I have a few culinary heroes that I constantly harp about to anybody who’s willing to listen… Vikas Khanna leaves me mesmerized with his almost spiritual take on food; Julia Child will always remain a culinary and personal inspiration; Jamie Oliver for always cooking from the heart… And then… there’s Yotam Ottolenghi. His mastery of food, flavours and textures can only be compared to the bold strokes of an artist’s paintbrush. I’ve never had the chance to visit his delis or restaurant in London, but like many others, I’ve followed his newspaper column and books very keenly and that is where the recipe for this cake emanates from. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I don’t seem to have to many people around me who like figs. This cake topped with extra figs in a red wine syrup made a convert of all the fig-haters around me! Don’t you just love it when one single recipe holds the power to change your liking for an ingredient?
There’s minimal flour that goes into the batter, calling instead for ground almonds. I spent a bit of extra time working up my food processor on pulse mode to get almonds to an almost flour-like consistency without turning into almond butter. You’ve known me long enough to know that I don’t fret when a recipe calls for Greek Yogurt, I just simply make some of my own and you can too by following this post I wrote up a few months ago. Ottolenghi’s recipe calls for an extra dollop of Greek yogurt to be served with the cake too, but I skipped that and stuck to serving it with the slightly warmed figs in red wine syrup.
There’s no baking powder or soda in the cake, but the cake forms a moist crumb. There are slight _hints_of denseness, the kind that you would associate with cakes from the Middle East and this is why the extra figs, warmed ever so slightly, in the red wine syrup are inseparable when serving the cake.
I had two little failures while making the syrup and finally got it right in the third try and I’m totally sharing the trick with you! When you’re heating the caster sugar, take it off the heat when you see the first hint of the sugar starting to caramelize. Add the first spoon of wine, and be careful because the pan will spit, and then quickly add the rest of the wine and return it to the heat and let the caramel melt into the red wine. Then, it’s time for the quartered figs to get tossed into the red wine-caramel party…
… the fillip of flavours!
Did you ever watch the Oprah episode where they had some sort of justification for eating dessert at the beginning of the meal rather than at the end? I can’t remember what Oprah said, but it seems pretty unfair to wait for a dessert such as this cake until the very end of the meal. With its evenly browned colour and unassuming bowl of syrupy figs, it’s just the sort of dessert that one can plan menus around!
Recipe adapted from here