Diddy dried fruits from Extremadura, via Brindisa
“Of course—we’re famous for them,” smiles Tom at Brindisa when asked if they’ve any calabacita figs, picking up a bag of swollen and surprisingly moist baby fruits from the designated Christmas counter.
Sweet, fragrant and flavourful, these teeny-weeny treats come from Valencian producer Piarrop. “He sources them from Extremadura, western Spain, because it’s where the best quality figs are grown,” adds James. “It’s an area of Spain that’s known for its fruit cultivation—the influence of the Atlantic means there’s a certain degree of moistness.”
Climate in this instance is particularly important; once they’ve reached full-flavoured ripeness come late autumn, rather than being picked and processed manually, calabacita figs “are left to dry naturally on the trees before being harvested,” James explains. “They’re a particularly nice variety for drying as they are naturally thin-skinned, which is important—when drying a fig, the thicker the skin, the tougher it’s going to be. Sometimes it’s like chewing on a bit of leather; these, however, have a lovely mouthfeel.”
Figgy bon bons
To say they’re excellent with cheese is perhaps an obvious assertion, but no less valid for it. “I think that bit of sweetness from the figs would go particularly well with the spiciness of a blue,” ponders James. “In fact, our supplier is sending us some Picos blue, specifically matured for Brindisa, which is lovely and creamy and would work really nicely with them. Or, if you’re feeling really adventurous”—and have a knack for the fiddly—“stuff them, perhaps loosening up the cheese with a bit of crème fraiche. That would make for rather nice little figgy bon bons.”
Simply stir them into cake mix, or soak them in booze for added festive cheer. “Soak them in a little sweet wine such as PX sherry along with some prunes and apricots for a dried winter fruit salad with a little added body and warmth, perhaps with some toasted nuts,” he continues. “They’d also make a really good bircher-style muesli. Just soak them with oats overnight to infuse it with a lovely, Chirstmassy fruit flavour. The perfect breakfast for this time of year.”