Figgy pudding takes on a whole different meaning in summer with a nip of Vin Santo on the first green figs.
Are green figs just purple figs under-ripe or a totally different variety? I think the latter, but that said, in Malta, at least, I find the colour goes according to season. We do have two quite distinct fig seasons though, so I think it’s a variety thing not about ripeness.
I love figs and grab them whenever I find them at the market but there are plenty growing abandoned on Maltese waysides so I guess I could just filch a few as well, for free (so long as I pick sustainably!). I find also that green figs just aren’t as tasty as the purple ones that arrive in autumn. Green figs need some pepping up to make them tempting, so I trialed soaking them in generous tablespoons of a Vin Santo. It worked; the sweet mild alcoholic aroma filtering through just enough into the cooked clafoutis. Why a clafoutis…and why a gluten-free version too?
I wanted to make a summer dessert at its simplest after various blow-out cassatas, ice creams and meringues of late, some of which have featured here on Red Bistro blog. The clafoutis is a French classic and adapts to pretty much any fruit in season. The egg custardy-sponge part is the ideal base to soak up flavours from vanilla to Vin Santo. And let’s face it, clafoutis sounds just a bit posher to serve up than Eve pudding, the nearest British relative and one which I remember from Sunday lunchtimes not summery night dinners or picnics. The clafoutis is transportable in individual ramekins and this recipe, which is less a solid egg custard and more of a lighter sponge does pop out of its moulds so you can eat is without a spoon, and serve it sliced cold as well.
I also wanted to experiment with adapting recipes to gluten-free versions and this seemed like an easy one to start with. No one in our family needs to be on a gluten-free diet, but I’ve been aware for some time now of the disadvantages of having too many wheat-based meals on our menu. In summer, when heat hits and I am lethargic enough as it is, the last thing I feel like eating are starchy foods whether pasta, pizza or anything with pastry. I leave the beach quite ravenous but for totally different foods and feel quite sated eating salads and dips. One of my upcoming recipes is a chickpea fritter that can replace the flat breads we eat too much in summer to scoop up those dips and balsamic dressings. By using part ground almonds and part cornflour in the clafoutis and also by whisking the egg whites to a meringue, the sponge part was light and airy. Sometimes pulses and nut flours can be heavy substitutes for regular flour, but not in this clafoutis.
Oh, and figs, early green ones through to late autumnal ones spell summer in the Mediterranean, where the season lasts a good six months. Just to explain ‘love figs, love summer’! Here’s to a healthy one, less gluten all round.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
- 400g figs, sliced thinlyDrunken Vin Santo Fig clafoutis gluten free
- 50cl Vin Santo (to soak figs in) or use a Sherry, Marsala or other dessert wine
- 50g cornflour (maize flour)
- 50g ground almonds
- 3 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
- 100g caster sugar, plus some to sprinkle on soaking figs
- pinch of salt
- 4 eggs (large), separated
- 15cl milk
- Butter the ramekins or single large souffle dish.
- Wash, pat dry and slice figs thinly, then soak in the Vin Santo and sprinkle a little caster sugar over. Leave to infuse for an hour.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180°C. Then, mix the ground almonds, cornflour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
- Separate the egg yolks and whites carefully and beat the yolks lightly. Then, add a little at a time to the dry ingredients and mix well.
- Drain the figs from the Vin Santo and add the strained-off wine and the milk to the mixture, beating in well.
- In a separate bowl, and with scrupulously clean beaters, whisk up the egg whites to firm but not too solid peaks. Then, fold the meringue carefully into the clafoutis mixture, a little at a time, ensuring you don’t beat or knock out the little air bubbles.
- Pour a little of the clafoutis mixture into the bottom of the ramekins, then add a few slices of figs, and repeat until you are 1cm (small ramekins) or 2cm (large, single mould) from the top. Dress the top of the mixture decoratively with remaining fig slices. Sprinkle on a little more caster sugar.
- Bake small ramekins on a metal baking sheet for around 25-30 minutes until risen and lightly golden. A single, large dish may take 40 minutes. The clafoutis should be firmish but not hard to touch when baked. It will be less light than a regular Victoria sponge though.
- Cool on a rack, and keep in the ramekins.