Not all fruits swing comfortably between the sweet and savoury world. Cherries do. So does citrus. And, of course, figs.
A salad of fig, rocket leaves and burrata or mozzarella is a regular at home. It’s not often that I reach for balsamic vinegar, but here is a noteworthy exception. I blame the ’90s – all of the ’90s. Every cafe doused every salad with balsamic. Then we discovered aged balsamic and the whole thing happened again, although it was more expensive so chefs weren’t quite so loose.
But here, the figs can carry the sweetness of the balsamic. Prosciutto con melone is also a favourite, and figs are a happy substitute for melon.
French toast is a preparation that can swing – from breakfast to dessert. For dessert, it is called pain perdu. Another name it goes by is gypsy toast, which I prefer over all others.
Pain perdu is served in smaller cubes or soldiers, sprinkled with sugar and cooked until caramelised. Often, it will be served with a compote of something such as white peaches, which gives a kind of sophistication not necessary at breakfast.
There are no real rules for French toast – how much sugar you use, or what type of bread. My preference is to opt for something that hasn’t already been sliced, so you can cut yourself an improbably thick wedge. More bread to soak in more egg. For the health conscious, brown bread could be used. But be honest with yourself: it’s probably a pointless exercise.
The only real rule – for me at least – is I find I only make French toast when I am horribly hung over.
French toast with caramelised figs, burnt honey and mascarpone
– ½ cup mascarpone
– ½ cup cream
– 2/3 cup honey
– 1 sprig thyme
– 2 eggs
– 2 egg yolks
– 2 cups milk
– 2/3 cup castor sugar
– 3 tbsp butter
– 4 slices brioche
– 6 ripe figs, trimmed and halved
In a mixing bowl, beat the mascarpone until it is smooth. In another bowl, whip the cream then gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
In a small saucepan, bring the honey to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about three minutes until the honey has thickened a little. Stir in the sprig of thyme then remove the saucepan from the heat and leave the honey and thyme to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, milk and two tablespoons of the sugar.
When almost ready to serve, melt half the butter in a large, nonstick frying pan. Dip two slices of brioche in the egg wash until they are well coated but not falling apart. Lift the dunked bread out and let the excess egg wash drip back into the bowl.
Fry the slices over a medium heat until they are nicely browned. Remove from the pan, then repeat with the remaining butter and brioche.
While the French toast is cooking heat another frying pan over a medium-high heat. Pour the remaining sugar onto a plate and gently press the figs, cut-side down, into the sugar.
Place the figs cut-side down into the hot pan and leave them for about 30 seconds until the sugar has caramelised.
Flip the figs over and place them on a plate.
To serve, divide the mascarpone cream and the caramelised figs over each piece of French toast and spoon the honey sauce over the top.
Henriques & Henriques, Bual Madeira, 10 years old, Portugal ($49) – Leanne Altmann, wine buyer, Supernormal and Meatsmith.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 18, 2017 as "French toast with caramelised figs, burnt honey and mascarpone". Subscribe here.