few more closer to the house. Your dish looks lovely and I would love to try it!

    1. That definitely seems to be the battle with a fig tree - leaving the fruit on the tree long enough to ripen to perfection, but getting to them before the birds do. This dish is definitely worth trying if you can get your hands on some fresh figs.

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your tuna steaks xo

  7. That is one lovely sounding combination. I wish I had figs!!!!

    1. Thanks - I'm so pleased I moved into this neighbourhood - once upon a time I would have only dreamed of making something like this :-)

  8. Fresh figs! I'm so jealous! Hehe! That's a lovely salad, I guess I could just eat this as a main dish!
    Have a lovely day, Sue!

    1. Thanks, Joyce - I ate this as a main dish - my favourite kind of meal :-)

  9. You are lucky to get all those figs, your neighbor really does not realize the treasure they have. Also, it sounds like you are really going to get a lot of use out of that book. This first recipe you showcased really looks like a winner-yum!

    1. I am definitely getting lots of use out of this book - look for more posts coming up. I'm hoping that my neighbour never realises what they're missing - gee, hope they never read this post!

  10. The 4th of July is when figs are usually ready here. From the looks of my tree this year, I should have a good crop. I am absolutely trying this looks amazing. July seems like such a long time to wait though!

    Thank you for linking up!

    I've linked a corn chowder this week. Thank you for hosting.

    1. Oh, lucky you, Michelle, having a good crop of figs to look forward too - hope you give this a try.

      Thanks for sharing your corn chowder - it's perfect weather here for a good chowder right now xo

  11. This sounds delicious Sue. Did make me laugh though that you've added another book to your bookcase :o)

    1. Julie, sometimes I just can't help myself - there are some cookbooks that a person just has to have, and this is one of them!!

      Thanks for stopping by xo


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